Bradbury v. Idaho Judicial Council, 26361.

Citation28 P.3d 1006,136 Idaho 63
Decision Date10 July 2001
Docket NumberNo. 26361.,26361.
PartiesJohn H. BRADBURY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. IDAHO JUDICIAL COUNCIL, Defendant-Respondent.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho

28 P.3d 1006
136 Idaho 63

John H. BRADBURY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
IDAHO JUDICIAL COUNCIL, Defendant-Respondent

No. 26361.

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise, February 2001 Term.

July 10, 2001.

28 P.3d 1009
John H. Bradbury, Lewiston, for appellant

Hon. Alan G. Lance, Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Roger L. Gabel argued.


John Bradbury (Bradbury) appeals the district court order granting the Idaho Judicial Council's (the Council) motion to dismiss his complaint for declaratory judgment seeking access to the Council's records of investigatory proceedings and requesting an order for a new hearing which he and the public could attend. Bradbury asserted his and the public's right of access to Council proceedings. The district court dismissed his claims. This Court affirms the decision of the district court.



Bradbury is an attorney practicing law in Idaho who represented parties in a proceeding in district court. Following unsuccessful litigation in that case, he appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court which unanimously affirmed the district court decision. Bradbury subsequently filed a petition for rehearing and a motion to disqualify the authoring justice. Both motions were denied by the Court. Bradbury then filed a complaint with the Council against the authoring justice alleging violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Council conducted proceedings and determined that there were no violations.

Following the decision of the Council, Bradbury requested information from the

28 P.3d 1010
Council, including the minutes and the record of the proceedings and the procedure used by the Council in reaching the decision. The request was made pursuant to the public records legislation ensuring citizens the right to examine and copy public records. Idaho Code (I.C.) § 9-338. The Council denied Bradbury's request, stating that the information was confidential and unavailable for release pursuant to Idaho Court Administrative Rule (I.C.A.R.) 32(d)(20).1

Bradbury filed an action for declaratory judgment and an order to permit inspection and copying of documents, arguing that the failure to release the information violated both his substantive and procedural due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Bradbury sought an order from the district court to the Council to provide the material pursuant to I.C. § 67-2340 et seq. The Council moved to dismiss the action, and the district court granted the motion, determining that the Council had properly denied the request and that Bradbury's due process rights were not violated. Further, the district court found Bradbury lacked standing to raise the constitutional issue on behalf of the public at large. Bradbury appeals the district court's decision to this Court. He asks this Court to reverse the district court and order the Council to allow him to access the records. He also seeks to have the Council hold a new hearing which he and the public may attend.



I.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) states, in relevant part:

If, on a motion asserting the defense numbered (6) to dismiss for failure of the pleading to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56....

The Court's standard of review for an order of the district court dismissing a case pursuant to I.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) is the same as the summary judgment standard of review. See Coghlan v. Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, 133 Idaho 388, 398, 987 P.2d 300, 310 (1999); see also Orthman v. Idaho Power Co., 126 Idaho 960, 962, 895 P.2d 561, 563 (1995). After viewing all facts and inferences from the record in favor of the non-moving party, the Court will ask whether a claim for relief has been stated. Coghlan, 133 Idaho at 398, 987 P.2d at 310. "The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the party is `entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.'" Id., citing Orthman 126 Idaho at 962, 895 P.2d at 563, quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90, 96 (1974) (citation omitted).



The district court determined that I.C.A.R. 32(d)(20) and I.C. § 1-2103 do not unconstitutionally infringe Bradbury's due process rights and, therefore, he had not asserted a claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court also held that Bradbury had no standing to assert claims on behalf of the public in general. However, the district court determined the merits of Bradbury's claims. Because there are no greater rights in the public at large than Bradbury might possess individually, regardless of whether he has standing to assert claims on behalf of the public, this Court will address the merits of the claims.

A. Standard Of Review

Because constitutional questions are purely questions of law, they are reviewed de novo. See V-1 Oil Co. v. Idaho State Tax Comm'n, 134 Idaho 716, 718, 9 P.3d 519, 521 (2000), citing Idaho State Ins. Fund v. Van Tine, 132 Idaho 902, 905-906, 980 P.2d 566, 569-570 (1999). When deciding whether an individual's constitutional rights have been violated, this Court must independently decide whether the facts on the record show a violation of the fundamental constitutional

28 P.3d 1011
rights at issue. The Court should, whenever possible, construe a statute so as to achieve a constitutional result. See Matter of 1979 Valuation of Parcel No. R2348750330, 104 Idaho 681, 688, 662 P.2d 1125, 1132 (1983). The general rule is that the party challenging a statute on constitutional grounds "must overcome a strong presumption of validity." Aberdeen-Springfield Canal Co. v. Peiper, 133 Idaho 82, 982 P.2d 917 (1999), citing State v. Avelar, 129 Idaho 700, 703, 931 P.2d 1218, 1221 (1997); see also Olsen v. J.A. Freeman Co., 117 Idaho 706, 709, 791 P.2d 1285, 1288 (1990). Again it is a general rule that "a legislative act should be held to be constitutional until it is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that it is not so, and that a law should not be held to be void for repugnancy to the Constitution in a doubtful case." Sanderson v. Salmon River Canal Co., 45 Idaho 244, 256, 263 P. 32, 35 (1927). However, the general presumption is not always applicable
It has been held in some jurisdictions that when it is proposed by a statute to deny, modify, or diminish a right or immunity secured to the people by a clear and explicit constitutional provision, the presumption in favor of the constitutionality of statutes no longer applies, but a contrary presumption arises against the validity of such statute. Similarly, it has been said that the presumption of constitutionality is inapplicable in civil rights cases involving fundamental constitutional rights.

16 AM.JUR.2D Constitutional Law § 215 (1979).

When a statute infringes on a fundamental right or a suspect class, the presumption is that the statute is invalid unless the state can demonstrate the statute is necessary to serve a compelling state interest. See Heller v. Doe, 509 U.S. 312, 319, 113 S.Ct. 2637, 2641, 125 L.Ed.2d 257, 269 (1993) ("A classification neither involving fundamental rights nor proceeding along suspect lines is accorded a strong presumption of validity."); see also Vacco v. Quill, 521 U.S. 793, 117 S.Ct. 2293, 138 L.Ed.2d 834 (1997). The United States Supreme Court has stated:

State laws are generally entitled to a presumption of validity against attack ....
Not all legislation, however, is entitled to the same presumption of validity. The presumption is not present when a State has enacted legislation whose purpose or effect is to create classes based upon racial criteria, since racial classifications, in a constitutional sense, are inherently "suspect." McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184 [85 S.Ct. 283, 13 L.Ed.2d 222]; Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 [74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873]. And the presumption of statutory validity may also be undermined when a State has enacted legislation creating classes based upon certain other immutable human attributes. See, e.g., Oyama v. California, 332 U.S. 633 [68 S.Ct. 269, 92 L.Ed. 249] (national origin); Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365 [91 S.Ct. 1848, 29 L.Ed.2d 534] (alienage); Gomez v. Perez, 409 U.S. 535 [93 S.Ct. 872, 35 L.Ed.2d 56] (illegitimacy); Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 [92 S.Ct. 251, 30 L.Ed.2d 225] (gender).
In the absence of indivious discrimination, however, a court is not free ... to substitute its judgment for the will of the people of a State as expressed in the laws passed by their popularly elected legislatures .... The threshold question, therefore, is whether the ... statute is invidiously discriminatory. If it is not, it is entitled to a presumption of validity....

Parham v. Hughes, 441 U.S. 347, 351-352, 99 S.Ct. 1742, 1745-1746, 60 L.Ed.2d 269, 274-275 (1979).

Among other things, it is normally "within the power of the State to regulate procedures under which its laws are carried out, including the burden of producing evidence and the burden of persuasion," and its decision in this regard is not subject to proscription under the Due Process Clause unless "it offends some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental." Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 523, 78 S.Ct. 1332, 1341, 2 L.Ed.2d 1460, 1471 (1958); Leland v. Oregon, 343 U.S. 790, 798, 72 S.Ct. 1002, 1007, 96 L.Ed.2d 1302, 1308 (1952); Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 105, 54 S.Ct. 330, 332, 78 L.Ed. 674, 677 (1934).

Patterson v. New York, 432 U.S. 197, 201-202, 97 S.Ct. 2319, 2322-2323, 53 L.Ed.2d

28 P.3d 1012
281, 286-287 (1977); see also Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Lavoie, 475 U.S. 813, 106 S.Ct. 1580, 89 L.Ed.2d 823 (1986)


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