On Friday, June 16, 2023, The Spokesman-Review reported that North Idaho Magistrate Judge Clark Allen Peterson has recently been placed on administrative leave due to undisclosed personnel issues.

The details of Judge Peterson’s leave remain sealed, leaving the public uninformed about the specific reasons behind the administrative action. Court schedules indicate that other judicial officers have been covering Peterson’s docket, while the remaining first judicial magistrate judges have continued handling their own cases. The sealed orders signed by Chief Justice G. Richard Bevan indicate that Peterson was placed on leave, but no further information is available.

When reached for comment, Peterson declined to discuss the matter, saying “That’s not something that can be discussed.” and directed inquiries to district court Judge Cynthia Meyer. Meyer, in turn, referred questions to the Idaho State Supreme Court spokesperson, Nate Poppino.

Poppino said that Peterson remains a duly elected magistrate judge, and declined to comment on personnel issues.

The Idaho Judicial Council Executive Director also declined to provide any information on Peterson or the suspension.

While the details remain sealed, this is not the first time that Peterson has found himself embroiled in controversy.

Back in 2013, Judge Peterson faced criticism when multiple individuals complained that his dedication to tabletop role-playing fantasy games was affecting his performance as a judicial officer. Peterson, who had founded two game companies, including Legendary Games, had taken on the name of demon prince Orcus, Lord of the Undead. He also actively participated in online discussions about fantasy games during working hours. While Peterson committed to making changes in his behavior after being confronted with the complaint, no public disciplinary action was taken by the Idaho Judicial Council at that time.

In 2020, Judge Peterson faced another setback when the Idaho Judicial Council reprimanded him for inaccurately reporting his vacation and leave time. This incident resulted in Peterson forfeiting serve days of vacation pay as part of an agreement with the council.

The Idaho Judicial Council plays a crucial role in overseeing the conduct of judges in the state. This independent agency investigates complaints of judicial misconduct and has the authority to recommend disciplinary actions or even removal from office. While the council’s proceedings are typically private, disciplinary actions become public if the council recommends removal or public discipline.

Despite the controversies surrounding his career, Judge Peterson remains a duly elected magistrate judge. The sealed orders related to his administrative leave do not provide clarity on whether or not he will return to his position. The decision ultimately lies with the state Supreme Court, which has the authority to reinstate or remove judges based on the recommendations of the Idaho Judicial Council. Until a final decision is reached, the future of Peterson’s judicial career remains uncertain.

Publicly listed on the judicial council’s website are only two instances of judicial misconduct investigations: the reprimand of Peterson in 2020 and the investigation of Fifth District Judge Randy Stoker in 2017, where the allegations were ultimately found to be baseless.

 

Source: The Spokesman-Review