An Interview with Hon. Candy W. Dale: On Retirement (and Recall)

Judge Williams (left) and Judge Dale (right) circa 2008 after Judge Williams administered Judge Dale’s oath. This image is referenced in one of Judge Dale’s answers on the opposing page. Photo courtesy of Judge Candy Dale.

Anne E. Henderson

Published June/July 2022

“I’m not done yet”

–Hon. Candy W. Dale

The Honorable Candy W. Dale was chosen for appointment to the federal bench in 2008. At the time, she had a busy civil litigation practice. She had a reputation as a dedicated advocate for her clients and as an effective trial lawyer. Since donning the black robe on March 30, 2008, Judge Dale has served the District of Idaho with distinction—both in her capacity as a U.S. Magistrate Judge and through her numerous appointments to the service of the District of Idaho, the Ninth Circuit, and the federal judiciary.

I have known Judge Dale since August 2016, when I applied to be a law clerk in her chambers. I had my application in with her while participating in the University of Idaho College of Law’s Trial Advocacy program. Judge Dale was there as a trainer. Luck shined on me and she offered me the job. After joining Judge Dale’s chambers, I quickly learned her service to the College of Law that summer was not rare, but a regular occurrence. I also learned of her incredible work ethic, her whip smart intellect, and the care she took to thoughtfully reach each decision she made.   

This March, just weeks before her retirement and transition to recall status, I had the opportunity to return to chambers for a conversation with Judge Dale. Our discussion ranged from her early days as a judge, her reflections of the impact of technology on the administration of justice, and her personal highlights from her fourteen years on the bench.

Q: Why did you decide to put your “hat in the ring” to be considered for the U.S. Magistrate Judge position?

Judge Dale: As a lawyer, I had the privilege of serving on the Advisory Council for the Ninth Circuit. At that time, we reported to Chief Judge Schroeder (Mary Schroeder was the Chief Judge of the Circuit). I had also been on court committees for the District of Idaho and was a community board member for the Federal Defenders. I had familiarity with the policy-making aspects of the Federal Courts. And, I was also very active as a trial attorney in federal court. So, I had exposure and association with the judges and thought that I might be able to do the job.

Q. Was there something particular about becoming a judge that appealed to you?

Judge Dale: Being on the other side of the litigation and being an advocate to the process and the procedure as opposed to being an advocate for one of the parties.

The transition to the other side does take rewiring. One aspect that was shocking to me was how immediate the level of respect for the person [judge] is reflected in everyone that you are surrounded by. Especially in terms of the court employees and the members of the bar. Once you put on the “black dress” it’s a little overwhelming because to a certain extent, your identity is transformed. You are a judge—and that carries a whole new level of meaning.

“Once you put on the “black dress” it’s a little overwhelming because to a certain extent, your identity is transformed. You are a judge—and that carries a whole new level of meaning.”

Q. Can you remember anything from your first day at the Courthouse?

Judge Dale: I remember a lot. I picked a jury for Judge Winmill[1] the very first afternoon. Right around the lunch hour, Judge Williams[2] administered the oath to me (there is a photo on my refrigerator of that first day).  My family was also there. And I remember Judge Lodge[3] saying, “just remember you are in charge.”  At 1:30 p.m. I walked into the courtroom and presided over jury selection for a two defendant felony jury trial. We got the jury seated that day, but it wasn’t until early evening because there was a Batson[4] challenge. What I can’t believe, in hindsight, is that the defendants consented to me conducting the jury selection and the attorneys for the defendants knew  it was my first day. 

Q. You were a litigator before you took the bench in 2008. In what ways did that experience inform your work as a judge?

Judge Dale: In several ways. It allowed me to appreciate how difficult it is to be a trial attorney. I had (and continue to have) a level of appreciation for what the attorneys who are appearing in court go through. Not only in preparing for the appearance but also what is at play when they are in the courtroom. I think that was a benefit. I also had some insight and appreciation for what the attorneys have to address with regard to their clients—things like keeping clients informed and aware of what is going on and how to manage a so-called “difficult” client.

On writing decisions:

Judge Dale: I like to write the decision so it is understood. It may not be agreed with, but I want it to be understood by the attorneys, the clients, and the public. And that probably comes from my time as an attorney when I got decisions that I didn’t understand and then had difficulty informing my clients about. 

Q. How has the experience of being a judge changed from the time you took the bench in 2008 to today—a span of 14 years?

Judge Dale:  The increase in the workload is definitely there. The workload translates into the fact that it is more difficult to make the time to really think through the issues.

In the criminal area we also have to keep up with technology related to search warrant requests—and the law that is changing in that area.

On the impact of social media:

Judge Dale: There has also been change regarding technology and the impact of social media. I don’t think you can ignore social media and the impact it has both on what we see filed with the court (briefs) and the impact it has on jurors. I think that the overload of information and disinformation—is overwhelming. It has crept into advocacy more so than ever.

On the overload of information and disinformation:

Judge Dale: It is more difficult for the judiciary to maintain the public’s confidence. That is what really concerns me. Not to be political, but when we have justices put on the U.S. Supreme Court from a partisan perspective, it concerns me regardless of the political bent. I agree with Justice Roberts who said we are not “Obama judges” and we are not “Bush judges.” I think it is largely the influence of social media and the other branches of the government that rely on social media to support their cause. Social media has changed a lot about the role of the judiciary and the responsibility of the judiciary, and the same with regards to lawyers.

Q. What has been the most challenging aspect of the work of a United States Magistrate Judge? Particularly in the District of Idaho?

Judge Dale: Resisting the urge to express my opinion. You can do that more readily when you are a lawyer. I am more restrained in social settings and even to a certain extent in family settings. That is a challenge in the sense that goes back to that metamorphosis. You become a judge and you must be mindful of the fact that you need to be as objective, impartial, and fair as possible— all the things that you take the oath to do.

Q. Have you lost sleep over a decision?

Judge Dale: I have lost sleep by thinking about a decision and wanting to make sure I understood the issue and understood the law. But I don’t believe once I made a decision, I lost sleep over it. My feeling was that I did what I could to get it right. “Tomorrow is a new day.” Judge Lodge talked to me about that. That as a judge, you are going to have to make some tough decisions, for instance sentencing, the family is often there and is crying, and you have to be able to come back the next day and start again. The focus shifts [as a judge] to getting it right. The difficulty is having the time to do that. But there is also the reality that, you can’t let perfection be the evil of completion.

Q. Is there any one case that impacted you the most?

Judge Dale: One way of answering that question is that some of the decisions I had to make highlighted or emphasized the impact the decision was going to have—either on one person or on many others. You can think about cases where the impact of reaching a decision, stops logging in Central Idaho or sets aside a state constitutional amendment that 63.3 percent of the voters approved. 

Q. What has been the best part about your judicial career?

Judge Dale: When I was making the change [from lawyer to judge] people would say “are you concerned about judicial isolation?” Yet, the one thing I’ve enjoyed the most is working with others. I have gained an appreciation for how dedicated and how committed the employees are here, how committed the lawyers are to their clients and practice, and how committed the judges are around the country who volunteer for service in their own districts, the circuits, or the conference committees. I have just been really impressed by and enjoyed the level of dedication that comes through in everything that the judges do; without that dedication by everybody (U.S. attorneys, court room deputies, docketing clerks, court security officers, federal defenders) the system would not work.

Q. Are there any highlights from your time on the bench you’d like to share?

Judge Dale: Several highlights, these are not in order of priority. One would be serving for two years as the Magistrate Judge Observer to the Judicial Conference of the United States. Through that I got to meet many judges, justices, and court unit executives. Meeting RBG [Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg] was definitely a highlight. All I had to say was I was from Idaho, and she immediately brought up the Reed v. Reed[5] case and Idaho’s connection to equal protection. She said to me, “You know it all started there.”

Other highlights were naturalization ceremonies, seeing how genuinely delighted the petitioners and their families were to become American citizens. It is a genuine celebration of what being a part of our country means.

Q. The Courtroom is a serious place, but has anything funny ever happened in your courtroom that you can share?

Judge Dale: That is true. However, I was talking about this question with my Courtroom Deputy, who remembered a defendant who had his initial appearance who was wearing a T-shirt that said, “its all fun and games until the cops show up.” He was arrested for robbing a bank. He was sentenced and went to prison. He got out and almost immediately did the same thing again. He had an initial appearance on that second arrest and had the same shirt on.

Q. As a woman in the legal profession, it meant a great deal to me to have you as a mentor and role model: Do you have any reflections on the impact your career has had because you are the first women to ever sit on the Federal bench in Idaho?

Judge Dale:  I would like to believe it has had a positive impact—I can remember a time when I was standing  next to another experienced woman trial attorney at the point in the district bar conference when they had the judge’s panel [of all white men] and we both looked at each other and said—”wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone else up there?” If you don’t see another woman doing what you have an aspiration to do, it is really hard to even make that a goal or see  yourself in those shoes. I tried to focus on the seconds, thirds, etc.—without a first there is not going to be a second—someone must be the first.

I agree with what Justice Sandra Day O’Conner related, which was along the lines of, “while it is special to be the first it’s more important not to be the last.”

Q. What does it mean to be on “recall” status? What roles and responsibilities does the status entail?

Judge Dale: “Recall status” is the term used for U.S. Magistrate Judges, rather than “senior status,” which is the term used for U.S. District Judges. To be placed on senior status or recall status, the application has to be approved first by the Chief District Judge, then approved by the Ninth Circuit, and finally approved by the Judicial Conference of the United States through the Committee on the Administration of the Magistrate Judges System. For approval, the district needs to have an ongoing need for judicial service, which we clearly demonstrate! I agreed to be recalled to the District of Idaho and have been approved [at all levels] for extended service recall. The primary expense to the judiciary is only the expense of chambers staffing and that staffing must be approved. I have been approved for two law clerks the first year. I have committed to handling a full civil docket. I will be working on civil cases—sharing the workload of all the district and magistrate judges. This means that approximately 20 percent of the standard civil cases will be randomly assigned to each of the five district court judges in our District and  the magistrate judges will each be assigned approximately one-third of the social security filings.  I will still have chambers in Boise and will travel to the other divisions in the District as needed. I will be covering criminal matters on a limited and as-needed basis.

Q. What are you most looking forward to doing/seeing/experiencing during this next stage of life? Do you have “bucket list” items?

Judge Dale: Definitely playing more golf and spending more time in McCall. Also traveling with my husband and visiting our daughter who will be relocating to Maine. While some friends and family members have been suggesting more extravagant adventures, can I get back to you on that?

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers of the Advocate?

Judge Dale: I want to say… I am not done yet, but thank you for all of your support. I am hopeful that the support will continue, as I will.

Anne E. Henderson is an attorney at Holland & Hart. She was previously at the law firm of Duke Evett. Anne served as a judicial law clerk a the United States Court for the District of Idaho in Judge Dale’s chambers after graduating from the University of Idaho College of Law in 2017, where she served as Editor -in-Chief of the Idaho Law Review.


[1] U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, was appointed on August 14, 1995. Judge Winmill took senior status in August 2021.

[2] U.S. Magistrate Judge Mikel H. Williams, appointed in 1984 and the first full-time magistrate judge in the District of Idaho. Judge Williams was succeeded by Judge Dale in 2008 although he served on recall status until the end of 2020.

[3] U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge, appointed in 1989. Judge Lodge took inactive status in July 2019.

[4] A Batson challenge is an objection to the validity of a party’s peremptory challenge to exclude a juror. The objection is made on the grounds that the party used peremptory challenge to exclude a potential juror based on race, ethnicity, or sex. See Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).

[5]  “A mandatory provision of the Idaho probate code that gave preference to men over women when persons of the same entitlement class applied for appointment as administrator of a decedent’s estate” was found to be based “solely on a discrimination prohibited by and therefore violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971) (syllabus). Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the principle author of the brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. Plaintiff Sally Reed was represented at the U.S. Supreme Court by Idaho lawyer Allen Derr.