Notice of Online Forms Outage

The Idaho State Bar will be conducting a major system update which will affect online form submissions, payments, MCLE applications, and other services. The update requires a system outage that will begin at 1:00 p.m. (MT) Friday, June 14th and will conclude Monday, June 17th at 8:00 a.m. (MT).

If you have questions, please contact or Technology Service at (208) 334-4500.

Idaho Supreme Court Order Re: Death Penalty Criminal Jury Instructions and Criminal Jury Instructions

New Commissioner Representing the 6th and 7th Districts

F.J. Hahn (Idaho Falls) was elected to serve as the Commissioner representing the 6th and 7th Districts. He will replace Gary Cooper and starts his term at the conclusion of the 2024 Idaho State Bar Annual Meeting.

Scam Alert: Malicious Dropbox Links sent via email

We’ve received noticed that there may be several scam emails circulating in which scammers are sending Dropbox links via email with the eventual goal of getting wire transfers for settlement funds.

Reminder: Never click on suspicious links sent to you via email. If you are unsure whether or not a link is legitimate, call the supposed sender to confirm.

In particular, an email that proclaims to be from Britney Jacobs from Shoshone County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office with a link to an “updated contract” was not sent by Ms. Jacobs and should not be opened.

University of Idaho College of Law Northwest Institute for Dispute Resolution Training – May 13-17, 2024

Department Report: Bar Counsel’s Office

By Joseph N. Pirtle

2023 was quite a busy year for Bar Counsel’s Office. Our work was again primarily divided into four categories: (1) investigating and prosecuting alleged violations of the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct; (2) assisting with claims to the Client Assistance Fund; (3) assisting the Board of Commissioners, the Character and Fitness Committee, and the Reasonable Accommodations Committee in admissions and licensing matters; and (4) answering ethics questions.

Grievance Investigations and Discipline

There were 399 grievances filed in 2023 against attorneys. This is up from 346 grievances filed in 2022 – a 15.3% increase. In 2023, Bar Counsel’s Office also closed 368 grievance investigations, up from 322 grievances closed in 2022.

Bar Counsel’s Office filed 13 cases with the Professional Conduct Board seeking formal discipline in 2023. Most of those cases resulted in stipulated resolutions with the attorneys.

Alleged violations of the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct are submitted to our office in the form of a “grievance” and investigated by our office. If our investigation establishes that there were no violations of the Rules or if there is insufficient clear and convincing evidence to prove that a violation has occurred, the grievance is dismissed. If we find clear and convincing evidence of a violation of the Rules, the attorney may receive private discipline in the form of an informal admonition or a private reprimand or, in some cases, formal charges may be filed. If the attorney receives private discipline, the grievant will be informed of the sanction in writing but information concerning an attorney’s private discipline is not released to the public by Bar Counsel’s Office. Grievances resulting in formal charges can involve sanctions ranging from public reprimand to disbarment.

Client Assistance Fund

In 2023, the Client Assistance Fund received 14 claims, down from the 25 claims filed in 2022.

The Client Assistance Fund is available to compensate clients who have suffered damages due to the “dishonest conduct” of an attorney. The claims usually involve theft, embezzlement, or the attorney’s failure to return unearned fees to the client. Bar Counsel’s Office assists the Client Assistance Committee in administering claims, attending meetings, and preparing Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendations regarding Client Assistance Fund claims.

Admissions and Licensing

Bar Counsel is the lawyer for the Board of Commissioners, the Character and Fitness Committee, and the Reasonable Accommodations Committee. In this role, Bar Counsel’s Office assists with admissions and licensing investigations and prepares Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendations following those investigations. Bar Counsel’s Office also represents the Board of Commissioners in admissions and licensing petitions filed with the Idaho Supreme Court, including requests to waive a particular Idaho Bar Commission Rule and review of denied admissions or licensing requests.

The details of those admissions and licensing matters are confidential under the Idaho Bar Commission Rules.

Ethics Questions

In 2023, Bar Counsel’s Office answered 1294 calls or emails seeking guidance on the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct, up from 1,047 ethics questions answered in 2022. The most common questions in 2023 centered around conflicts of interest and attorney’s responsibilities upon termination of the representation.

All three attorneys in Bar Counsel’s Office (Joe Pirtle, Julia Crossland, and Caralee Lambert) respond to ethics questions. We prefer assisting attorneys with ethics questions before there is a possible violation or harm to the public. Ethics inquiries remain confidential in the hopes that Bar members will be more comfortable contacting Bar Counsel’s Office to ask ethics questions. We do not, however, advise on substantive legal issues.

Joseph N. Pirtle joined Bar Counsel’s office in April 2022. Prior to that, Joe was a shareholder and civil litigation attorney with Elam & Burke in Boise. Joe received his B.S. in business finance from the University of Idaho in 2001 and his J.D. from the University of Idaho College of Law in 2004.

Commissioner’s Column: Parking Lots, Magic Wands, and the Practice of Law

By Jillian H. Caires

One recent snowy evening, I made the questionable decision to brave Costco. Like any snowy parking lot in North Idaho, it was a mess. Cars were parked all catawampus, and parking spots were few. Luck was on my side when I pulled down an aisle just as lights came on a car indicating it was about to reverse. I put on my blinker, pulled aside to make room for their departure and waited patiently. The exiting car pulled forward and immediately a third car came speeding through the slush, ignoring my turn signal, and smirking at me as they swept into the parking space. This was no mistake – it was blatant disregard. Naturally, I was frustrated, and in my head, I started to bemoan the loss of civility in society.

Over the past few years, I, like many of us, have watched from the sidelines as high-profile legal proceedings publicly unfolded with attorneys taking center stage – both locally and nationally. I have watched with disappointment as attorneys blindly execute their clients’ demands while ignoring ethics and the law, disrespecting the legal process, and publicly insulting the judges, lawyers, and parties involved in the matter. As I thought about the parking lot event, I realized that it was analogous to those situations.

Watching some of the legal shenanigans play out in recent years has caused me to spend a lot of time reflecting on our role as attorneys. Lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society. I have a sweatshirt that says, “Do the Next Right Thing.” I believe this is a motto we should all live by as attorneys, and it is a concise explanation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. A more long-winded version of that statement can be found in the Preamble to the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct (“IRPC”) which states:

A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. … A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers, and public officials. While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold legal process.

We are all public representatives of our profession; many times, we will be the only attorney an individual interacts with in their life. How we act matters. How we talk to and about other people and the legal system matters. We are constantly being watched to see if our conduct validates the stereotypes of lawyers and aligns with all the lawyer jokes out there (e.g., Why won’t snakes bite attorneys? Professional courtesy.). If we don’t respect the law and the courts, why would anyone else? This is even more true when we are involved in high profile matters that have real impacts on our communities, and it means that sometimes we must have conversations with our clients that they don’t want to hear.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but, unfortunately, I received neither a wand nor a rabbit in a hat when I was sworn into the bar (though I am confident after having watched Harry Potter a number of times that I would have excelled at Hogwarts School of Law). Since I can’t do magic, I’ve had to disappoint more than one client by telling them that there was no legal way to accomplish their goals or obtain their desired outcome. Sometimes, we can’t get our clients the outcome they desire; this is where our role as advisor comes into play. Under Rule 2.1 of the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys are obligated to “exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice.” In other words, we must think critically and independently, and sometimes that means we must have hard conversations with our clients. Our duty is not to tell our clients what they want to hear, and sometimes this means telling our clients “no” and “stop.” We are obliged to tell clients when the outcome they desire is impossible. We must counsel our clients when the proposed course of action is illegal, violates a court order, or is immoral or unethical.

The greatest lesson I learned from one of my mentors, Peter J. Smith IV, was how to have hard conversations with clients. I sat by Peter in more than one client meeting as he wisely counseled clients that the outcome they wanted could not be accomplished or that what they wanted to do in the name of their principles would cause them extreme strife and would cost them their time, money, and sometimes their sanity. I learned from watching Peter that a truly skilled attorney more often talks their client out of litigation, not into it. Unfortunately, not every attorney has developed this skill, and some are happier blindly following client demands for their own self-serving purposes – whether it be money, power, or notoriety. When we have hard, honest conversations with our clients, and more importantly when we are forced to stand up to our clients to tell them they cannot take the course of action they propose, we most fully live out our vital role of advisor.

Going back to my Costco story, after I loaded my car full of groceries that evening and proceeded to return my cart to the Costco warehouse, navigating through the slush and ice, a young woman passed by me. She walked a few steps, then turned back and offered to take my cart. In this instant, I was reminded that most people are good. So too, I am reminded daily that most attorneys are good – diligently practicing, skillfully advising, wisely counseling, and doing what they can to preserve society and our legal system. Most attorneys spend every day doing the next right thing.

Jillian H. Caires is an Idaho native and a proud Washington State University Cougar and Gonzaga Bulldog. After clerking for the Honorable Benjamin Simpson, Jillian spent several years in private practice in Coeur d’Alene before joining the in-house legal team of Avista Corporation. In her free time, Jillian enjoys baking, gardening, walking her standard poodle, and spending time with her family.

The Basics and Beyond: Nuances and Types of Nouns

By Tenielle Fordyce-Ruff

Nouns are one of the basic building blocks of speech and writing. In fact, we learn nouns so early in our development that we don’t really think much about them.  Think about interacting with a baby just learning to speak.  You point to objects and name them – you teach nouns.

While we learn nouns, they aren’t all simple.  Some have irregular plurals.  Others take different modifiers depending on whether you can count them.  Some are abstract and you have to be careful to match number for those.  And while you might just know some of these rules, this month I’ll give you more detail so that you can ensure you’re using nouns correctly.

As a little refresher, nouns are names.  They name people, places, and things.  They also have cases, nominative, objective, and possessive.  Fortunately, in English only possessive nouns change spellings.  Nouns also have properties of number (singular/plural), gender (masculine/feminine/neutral), and person (first, second, third).  The spelling of a noun usually changes for number, rarely changes for gender, and never changes for person.  And not to stray too far from nouns, but they need to agree with the verbs in the sentence.

So, with that brief refresher out of the way, let’s look at types of nouns and some nuances.

Common and Proper Nouns

As the name implies, these are the most common nouns.  They are generic in a sense.  They name nonspecific people, places, or things: judge, county, religion.

Common nouns have one nuance to remember: plurals.  While most English nouns add -s or -es to form the plural, some common nouns have irregular plurals:

Foot – Feet

Mouse – Mice

Man – Men

Woman – Women

Life – Lives

Child – Children

Chances are that if you’re a native English speaker, you don’t even think about these types of irregular plurals.  But some plurals are the same as the singular, and you need to pay attention to the verb to make sure you let the reader know if you’re writing about one or more.

            Deer – Deer

            Fish – Fish

And more specific to the law, make sure you create the correct plurals for some common nouns that have a postpositive adjective.  These phrases come from French and have a noun followed by an adjective, unlike most adjectives in English that come before the noun.

            Notary public – Notaries public

            Attorney general – attorneys general

Proper nouns, on the other hand, name specific people, places, or things:  Justice Roberts, Boundary County, Christianity.

Just like common nouns, these nouns add -s or -es to form the plural, and the regular rules for possessives apply.  So, if a proper noun needs to become plural, don’t use an apostrophe:

            We are going to visit the Reeds.(not We are going to visit the Reed’s.)

Likewise, add an ‘s to a singular proper noun to form a possessive. 

            Justice Bevan’s opinion was released yesterday.

Concrete and Abstract Nouns

Concrete nouns name something you can perceive with your five senses: dog, flower, sky.  Abstract nouns name things you cannot perceive with your five senses: love, the public good, happiness.

When concrete nouns in a sentence relate to each other, they must agree in number.

            Both attorneys waited until the last minute to file the complaints.

            Each attorney filed the complaint early.

This rule can change, however, with abstract nouns.  Some idiomatic expressions use a singular abstract noun with a plural concrete noun.

            Three witnesses promised to appear, and they all kept their word.

Countable and Uncountable Nouns

The names here probably make this very obvious.  You can count countable nouns, but not uncountable nouns.  For instance, try to count books.  Now try to count milk.

While this might seem silly, knowing whether a noun is countable helps you correctly express some ideas.  When you need to indicate quantity or relative quantity.

When you want to indicate a generic quantity of something, you use amount with uncountable nouns and number with countable nouns. 

            The amount of spilled milk was incredible.

            The number of books I read is astonishing.

And when you need to indicate the opposite of more of something, you use less with uncountable nouns and fewer with countable nouns.

            I need to drink less coffee.

            She reads fewer books than I do.

Compound and Collective Nouns

(Confession: I put these together because they both begin with “C” and I wanted the list to be in parallel.  That really is the only similarity.)  Compound nouns are formed from two smaller words: sunflower, snowball, textbook.  Collective nouns indicate a group of things as a whole: board, bunch, court.

Collective nouns can be tricky in writing when we need to replace them with a pronoun.  In many instances, when speaking we use a plural pronoun.  But in writing, collective nouns always take a singular pronoun.

            The court has hearings today. It will be very busy.

This makes sense, as we don’t use plural verbs with collective nouns.

            The court goes to Moscow next month.

Of course, this isn’t a problem for compound nouns.  We would never replace a plural compound noun like sunflowers with a singular pronoun.

Appositive Nouns

Well, so much for parallelism in my list!  An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that identifies or describes another noun or noun phrase.  For instance:

I sit on the Editorial Advisory Board for The Advocate, an official publication of the Idaho State Bar.

There, the phrase in bold describes The Advocate.

Appositives have a few nuances.  First, they must agree in number, gender, case, and person with the noun they refine.

John C. Calhoun, vice president under both John Quincy Adam’s and his archrival Andrew Jackson, had a career unique in American history.[i]

Here, both Calhoun and vice president are in the nominative case.  It would be incorrect to write:

John C. Calhoun’s career, vice president under both John Quincy Adam’s and his archrival Andrew Jackson, was unique in American history.[ii]

There, Calhoun’s is possessive, but vice president isn’t.

Next, appositives can be restrictive or non-restrictive, and that affects punctuation.  A restrictive appositive exclusively identifies the noun it refers to; a non-restrictive one explains the noun more.  So, if an appositive is non-restrictive, set it off with commas, parentheses, or em-dashes. 


Although nouns aren’t a part of speech we tend to worry much about when writing, understanding a few nuances can ensure your writing is clear and correct.

[i] Bryan A. Garner, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style 146 (2d ed 2006).

[ii] Id.

Tenielle Fordyce-Ruff is a member of the Idaho State Bar and an Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Arizona State University.

Update on Electronic Service of Idaho Court Documents

Idaho Supreme Court Order In Re: Amendments to Section III of the Idaho Bar Commission Rules – Effective May 1, 2024