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District of Idaho

District of Idaho

About the District
 

The United States Attorney's Office for the District of Idaho was created in 1863 when Idaho became a territory. On March 10, 1863, Richard Williams was appointed the District's first U.S. Attorney by President Abraham Lincoln.

Several of the early U.S. Attorneys were not Idaho residents. They arrived from eastern states having never seen Idaho prior to their appointments. Unlike today, when the U.S. Attorney is paid an annual salary, early U.S. Attorneys earned a nominal fee for each case they handled. In order to make a living, many of them maintained their own private practices at the same time.

Since the Office's founding in 1863 there have been 28 Presidentially-appointed U. S. Attorneys, many of whom have had notable careers. Joseph W. Huston served as Chief Justice of the Idaho Territorial Supreme Court. Willis Sweet served as an associate justice of the same court, and was one of the founders of University of Idaho. He was later elected to Congress. James H. Hawley was one of the most distinguished figures in Idaho history and tried more criminal cases than any other lawyer in the Northwest. The most famous was the prosecution of three men charged with the murder of former Idaho Gov. Frank Steunenberg, in which Hawley went up against Clarence Darrow. Hawley eventually became Governor himself, and authored a three-volume history of Idaho. Fremont Wood, the last U. S. Attorney for the Territory of Idaho and the first U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho after statehood, was the presiding judge in the Steunenberg case. John A. Carver, blind from the age of five, served as U.S. Attorney for 20 years, then as a District Court Judge. These colorful and distinguished personalities contributed much to the State of Idaho.