Fair, thorough and just
Leading from the bench with compassion and a commitment to the rule of law
Loved and respected by all his colleagues — from assistants to superiors and defendants to prosecutors — Idaho Supreme Court Justice G. Richard Bevan has built a legacy of leadership that elevates the state of the judiciary statewide.
“This is the best guy I’ve ever worked for,” says Karen Carlon, his assistant. “He’s just really great with people. You don’t work for him, you work with him.”
Bevan started his career in private practice in Twin Falls after graduating with a law degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
After a few years as a trial lawyer, he was elected as a prosecutor for Twin Falls County, where he personally litigated major crime cases, including homicides. Then, after about five years back in private practice, he was appointed (and later elected) as a district judge for Idaho’s fifth judicial district. He served for more than 14 years, and was known for his stellar record, having had only a few cases overturned.
Ruling with compassion
Bevan also expanded his role as a judge by initiating two highly successful problem solving courts. His first was a mental health court, which offered treatment for people with persistent mental illnesses who had been charged with crimes. The veterans court he started functions similarly but is specific to the needs of former members of the armed forces.
Both courts hold participants responsible for getting treatment, taking prescribed medications and working toward stability over a two-year period. They require a judge to volunteer his or her time and are restricted to particular kinds of cases and diagnoses, but have proved to be very effective, Bevan explains.
Anecdotally, the problem solving courts have a recidivism rate of just 10%, compared to 30–50% for other courts, he says.
“It was the most rewarding work I ever did as a judge because I could see people change so significantly from lives that were in total disarray when they started to being able to hold down a job,” Bevan adds. “The courts are doing something right in this respect.”
Today, graduates of those courts have become peer mentors and drug and alcohol counselors, Bevan says. One woman qualified to get her kids back from foster care after 13 years, but only after she repaid all her victims of credit card theft as part of the program. Another who could barely talk when he arrived progressed to writing beautiful poetry and is still working in suicide prevention in his community.
Embracing his appellate role
Bevan left the problem-solving courts behind when he was appointed to the Idaho Supreme Court in 2017. These days, he says his job is kind of like going back to law school.
The Idaho Supreme Court holds hearings a few days a month, and the rest of its time is spent studying up on the issues, Bevan explains. He enjoys the appellate role and the camaraderie he has with his four fellow justices, but spends a lot more time alone in his office than he once did.
Already, Bevan has heard hard cases that will have lasting effects in jurisdictions throughout Idaho.
State v. Samuel, for which Bevan wrote the opinion, affirmed the conviction of a teen for the murder of his father and brother in Couer d’Alene. The lengthy opinion delves into multiple well-researched questions, ranging from evidentiary rules to district court discretion.
A legacy of diligence
Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Burdick has nothing but praise and respect for Bevan, with whom he has worked for most of Bevan’s career. Burdick was a district court judge in Twin Falls when Bevan was prosecutor. Later, Burdick heard Bevan’s cases on appeal when Bevan was a judge.
If he had to describe Bevan in a few words, Burdick says, it would be “monolithic, Gibraltor.”
“He’s just so solid, and when I say solid I mean solid in terms of not stoic, but solid in terms of relationships, in terms of ethics, in terms of a vision of excellence that he holds within himself,” Burdick says. “If he tells you something, it is the absolute truth. He does not shade or obscure.”
Bevan’s time on the Supreme Court has also given him a new sense of the state of the judiciary in Idaho, he says, in part because the justices are responsible for hearing complaints against attorneys.
In his 32 years in the law, the standard of excellence in Idaho has risen dramatically, he says. There has been great progress on the state of scholarship across the board, and it is now possible to find fine, highly qualified attorneys in every corner of the state.
Beyond the bench, Bevan stays active in the arts. He sings as a second tenor with the Millennial Choir and Orchestra and recently performed at Carnegie Hall.
While he is reluctant to accept an award for his achievements, Bevan was sure to express gratitude for the many people who have helped him along the way. He is particularly thankful for his wife, Pam, who put him through law school, for the mentorship of Burdick and retired Administrative District Judge Barry Wood and for his partners in his private law practice.