History of the City Attorney

City_Attorney_BadgeThe Office of the City Attorney was created on December 7th, 1867 under Boise City Mayor H.E. Pickett. When the City Council created the office, the Council passed an ordinance that paid the City Attorney $10 for every conviction received and $5 for every case brought to trial without conviction.[1]

The first City Attorney to be appointed was R.H. Lindsay, and little is known about him other than that he was an "ex-actor, a fair lawyer and very much a man"[2]. Once the initial ordinance was passed appointing Lindsay as the City Attorney, his first assignment was to deal with the major problem of loose swine running at large within the city limits.[3]

Freemont Wood was one of Boise's most famous City Attorneys, starting his term in June 1881. After serving as Boise's City Attorney, Wood became the U.S. Attorney for the Idaho Territory. After Idaho was made a state, he was the first U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho. Wood eventually became a judge for Ada County and presided over the trial of William Haywood and George Pettibone who were accused of involvement in the assassination of Former Gov. Steunenberg.[4]

Edgar Wilson, a University of Michigan Law Graduate, moved to Idaho in 1884 and was elected as City Attorney in 1887.[5]  After his term as City Attorney, Wilson helped frame the Idaho State Constitution and was elected to the 54th U.S. Congress in 1895.[6]  He served there until 1901 when he returned to Idaho to resume the practice of law until his death in 1915.[7]

Another interesting City Attorney was James Pickney Pope. Pope moved to Boise after attending the University of Chicago Law School in 1909.[8]  He was appointed City Attorney in 1916 and served for one year before moving on to the Attorney General's office, and eventually was elected Mayor of Boise in 1929.[9]  After his service as mayor, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1932 and served with the famous Senator William E. Borah until 1938.[10]

Since its inception in 1867, the City Attorney's Office has come a long way in terms of size, technology and legal experience. The office has grown from one part-time attorney to 31 full time attorneys who are responsible for covering a large range of legal issues in all areas of criminal and civil law. When the City seeks to do something bold (lasting, innovative and vibrant) in furtherance of our shared goal to make Boise the most livable city in the country, our team accelerates this progress and fends off threats to attaining that goal.

  Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, December 14, 1867, page 3.
[2]  Thomas Donaldson. Idaho of Yesterday. The Caxton Printers, Ltd. Caldwell, Idaho, 1941. p. 204.
  Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, December 14, 1867, page 3
[4]  Idaho State Historical Society. Reference Series No. 599 "Freemont Wood, June 11, 1856-Dec 22, 1940", Publications, Boise, Idaho, Revised 1981.
[5]  Idaho State Historical Society. Reference Series No. 18, "United States Representatives From the State of Idaho", Publications, Boise, Idaho, Revised 1993.
[6]  Id.
[8]  Idaho State Historical Society, Reference Series No. 591 "James Pickney Pope, March 31, 1884 - January 23, 1966. Publications, Boise, Idaho, 1981.
[9]  Id.
[10]  Id.

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