Update: Sánchez appeals to Idaho Supreme Court after losing case over Boise council seat

Update, Monday, Nov. 6: The Idaho Supreme Court has accepted Lisa Sánchez’s appeal, according to court spokesperson Nate Poppino.

A former Boise City Council member has filed an appeal with the Idaho Supreme Court, asking it to reverse a lower court’s decision to deny her request to be reinstated as a City Council member.

Lisa Sánchez, who was elected to represent District 3 in 2021, lost her seat earlier this year after she moved to an apartment a few blocks outside of her district boundary. She later moved back into District 3, but elected officials must live in their district for the duration of their term, according to Idaho law.

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean appointed Latonia Haney Keith, the board chair of Boise’s urban renewal agency, to fill the seat. McLean decided to appoint Haney Keith over Sánchez while there was an apparent lack of support for Sánchez on the City Council, which must approve any appointment by the mayor.

Sánchez filed a lawsuit against the city in July in an attempt to fight for her former seat. Her attorney, Wendy Olsen, said Sánchez had been unlawfully removed and asked the court to reinstate her.

But 4th Judicial District Judge Derrick O’Neill ruled that Idaho law states that elected representatives must remain in the district they were elected in, and a scheduled trial was vacated.

“While the court fully appreciates the fact that (Sánchez’s) mistake was likely unintentional, it does appear (she) understood, at the time she learned her original lease would not be renewed, that she needed to reside in District 3,” O’Neill wrote in the ruling. “She was not unlawfully removed, nor was she deprived of any due process.”

The Idaho Supreme Court must now decide whether to take the case.

Sánchez’s attorney, Wendy Olson, told the Idaho Statesman in an email that the district court’s ruling was made as “a matter of law.”

“Because this is a novel question of law, and the statutes primarily at issue have not been previously interpreted by the Idaho Supreme Court, we think it is an important question to have answered by Idaho’s highest court,” she said.

Sánchez is not running for reelection this November because she has taken a new job with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Federal law limits the political activities of federal employees, and Sánchez has been advised not to seek reelection to avoid running afoul of those laws, she has said.

Despite that fact, Sánchez wants to see out the term for which she was elected.

Boise spokesperson Maria Weeg declined to comment.

Reporter Ian Max Stevenson contributed.