B. Lynn Winmill

Barry Lynn Winmill (born March 18, 1952) is an American federal judge. A native of the state of Idaho, Winmill graduated from Idaho State University and Harvard Law School before practicing law in Colorado and Idaho. Winmill was appointed as an Idaho state judge in 1987, serving in this position until 1995, when President Bill Clinton nominated Winmill to a vacancy on the United States District Court for the District of Idaho. Winmill was confirmed by the Senate and took office later that year. He later served as chief judge of the court for 19 years, deciding a number of noteworthy cases during his tenure.

B. Lynn Winmill
Winmill Large.jpg
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho
In office
1999 – January 1, 2019
Preceded byEdward Lodge
Succeeded byDavid Nye
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho
Assumed office
August 14, 1995
Appointed byBill Clinton
Preceded byHarold Ryan
Personal details
Barry Lynn Winmill

(1952-03-18) March 18, 1952 (age 69)
Blackfoot, Idaho, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationIdaho State University (BA)
Harvard University (JD)

Early life and educationEdit

Winmill was born in Blackfoot, Idaho, and grew up on a dairy farm.[1] Winmill received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Idaho State University (ISU) in Pocatello in 1974.[2] Winmill served as student body president while at ISU.[1] Winmill earned his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1977.[2]


Winmill was in private practice in Denver, Colorado from 1977 to 1979, and in Pocatello, Idaho from 1979 to 1987.[2]

He was a state judge in the Idaho District Court (Sixth District) in Pocatello from 1987 to 1995,[2] having been appointed by Governor Cecil Andrus.[1] From 1992 to 1995, he served as the administrative district judge for the Sixth District and chair of the state's Evidence Rules Committee.[1] Winmill concurrently an adjunct professor at ISU (1991–1995). A finalist on three occasions for the Idaho Supreme Court, he was never nominated.[3]

Federal judicial serviceEdit

On May 24, 1995, Winmill was nominated by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, vacated by Harold Ryan for senior status in early 1993.[3][4][a] The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which rates judicial nominees, unanimously rated Winmill as "well qualified" for the post (the committee's highest rating).[6]

Winmill was confirmed by the Senate on August 11, 1995, by voice vote.[7] He received his commission three days later.[2]

Winmill served as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho for 19 years, from 1999 to January 1, 2019.[8]

Noteworthy casesEdit

Winmill granted the habeas corpus petition of Charles Fain, a wrongfully convicted man who spent 18 years on Idaho's death row. Winmill ordered DNA testing that was previously unavailable; the new testing exonerated Fain, who was released from prison.[1] Winmill and Fain later made joint speaking appearances.[1]

In 1999, Winmill presided over the trial of Allan Elias, a southeastern Idaho businessman, on charges of arising from 1996 incident in which Elias ordered an employee, who lacked safety training or proper protective equipment, to clean the inside of a large tank that stored a toxic mixture of phosphoric acid and cyanide.[9] The employee suffered severe brain damage. and Elias was convicted of "knowingly endangering the safety and health of his employees, illegally disposing of hazardous cyanide waste and making a false statement to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration."[9] In 2000, Winmill sentenced Elias to 17 years in prison, the longest-ever sentence in the United States for an environmental crime.[9][10]

In Western Watersheds Project v. Fish and Wildlife Service (2007),[11] Winmill ordered the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to reconsider its decision not to list the sage-grouse as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. In an opinion highly critical of FWS officials, Winmill singled out deputy assistant secretary Julie A. MacDonald for criticism, and held that the agency had impermissibly disregarded scientific evidence in making its decision to deny protection to the sage-grouse.[12][13]

In Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Otter (2015), Winmill struck down the "ag gag" law passed by the Idaho Legislature in 2012, ruling that the statute—which, among other things, banned the audio or visual recording of agricultural operations—violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In January 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld most of the ruling.[14][15][16]

In Edmo v. Idaho Department of Correction (2018), Winmill ruled in favor of a transgender inmate diagnosed with gender dysphoria, who challenged the state's refusal to provide gender confirmation surgery. Winmill ruled that the state's disregard of the "generally accepted medical standards for the treatment of gender dysphoria" constituted deliberate indifference to the inmate's medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[17][18]

Personal lifeEdit

Winmill is married; he and his wife Judy have four children and four grandchildren.[1]

He has served as a member of the board of the Idaho Humanities Council; as a member of the Board of Visitors of Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark Law School; and as a co-founder of the Idaho Legal History Society, which sponsored the performance of an original play marking the hundredth anniversary of the high-profile trial of Big Bill Haywood.[1]


  1. ^ Clinton's original nominee for the vacancy was lawyer John Tait of Lewiston. That nomination was one of many that year blocked for political reasons.[5] The state's Republican U.S. Senators, Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne, opposed Tait's nomination.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Betty H. Richardson, Judicial Profile: Hon. B. Lynn Winmill Chief U.S. District Judge, District of Idaho, The Federal Lawyer, Federal Bar Association.
  2. ^ a b c d e B. Lynn Winmill, Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, Federal Judicial Center.
  3. ^ a b c "Pocatello judge confirmed as new federal justice". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. August 12, 1995. p. 7A.
  4. ^ "Idaho judge nominated for federal bench". Deseret News. (Salt Lake City, Utah). Associated Press. April 10, 1995. p. A10.
  5. ^ Obituary: John Reid Tait, Lewiston Morning Tribune (February 12, 2012).
  6. ^ Ratings of Article III Judicial Nominees, 104rd Congress (1995-1996), American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.
  7. ^ PN412 — B. Lynn Winmill — The Judiciary, 104th Congress (1995-1996), Congress.gov.
  8. ^ Demi Harris, Chief Judges to step down after a combined 33 years of service, (December 21, 2018).
  9. ^ a b c Associated Press, Businessman Sentenced to Prison For Exposing Worker to Cyanide, Associated Press (April 30, 2000).
  10. ^ Virginia Sutcliffe, Idaho Man Given Longest-Ever Sentence for Environmental Crime, EHS Today (May 3, 2000).
  11. ^ Western Watersheds Project v. Fish & Wildlife Service, 535 F. Supp. 2d 1173 (D. Idaho 2007).
  12. ^ Rebecca Boone, Judge orders sage grouse protections reconsidered, Associated Press (December 5, 2007).
  13. ^ Bird in the Brush, New York Times (December 15, 2007).
  14. ^ Mateusz Perkowski, 9th Circuit strikes down most of Idaho's 'ag gag' law, Capital Press (January 4, 2018).
  15. ^ Dan Flynn, Split decision on Idaho's Ag-Gag Law Might Extend Beyond Agriculture, Food Safety News (January 5, 2018).
  16. ^ Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Otter, 118 F. Supp. 3d 1195 (D. Idaho 2015), affirmed in part and reversed in part sub nom. Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden, 878 F.3d 1184 (9th Cir. 2018).
  17. ^ Tommy Simmons (December 14, 2018). "State Ordered to Pay for Surgery for Transgender Prison Inmate". Idaho State Journal.
  18. ^ "Case Summary & History: Adree Edmo v. Idaho Department of Correction et al". National Center for Lesbian Rights.

External linksEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
Harold Lyman Ryan
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho
Preceded by
Edward Lodge
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho
Succeeded by
David Nye