Bywater promoted to AG's criminal division
Steve Bywaters second-floor office is symbolic of the transition hes about to make.
For the past four years, as a deputy attorney general assigned to the Idaho Transportation Department, Bywater has looked out the window on Boise foothills and beyond. When he trades that office for one inside the J.R. Williams Building (affectionately known as the Hall of Mirrors) the view will be much different.
More introspective. Internal. More administrative and less hands-on. More process.
Bywater came to the transportation department via the Attorneys General office in 2000 from Cassia County where he was a prosecuting attorney for 24 years. He will assume a new position July 6 chief of the criminal division of the AGs office. He replaces Michael Henderson who recently accepted a position with the Idaho Supreme Court.
The criminal division is composed of several units, including criminal appeals, death penalty litigation (both state and federal), special prosecutions unit, investigations and legal services to three state agencies Idaho State Police, Idaho Department of Corrections and the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections.
Bywater earned a law degree from the University of Utah in 1976 and a bachelors degree in sociology from the same institution in 1973. As head of the criminal division, he will supervise all five units and a staff of about 30 people.
He will be one of six division chiefs in the Attorneys General office that also includes natural resources, contracts and administrative law, civil litigation, human services, intergovernmental and fiscal law. About 170 combined attorneys and staff work in the Attorney Generals office.
Bywater could talk specifically about ITD legal cases that are contained in brown boxes on his credenza, desk and floor and have migrated into the outer office. But he wont. Attorney-client privilege and a commitment to look forward.
Some cases will linger, to be passed on to his successor, as he inherited them. The most satisfying have reached resolution and are now part of history.
Those are the cases he will reflect favorably on after moving to his new quarters near the capitol.
I have really enjoyed working in the eminent domain and contract areas, as well as environmental cases. Ive had the opportunity to do all of those kinds of cases here, along with human resource and civil rights. The most rewarding part has been working with ITDs management, the transportation board and the director.
The transportation department has made great strides addressing construction claims and resolving related disputes earlier in the process, Bywater explains. Creation of dispute resolution boards is largely responsible for expediting and settling claims.
He also has witnessed steady growth in the numbers and complexity of issues related to property acquisition and the environment.
So often its not an area where theres a clear winner and clear loser, but where we have been able to strike a balance to meet multiple interests and achieve outcomes that all parties can live with.
In that regard, the challenges facing Idaho are similar to those confronting other states, Bywater said. But Idaho has learned from some of the more populous states and avoided some of the problems they have encountered.
The biggest challenge for the ITD Legal Section will be handling an ever increasing case load that is more complex with the staff and resources we have.
He speaks in terms of we although he is not technically an ITD employee. He and four other attorneys are assigned to the department from the Attorney Generals office to work exclusively on transportation-related legal cases.
Im not a department employee, although I have been treated like one by everyone in the department. The model seems to work very well. It helps us to remain objective in our advice to the executive team, board and director, while at the same understanding what they are working to accomplish and assisting them to find the best legal route to their objectives.
From my point of view it has worked very well. Hopefully, the department feels the same way.
I certainly leave with a much greater understanding and appreciation for the complex issues the transportation department faces. People sometimes focus on problems instead of the good system that we have and how well it operates.
The Attorney Generals office will review potential
candidates for Bywaters successor and coordinate with ITD Director
Dave Ekern and board members. The process could take several weeks.