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U.S. BANKRUPTCY COURT

District of Idaho

Chief Judge Noah G. Hillen

Public 2 New
U.S. Courts District of Idaho Seal
Bankruptcy Judge Joseph M. Meier
In Memoriam

Honorable Joe Meier, Chief Bankruptcy Judge, District of Idaho

Chief Bankruptcy Judge Joe Meier, District of Idaho, died on Nov. 22, 2023, in Boise. Judge Meier was known for his wonderful sense of humor, his exceptional kindness and
keen intellect.

Judge Meier was born in Baltimore and grew up in Maryland and Connecticut. His family moved to Oregon after Judge Meier graduated from high school, and he followed them out West and enrolled at the University of Oregon. Judge Meier was a member and captain of the rowing team at Oregon. He graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts in history and economics and lifelong passions for history and the Oregon Ducks. Judge Meier attended Willamette University School of Law, where he was a member of the Willamette Law Review. He graduated in 1984 and moved to Boise for a job opportunity. He ended up practicing for over 30 years at the firm Cosho Humphrey, where he left an enduring impact on Idaho’s legal community. 

In 2005, Judge Meier was named a fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy. He also served as a member of the Lawyer Representatives Coordinating Committee for the Ninth Circuit, culminating as the chairperson in 2007. Judge Meier was appointed as a bankruptcy judge in the District of Idaho in 2018 and became the chief bankruptcy judge in 2019. 

While in private practice, Judge Meier established himself as one of the best commercial law and bankruptcy attorneys in Idaho. He often represented debtors in complex Chapter 11 and Chapter 12 cases. Given this background, it was not surprising that after he got to the bench, his favorite cases were the complex reorganization cases. The more complicated the better. He enjoyed learning about new businesses and industries and loved grappling with complex issues in cases where there wasn’t necessarily a clear-cut answer. He especially loved these cases when he had great attorneys in front of him, who weren’t afraid to dig into complicated issues.

Pictured above, back row third from left, was Judge Joe Meier with the American College of Bankruptcy taken in 2005, when he was inducted into the college. Judge Meier pictured, backrow second from right, with his rowing team at the University of Oregon in 1981. Judge Meier with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2008, when he was chair of the Lawyer Representatives Coordinating Committee for the Ninth Circuit.

In the courtroom, Judge Meier’s demeanor was one of respect and patience. He let litigants speak without interruption, a reflection of his belief in the importance of every individual’s right to be heard. He made sure that the parties who appeared before him felt like they were able to tell their story and have their day in court. Sometimes this meant that hearings with pro se individuals would take hours, as litigants took full advantage of the opportunity to make their case. Judge Meier was always patient, always kind and always listened.

Interacting with all the people at the courthouse was one of Judge Meier’s favorite parts of the job. Emails to Judge Meier were not merely responded to; they were invitations for personal visits, an opportunity for Judge Meier to engage directly with the people in the courthouse. Send him an email, and there’s a good chance you would soon find him in your office. He enjoyed wandering down to the clerk’s office to stop and visit with the case administrators and staff, and you could often find him chatting in the courthouse halls with the court security officers.

For over a decade, Judge Meier truly enjoyed teaching the bankruptcy class at the University of Idaho College of Law. It was one of the many ways he gave back to the bankruptcy bar, by inspiring young, smart law school students to hopefully make bankruptcy part of their legal career. He particularly enjoyed interacting with the students in class, especially after the first few weeks, when the light bulb started to come on for many of the students. He even enjoyed teaching difficult classes, like jurisdiction or procedure, where he could explain subjects like Stern claims or the finer points of service under Rule 7004 with remarkable simplicity.

Family was at the heart of Judge Meier’s world. He would often tell stories of the trips he took with his family to the Oregon coast, regardless of the weather. He would make the long drive from Boise, even in the winter, so he could bring his golden retriever, who he liked to joke was the most spoiled dog in all of Idaho. In fact, the dog was so spoiled, that you may have even seen the two of them wandering through the lobby together at the most recent Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Judge Meier was a presence that touched the lives of all the people who knew him. The District of Idaho was incredibly fortunate to have had the benefit of Judge Meier’s dedicated service these last five years. We’ve lost a wonderful colleague, a leader and friend, who was one of the most genuine, and best people, any of us will ever know.


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