A record 61 cases were filed before the Idaho Supreme Court last month, and the court's newest justice, Byron Johnson, says he may be the reason.

"There are some who think that, with someone new on the court, they'll take a crapshoot on an issue," Johnson told the annual meeting of the Idaho Press Club.He said later he had no statistics on the point but that he suspected many of the new filings were in criminal cases in which defense attorneys were testing how Johnson's presence would tip rulings of the five-man court.

Johnson was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Cecil Andrus in January to replace Charles Donaldson, who died.

Johnson had no prior judicial experience, but had an extensive career as a criminal defense attorney and as legal counsel for the Idaho Education Association, the teachers' union.

The record number of the filings is the highest for any one month since 1983, Johnson said. If filings continue at that pace, he said, the court would see more than 700 filings in 1988, more than twice the normal filing rate.

Johnson was circumspect about describing his first two months on the bench, but he said those who expected him to vote consistently in a particular way might be disappointed. His first written opinions are due in May.

He said he had participated in some 70 decisions so far, and that he had found himself aligned with each of the other four justices at different times.