Odds are one day you or someone you know will land in front of a Missoula County Justice of the Peace. The judges—there are two—oversee misdemeanor traffic prosecutions and also those involving theft and drugs. A Justice of the Peace is authorized to issue search and arrest warrants, set bail for individuals charged with felonies and ensure defendants have legal representation.
Such a broad scope of responsibilities means that whomever is elected needs a unique set of competencies and traits, including management skills, toughness, compassion and, though a law degree is not a prerequisite, a Justice of the Peace must have sufficient legal knowledge to accurately navigate and interpret Montana statutes.
In Department 2, Incumbent Karen Orzech is running for reelection unopposed. In the Justice Court’s Department 1, five candidates aim to replace John Odlin, who stepped down in March, citing health reasons. The two candidates who garner the most votes during the June 3 primary will face off in November's general election.
Because the Justice of the Peace job is an important one and there’s a crowded field of candidates vying for the position, the Indy put together a list of resources to help you get to know the candidates:
“I received numerous requests to run for this office,” Anderson says. “I thought about it and decided to run because Missoula can benefit from my experience and dedication.”
Current Position: private attorney; substitute judge in Missoula County Justice Court Department 2 since 2008
Relevant Experience: Missoula Assistant Municipal Court Judge, 2006-2011; Missoula County Municipal Court Judge, 2011-2012
Past Bids: Missoula County Municipal Court Judge, 2013
Ereckson aims to provide justice, protect the community and “treat people with respect.”
Current Position: Attorney for Collections Professional, Inc., since 2011
Past Experience: Laurel city attorney, 2000-2003; substitute judge in Yellowstone County Justice Court, 2004-2006; Stillwater County Deputy Attorney, 2006-2010
Past Bids: Lost bids to be Yellowstone County justice of the peace in 2006 and judge of Montana’s 13th Judicial District in 2010
For more info, check out Ereckson's Q&A with the Missoula County Democrats.
Matt Lowy tells the Missoula Democratic Party that if he’s elected to serve, he’d like to focus on the court’s “increased caseload, how justice can be administered efficiently and fairly, and how the next Justice of the Peace intends to utilize the forthcoming digital court system.”
Current position: Missoula County Deputy Prosecutor, since 2008
Past Experience: Attorney in the Gallatin Country Attorney's Office, 2005-2007
Past bids: NA
For more info, visit Lowy's website, read his Q&A with the Missoula Country Democrats, see who's supporting his bid, read an editorial Lowy wrote for the Missoulian about how he'll try to improve technology and communication in the court if he wins the race or take a look at Karen Orzech's Missoulian editorial about why she recommends against voting for Lowy.
“I think I can improve upon what has been done in the past,” she says.
Current Position: Justice Court clerk
Relevant Experience: Eight years working in the Justice Court
Past Bids: Justice of the Peace Department 2, 2009
“I believe whoever wins should be able to look at each case on its individual merits before a decision is made,” Wells says.
Current position: Missoula Housing Authority Development Coordinator
Relevant experience: Reserve Sheriffs Deputy, current
Past Bids: N/A
Fore more info, check out the Q&A he did for the Missoula County Democrats.