Two local attorneys are vying to be Flathead County’s next Justice of the Peace. Paul Sullivan and William Managhan will both appear on the June primary ballot in what will be the first test for their candidacy in the November general election.
Because the Justice of the Peace race is non-partisan, and there are only two candidates in the primary, both Sullivan and Managhan will continue on to the general election. Eric Hummel, the department one Justice of the Peace, is running unopposed.
Both Sullivan and Managhan are practicing attorneys in the Flathead Valley and both said their experience is what sets them apart.
Sullivan grew up in Bigfork, went to college in Missoula and later attended law school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. After graduation, he caught “the first flight home” and started practicing law. Sullivan initially worked solo, but in 2010 joined Measure, Sampsel, Sullivan & O’Brien in Kalispell. In 2011, he also started working as a substitute judge in Justice Court, Columbia Falls City Court and Kalispell Municipal Court. It is from that experience that Sullivan said he learned to love the idea of overseeing a courtroom.
“My experience as a substitute judge is what sets me apart,” he said. “I’ve been doing the job since 2011 and it’s given me a lot of insight to the process.”
Sullivan said one of the biggest problems facing the criminal justice system in Flathead County is repeat offenders frequently appearing before the same judge, thanks in part to a drug epidemic that has fueled an increase in property crime. Sullivan believes he can help people “dig out” from their problems by handling cases quickly and efficiently.
“I think the Flathead Valley is one of the most wonderful places on earth but it’s only going to stay that way if we fight for it,” he said.
Managhan was born in St. Ignatius and grew up in the Missoula area. After high school, Managhan spent a few years as a welder before going to college and then attending the University of Montana School of Law. After graduation, Managhan worked as a clerk for the Montana Supreme Court. In 2001, he took a job at a small law firm in Kalispell before starting his own firm in 2003. Five years ago, Managhan decided to give back to the community and become a public defender in Kalispell. Managhan said he initially was hesitant about that line of work but in the years since he has learned to love it and the role he plays in the justice system.
Managhan said he stands apart in the two-man race because of his varied career within the criminal justice system and life experience. Managhan’s sister was murdered when he was a teenager and he said that tragedy has also given him an understanding of what it’s like to be a victim.
“When people talk about victim’s rights, I understand where they’re coming from at a very deep level,” he said. “I understand the justice system from both sides.”