In the race for Flathead County District Court Department 2 judge, current Justice of the Peace Daniel Wilson and local attorney Bob Allison each hope to earn the votes to take over Judge Katherine Curtis’ seat in January.
For Allison, a Kalispell attorney for nearly 40 years, the idea of becoming a judge didn’t occur to him until he heard both Curtis and Judge Stewart Stadler would be retiring at the end of the year.
“I’ve had an awful lot of broad-ranging experiences, legally,” Allison said. “I’ve handled literally ever kind of case that comes before a district judge. I’ve been working with and within this system for 37 years and feel I know it well.”
Allison also feels he knows the Flathead community well, being a fourth-generation resident and having practiced here for nearly four decades. And with one of the busiest district courts in the state, Allison said he’s got no qualms about taking on a large caseload.
“I’ve worked hard; I’m willing to continue to do so,” he said. “It’s a full-time job, there’s no doubt about it.”
There are four judges in Flathead County District Court and an annual total caseload of almost 4,500. Roughly a quarter of those are criminal cases.
With an increasingly busy court system and more people representing themselves, Allison said that if he is elected, he would like to help facilitate this process for the court and for the litigants through self-help legal services and better access to legal forms.
Any changes would have to be uniform for all four judges, Allison noted, which would allow them to rule in a “fairly prompt way.”
With mediation experience, Allison said he could approach the bench with a good sense of neutrality, as well as an easygoing manner that would not add any stress to an already stressful courtroom situation.
“I’m looking forward to serving there if that’s what the voters decide,” Allison said.
Wilson began practicing law in the Flathead as a deputy county attorney in 1995, which he continued until 1998 and then started his private practice. When the opportunity arose to run for justice court, Wilson said he saw it as a chance to see if he was ready to be a judge.
Now, two years later, Wilson said he believes his efforts in justice court have shown he can keep on top of a considerable caseload with a solid work ethic. He has also implemented procedures in justice court to streamline the scheduling of jury trials, which benefits all parties involved, Wilson said.
When it comes to changes on the district court level, Wilson said he is in no position to say he could improve upon matters there because he doesn’t run that department. But he is familiar with the challenges facing district judges, Wilson said, which include self-representing litigants.
These litigants could benefit from a set of forms tailored to provide a sort of roadmap for what a judge is looking for in certain civil matters, such as post-divorce parenting plans.
“District court can play a hand in developing these sorts of forms,” Wilson said.
Civil cases also take up a considerable amount of time and resources, Wilson said, and there is no constitutionally required speedy trial element involved. He proposes developing a rule that would make every document produced through the discovery process admissible in trial, unless the opposing party objects within a certain timeframe.
Federal courts use a similar rule, Wilson said, and it could help move civil cases along at the district level.
Wilson said he is ready for the challenge of district court cases, and believes he is worth the public’s investment as a judge.
“It’s been a thought of mine to run for a judge’s position for years,” Wilson said.
The general election is on Nov. 6.
For more information on Daniel Wilson, visit www.wilsonforjustice.com. For more information on Bob Allison, visit www.boballisonfordistrictjudge.com.
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