Coming off a decisive win during the primary, University of Montana Law School adjunct professor Kristen Juras is pivoting to the general election and vying for a seat on Montana’s highest court.
Juras was in Kalispell last week during a campaign swing through the western part of the state in her effort to be elected to the Montana Supreme Court. Juras received 44 percent of the vote during the June 7 primary, ahead of Dirk Sandefur and Eric Mills. The Montana Supreme Court election is non-partisan so Juras will go up against Sandefur, who received 34 percent of the vote, in the November election.
“I’m encouraged by the (primary results),” Juras said. “I believe it shows that people are responding to my message.”
Juras is a Montana native who was born and raised in Conrad. She graduated from the University of Montana and then the University of Georgia School of Law in 1982. She practiced law in Oklahoma City before coming home and working as an attorney in Great Falls. She began teaching at UM’s School of Law in 2000. When not teaching she continues to practice law and completes hundreds of hours of pro-bono work annually.
The Supreme Court hopeful said she believes she can bring a new perspective to the bench. She said her experience in small business and agriculture would be especially valuable in the court. She notes that she has done extensive work on water rights issues, something she believes the court will be addressing more in the coming years.
“We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to water rights litigation,” she said.
She added that she is passionate about issues that face rural communities and wants to be a voice for those places on the court. Another issue that is important to her is ensuring that all people get fair access to justice.
Juras said it is critical that the state’s highest court remain non-partisan. She said if elected she would make sure that her own beliefs and opinions did not impact her judgments.
“When you’re on the bench you have to leave your personal and political beliefs behind and apply the law as it is written,” she said.
Juras’ opponent is a Great Falls native and was first involved in the legal system when he became a police officer in Havre. After three years in Havre, Sandefur attended the University of Montana School of Law and worked as a public defender and then deputy Cascade County attorney. He ran for district court judge in 2002 and has been re-elected twice. In the past he has also served as a substitute justice on the Montana Supreme Court.