Two candidates are seeking the municipal court judge position in Whitefish this fall.
Kristi Curtis, a city prosecutor in Whitefish, is running against William Hileman, an attorney at Trieweiler, Hedman, Hileman & Lacosta. Municipal Judge Bradley Johnson is retiring.
In Whitefish, three council candidates are vying for three seats, making it an uncontested race. Incumbent Andy Feury is running along with newcomers Ryan Gregory Hennen and Melissa Hartman. Incumbents Jen Frandsen did not file for re-election and Pam Barberis withdrew her candidacy.
Whitefish’s city government encompasses six councilors and the mayor serving as the legislative body and an appointed city manager who oversees daily operations.
Election Day is Nov. 7 and absentee ballots are being mailed Oct. 18.
1. Why are you running and what makes you a strong candidate?
2. Describe your legal background and what part of your experience makes you qualified to be a municipal court judge.
NAME: Kristi Curtis
OCCUPATION: Whitefish city prosecutor
YEARS LIVING IN WHITEFISH: 17 years
1. Whitefish Municipal Court deals primarily with criminal cases. As the Whitefish City prosecutor I have a unique perspective on how the court can be improved to serve the needs of the community, while insuring correct procedures are followed to comply with legal and constitutional requirements. I have over 11 years experience as the prosecutor in Kalispell and Whitefish. I have worked with many of the local judges and am able to distill the best ideas of all to improve the day to day operation of the court, increase absent defendants’ accountability, utilize existing technology to improve court access, and minimize the amount of time spent waiting for individual cases to be called.
I recognize that for most people, their only experience with the criminal justice system may be at the Municipal Court level. It is important for these people to understand their constitutional rights, feel empowered to assert those rights, to have a judge willing to listen to their version of events, and deliver fair and equal justice.
My decision to run is based solely on my desire to continue my public service and to utilize my knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm to make Whitefish Municipal Court outstanding!
2. I have been a licensed attorney for 36 years. In 1981, I graduated from Santa Clara Law School, passed the California Bar, and began working for a mid-sized firm in the SF Bay Area. In 1986 I became the only female partner. I handled all phases of civil litigation including jury trials and appeals. The firm dissolved in 1998, and I became “Of Counsel,” enabling me to move to Montana in 2000. I was a Judge Pro Tem from 1994 to 2000 at the Municipal and Superior Court level (akin to District Court).
In 2006 I passed the Montana Bar and was hired as the prosecutor in Kalispell where I stayed until 2015. In 2015 the City of Whitefish chose to move its prosecutorial duties from an outside contract with my opponent’s firm, to an in-house position. I was hired as the Whitefish Deputy City Attorney, and am proud to serve as the Whitefish prosecutor.
I have tried over 100 criminal jury trials and hundreds of bench trials. I serve as a Judge Pro Tem in Kalispell Municipal Court and Flathead Justice Court. My extensive experience in civil and criminal law makes me the best choice.
NAME: William Hileman, Jr.
OCCUPATION: Partner in the law firm of Trieweiler, Hedman, Hileman and Lacosta
YEARS LIVING IN WHITEFISH: I grew up in Kalispell and moved to Whitefish upon graduation from law school in June 1977
1. & 2. Since 1977, it has been my pleasure to practice law in Whitefish. My wife, Susan Lacosta, and I have built our careers here; and our twin daughters, Hayley and Holly, have grown up in Whitefish and attended public schools.
I am now running for Whitefish Municipal Court Judge. My legal practice has included prosecution and criminal defense, commercial law, contracts, family law, personal injury, banking, and real estate matters. I’ve tried civil and criminal cases in state and federal courts and represented clients in appeals before the Ninth Circuit.
Our office acted as the city prosecutors for Whitefish for more than 25 years. I was always involved in what was going on and served as a backup whenever needed. Last year I was sworn in as substitute judge in Columbia Falls, and have also spent countless hours sitting in on the Whitefish Municipal Court and the courts in Kalispell. I believe the diversity of my legal knowledge and experience would help me to be a better judge. I will bring enthusiasm and the perspective of an attorney who has practiced in Whitefish for my entire career.
This is a good time in my professional life to make a change. I have enjoyed working as judge and found it to be invigorating to do something a bit different. I want to give back to the community that has been so good to my family and me.
I am blessed with what is termed a good “judicial temperament.”
The position of municipal judge is non-partisan, meaning no party affiliation. I don’t hold grudges and am even tempered. I do not have a political agenda. My support is very broad-based – it includes the entire political spectrum. That’s the way it should be in a judicial election. I will be fair, but firm, and follow the law.
I believe in the value of testimony and believe that victims should be heard. But consequences are essential. The court has to do what it can to make things right. Allowing crimes to go unpunished demeans each of our lives. It truly is about justice.
In closing, Whitefish is my home and it would be an honor to serve as its judge. I can promise that I would roll up my sleeves and get to work. I pledge my full-time commitment to be the best judge possible. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” And that is what I intend to do as Whitefish municipal judge.