Complaint Filed Against Justice of the Peace Candidate

Kalispell man says William Managhan failed to effectively represent him; Managhan says his client failed to give him information

By Justin Franz
Justice of the Peace candidate William Managhan in Kalispell on May 3, 2018. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

The Montana Office of Disciplinary Counsel has filed a complaint against Kalispell attorney William Managhan, a candidate for Flathead County Justice of the Peace, alleging he failed to effectively represent a client three years ago.

Managhan, who works as a public defender and is currently running against Kalispell attorney Paul Sullivan to be the next Justice Court judge, said that there is more to the story than has been alleged by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and his former client, Jacob Vierzba. The complaint was filed on April 26.

The Montana Office of Disciplinary Counsel was established by the Montana Supreme Court to investigate and prosecute complaints against practicing attorneys. The agency files upwards of two-dozen complaints against attorneys annually but investigates many more.

According to court records, Vierzba hired Managhan to represent him in a wrongful termination case. In September 2010, Managhan filed a lawsuit against Vierzba’s former employer and he stayed on the case until 2014, when he accepted a position as a public defender. At the time, Managhan informed all of his clients that they would have to find new attorneys for their cases. However, Vierzba failed to hire a new attorney and Managhan failed to formally withdraw himself from the case.

In 2016, the court issued a Notice of Failure to Prosecute in the case. After a 60-day waiting period without any additional activity, the court dismissed the case on April 15, 2016. By the time the case was dismissed, the statute of limitations had run out on the matter and Vierzba was unable to pursue lost wages from his former employer.

“During the time period between 2012 and 2016, (Managhan) failed to diligently pursue Vierzba’s claims or keep Vierzba reasonably informed about the status of his matter,” the complaint states. “In effect, (Managhan) abandoned his client both before and after accepting a position as a public defender.”

But Managhan said representing Vierzba was a challenging endeavor because the client failed to provide necessary information to appropriately pursue the case. Managhan said there were other issues in Vierzba’s background that had he been informed of in advance would have prevented him from ever taking the case.

“His failure to provide necessary employment records hampered my ability to diligently pursue his civil claim,” Managhan wrote in a statement to the Beacon.

Managhan is facing Sullivan in the June 5 primary. Because the Justice of the Peace race is non-partisan and there are only two candidates, both men will once again face off during the November general election that will decide who will be the next Justice Court judge.

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