The Roundup -

Richland Co. to Vote for Justice Of The Peace June 5

 


Three candidates are running for Richland County Justice of the Peace. Sidney resident, Judge Luke Savage, Sidney resident, Ross Hall, and Fairview resident, Judge Ray Trumpower are all vying for this position.

Savage explained to the Roundup the position of Justice of the Peace and its terms of office, saying, “The Justice of the Peace handles all misdemeanors outside the City of Sidney. It’s technically called the ‘Richland County Justice Court of Record.’ That means that because there is a record, you lose your right to trial de novo, or an automatic right to appeal. The Justice of the Peace also does the initial appearance and bind-over on felonies, and the defendant will then see another judge.”

The Justice of the Peace position does not require a degree in law. Savage explained that there was a case a few years ago in which the District Court stated you needed a law degree, but the State Supreme Court over-ruled the District Court case and stated that state trainings are sufficient. Savage is the only one of the three contenders with a degree in law.

Savage has been serving in the position since he was appointed to the position sixteen months ago, but he must now run to keep the office. Born in Missoula while his parents were in law school, Savage moved to the area in 1982 and attended K-12 here. He then attended law school at the University of Montana in Missoula.

When asked why voters should cast the ballot for him, Savage responded, “I am passionate about the law and making sure that it is equal for every person. I want it to be fairly and properly applied to everyone.”

Savage continued, “I believe that my experience on the bench and my experience as an attorney haVE been critical to allowing me to make those just and fair decisions. I would let my knowledge and experience speak for itself and I would hope the public would want the most knowledgeable and experienced persons making those decisions.”

There have been challenges in the work, but Savage says that he has made strides in spite of an increase in caseloads. Savage said, “I think we have had a substantial increase in cases in my first year and we have handled the increased caseload by identifying certain areas in the office we’ve been able to streamline very smoothly and we have dealt with that increased caseload without any major adjustments to the office.”

Ray Trumpower is originally from Michigan, and has been in this area since 1979, coming in the first oil boom. After that, Trumpower moved to several different states including Wyoming, back to Michigan and then North Dakota and ultimately Fairview, Montana. Trumpower told the Roundup that his brother, Joe, is a graduate of Sidney High School.

Trumpower has been the Fairview City Judge since 2005, which has concurrent jurisdiction with the Richland County Justice of the Peace. The way the law is set up in Montana, each county has one small claims court, so Trumpower explained that small claims court is the one area he doesn’t have experience.

Trumpower explained in succinct terms why voters should cast their ballot for him, saying, “Basically I want the position because I am a good judge, I have good jurisprudence, and to be honest, I think I can do a better job than Luke.”

When asked if not having a law degree was a disadvantage, Trumpower stated, “The thing is, the job of the judge is to listen to both arguments of the lawyers and determine which one was right. If you go in with a preconceived notion, there will be a problem. When either side quotes the law, I look at the book. It’s about the law and about common sense and life experience. After time, you can determine when somebody is trying to lie or trying to pull one over on you.”

Trumpower asserted, “I’ve done this for twelve years. I’m obviously good at it because I’ve never been reversed in another court.”

Ross Hall attended University of Wyoming College of Law, where according to Hall, it was possible to practice law while being a student. Hall practiced law and tried several cases, but told the Roundup, “I got into a crisis of confidence, and I just went into the Dean of Students and asked how do you defend someone you know is [guilty]? An honest man lost a case because of what I did to him.”

Hall then explained that he decided that coaching and teaching would be his career choice. Hall, who works for the Circle School District, said, “I now drive to Circle. They’re wonderful kids. It’s been a great experience, but it’s tiring.”

Hall continued, speaking of serving as judge, “This is what I’ve always wanted to do and I wanted to give it a try.”

His lack of experience on the bench shouldn’t deter voters, Hall argued. He told the Roundup, “There’s no paper that says you have the expertise to do it. Common sense is common sense.”

 

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