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Public Statements

Issue Position: Beth's Principles

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

My experience and integrity will preserve and strengthen the principles of justice for all Montana:

1. The Montana Supreme Court should be made up of judges with a variety of legal experience who understand, and have the ability to analyze, the multitude of issues that come before the Court.

In 25 years of legal experience, I have handled more than three dozen cases before the Montana Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. These cases have involved a wide variety of issues. For example, I have advocated to uphold the murder conviction of a man who shot a Missoula police officer; I have defended state laws protecting landowners from liability if they allow free recreational access to their property; and I have protected the people's right to place laws on the ballot for public vote.

As an Assistant Montana Attorney General,

* I worked to uphold criminal convictions in the Montana Supreme Court, participated in the prosecution of violent crime, wrote legislation on crime and public safety, and helped establish a program that put a dedicated team of prosecutors in county offices throughout the state to handle child abuse and neglect cases.
* I drafted legal opinions for the Attorney General on a wide range of laws, including election issues, health care and local government.
* I helped safeguard the public right of participation in government by carrying out the Attorney General's responsibilities relating to the passage of laws by initiative and referendum.
* I led Montana's legal challenge to the loss of one of the State's two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, urging the courts to require Congress to follow the principle of "one person, one vote" in determining how many representatives to allot to each state.

My work in private practice the last ten years has taken me to all regions of the State of Montana, including Glasgow, Sidney, Billings, Butte, Bozeman, West Yellowstone, Anaconda, Deer Lodge, Helena, the Flathead, and Great Falls.

I have represented individuals, businesses, law enforcement officers, taxpayers, public agencies and local governments.

My practice has involved a broad range of issues covering taxation, public retirement systems, rights of individual employees, child custody, wildlife management, prison conditions, law enforcement issues, governmental procedures, mental health treatment, and constitutional law.

2. All parties who come before the courts are entitled to be treated with respect, to have their positions considered fairly and thoughtfully, and to have their cases decided on the relevant laws and rules, without favor or prejudice.

I have learned as a practicing lawyer how important it is that cases be decided upon thorough understanding of the facts and full knowledge of the applicable law. This requires careful research, complete analysis, and principled decision-making.

Justice should be prompt, but it should also be well-informed. A good judge must be satisfied that she has based her decision on the rules of law that have been put into place by the Constitution, statutes, and previous rulings of the Court.

People who come before the Supreme Court are there with the most important issues in their lives. Whether the case involves custody of one child or funding for an entire school district, the parties need to be confident the judges hearing their case will give it full attention and impartial consideration.

Everyone must play by the rules. In order for that to happen, everyone must know and understand what the rules are. The Montana Supreme Court has an unflagging obligation to provide consistent, principled, and clear guidance to the district courts and the practicing bar.

The law must be predictable, not subject to change based on a judge's personal views. Lawyers make value judgments about their cases based on the state of the law -- what the rules are -- and they need to be able to rely on that as they advise their clients whether to pursue their cases in court or to try to resolve them by settlement.

3. The Montana Supreme Court should take a leadership role in ensuring that the courts of Montana are open to everyone. Access to our legal system should not be a privilege, but the right of all people.

I have been a leader in the legal profession in working toward equal access to the court system for all Montanans, even those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

As a lawyer, I have volunteered hundreds of hours to help people of limited means have their day in court and to work on programs that make the legal system available to everyone.

I helped establish the Supreme Court program that promotes volunteer lawyer programs and provides legal forms, instructions and training to help people who cannot afford a lawyer take their own cases to court. If elected, I will continue the Court's efforts to make retention of the program a top priority.

I have worked on programs to help other lawyers donate their time, including:

* a program that allows retired lawyers to provide free legal assistance,
* policies that encourage lawyers in both the private and public sector to donate legal services to those in need, and
* training programs to help lawyers develop their skills to handle volunteer, or "pro bono," cases outside their area of expertise.

I am currently Vice President of the Montana Justice Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization that funds and supports legal aid and domestic violence programs committed to ensuring that all Montanans, especially the vulnerable and underserved, have equal access to the justice system.

If elected to the Supreme Court, I will work with other members of the Court, with the district courts, and with members of the Bar to increase pro bono participation among Montana lawyers.

4. An independent, objective, and balanced Court is necessary to strengthen public confidence in the legal system.

During my 12 years as an Assistant Montana Attorney General, I worked first for a Republican and then for a Democrat. Throughout that time, I served as legislative liaison for the Justice Department, working with legislators from both political parties and people with a wide variety of interests on matters involving public health and safety, property rights, and the state budget.

In my private practice, whether representing a single parent, a law enforcement officer, or a public agency, I follow the same principles: a lawyer must advocate for her client with integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the principles of justice.

I believe in the importance of civil discourse -- that both the written and spoken word should be respectful of others and focused on the issues, not on the person on the other side of the case. In order to maintain public confidence in our legal system, professional and respectful communication must be practiced both by lawyers and in written judicial opinions. The ability to disagree agreeably makes our adversarial legal system less contentious and more solution-oriented.

As a member of the Montana Supreme Court, I will be independent and fair. I will consider every case that comes before the Court in a balanced and thoughtful manner.

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