Cynthia Wolken, Ellie Hill and many more Endorse Brendan McQuillan for Missoula Judge

The list of endorsements for Brendan McQuillan for Missoula Municipal Court Judge includes these Missoula elected officials and notable Missoulians

State Senators Cynthia Wolken and Ron Erickson

State Representatives Ellie Hill and Nate McConnell

Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst

Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott

Missoula County Clerk Tyler Gernant

Regional Director for the Office of the Public Defender Jennifer Streano

City Councilmembers Jason Wiener, Emily Bentley,  and Annelise Hehdahl

Missoula County Commissioner Cola Rowley

As well as: Marie Andersen, Eldena Bear Don’t Walk, Larry Mansch, Dustin Monroe, Katie Carlson, Jess Grennan, Benjamin Darrow, Emily Likins-Ehlers, Jim Parker, Jim Taylor, Jason Marks, Cynthia Ford, Bryan Tipp, Richard R. Buley, Karen Buley, Jen Gursky, Peter F. Lacny, Robin Hamilton, Jocelyn Siler, Amanda Darrow, Dwight Schulte, Jenny Kaleczyc, Thomas C. Orr, William E. Rideg, Ashley Morigeau, Josh Morigeau, Jerry Fetz, Christopher Abbott, Shahid Haque, Colin Stephens, John S. Adams, Brooke Perkins Lainsbury, Chuck Erickson, Barbara Berens, Morgan Smith, Reid Reimers, Rob Henry, Natalie Wicklund, Angela Goodhope, Christopher Orman, Richard Raugust, Sarah Ferguson, Tobias Cook, James Lapotka, Smith and Stephens P.C. Law Office, Peter Delmoe, Ase Carlson, Britt and Jamie Cotter, Lael Gabrian, Sarah Lockwood, Molly Owen and Adam Fangsrud

Guest Post By Ellie Hill

It’s time for New Leadership at the Missoula City Court

Until you end up with a traffic ticket, many Missoulians don’t pay much attention to our Municipal Court. But anyone who cares about the city’s budget concerns, improving community safety, and bringing back common sense should pay attention to this race and support candidate Brendan McQuillan, a Missoulian who has excellent experience, a sharp mind, and a good heart.

Under Judge Kathleen Jenks, Missoula’s Municipal Court has exceeded its budgets and increased the rate of incarceration for non-violent offenders. Municipal Court handles mainly traffic infractions and relatively minor cases, but how they are handled has a big impact on people’s lives as well as the broader community. Judge Jenks’ heavy-handed approach has caused many people who can’t afford a measly $100 traffic fine to end up sitting in jail instead of being able to go to work to earn money to pay their fine, not to mention put food on the table and keep their kids in clothes. When people lose their jobs because they’re in jail, it makes it that much harder to pay their fines, and only serves to further destabilize their lives. This needlessly hurts people and their families, and it hurts the community too. The daily population of Missoula’s jail has increased almost 20% between 2011 and 2015, according to the Missoula Jail Diversion Master Plan, and the average length of time each inmate stays has increased as well. If this trend continues, officials say Missoula’s jail will need to be expanded, costing millions of dollars to build and run. Jailing more non-violent people for longer periods of time is the wrong approach for our community.

Missoula spent almost a year creating a community jail diversion plan, based upon input from local law enforcement, the City Council, and other stakeholders in the hospital and legal communities. But after all this hard work, Judge Jenks refused to even try out a jail diversion pilot project. She told City Council she had higher priorities—unfortunately, her priorities don’t line up with the best interests and priorities of the Missoula community she is supposed to serve. Though Judge Jenks won’t consider alternatives to improve the outcomes of her court, she has asked for more money to hire another assistant part-time judge, but sinking more money into Judge Jenks court isn’t the right solution.

We need a Municipal Judge who will work well with others to find more cost-effective ways to manage the court. But it’s not just about budgets and understanding the major impact one judge’s decision has on a defendant and everyone who depends on him. When our jail is overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, violent offenders in other courts may be released into the community because there are no open jail beds. Victims of violent crime, and citizens at large want to see our jail used to house dangerous people who may hurt others, not people who are too poor to pay speeding tickets.

In his campaign, Candidate Brendan McQuillan has made clear that he understands the importance of good communication and cooperation with other stakeholders in the justice system. He supports alternatives that will save money and improve local lives, and he supports common sense and creative solutions.

With experience as both a sex-crimes prosecutor and a public defender, McQuillan understands these issues and will work hard to achieve the best outcome for victims, defendants, and our community at large. McQuillan was born and raised in Missoula, and graduated from Hellgate High School. He received both his undergraduate and his law degrees from the University of Montana. His daughter attends Missoula County Public Schools. We’re endorsing McQuillan because he knows our community, he knows the justice system, and he will be an excellent leader of our Municipal Court.

It’s time to elect new leadership for Missoula Municipal Court—please support Brendan McQuillan.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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Nathan Kosted


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  • In May 2015, Missoula County received an $85,000 grant from the University of Utah to study its jail overcrowding problem. This was the basis of the jail diversion program, which saw another – I believe – $40,000 injected into it.

    So we spent $125,000 to come up with a plan to reduce our jail population and save taxpayers money.

    But Judge Jenks doesn’t care.

    Yep, she’s gotta go. That’s why I voted for McQuillan yesterday.

  • When Jenks first took this position I was quite critical of her opposition to treatment courts, but eventually she came around when she saw the need. I think a big reason Missoula’s progressive clique is aligning against Jenks now is because she has an issue with how data was used in the jail diversion master plan. I don’t think her criticism of the plan has been described in detail in local media, but the way I understand it is individuals with multiple charges (felony and misdemeanor) in multiple courts were all coded under Municipal court, and that created an inaccurate depiction of Municipal Court’s contribution to jail overcrowding.

    Ultimately that master plan doesn’t really matter because our “progressive” Mayor isn’t serious about funding the suggestions the plan produced, a move his political minions have not publicly criticized, so the problem will continue and this Brendan dude has said nothing that indicates he will be able to do anything different. I would vote to retain Jenks because she does care and she’s willing to take a stand against Missoula’s political consensus when she thinks they are wrong.

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