For years, Missoula has said they need more judges. Now all of a sudden they’ll have ‘em, and the county is in no way prepared - they don’t have chambers or a courtroom for the third, for instance.
This is typical of Missoula - bitch and moan for years that you need something, and then when it’s given to you (by a Republican, no less), you’re not ready, and bitch and moan about that.
Talk is that portions of the old federal building downtown might be repurposed for this. We’ll see.
In the meantime, who are these judicial candidates?
For Department 1, we have Jennifer Streano.
She got started with the Office of Public Defender way back in 2006. In 2015 she was named lawyer of the year by the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Then in 2016 she was appointed the regional deputy public defender for Missoula, Ravalli, and Mineral counties.
She quit that job in February 2021.
In June 2020, she wrote a letter to the Missoulian entitled America needs police reform. Missoula is no exception.
In that piece she details three incidences of police abuse, which I don’t ever remember reading in the media. Here’s one of those:
“Three Missoula police officers encounter a mentally ill homeless man in a parking lot outside a local business. He is agitated but not violent. When he begins to walk a few steps away, one officer pushes him to the ground from behind. Two officers pile on top of him, while a third stands with his boot on the back of the man’s head, causing lacerations to his head and face. In violation of Missoula Police Department policy, none of the three officers involved in the attack had their body cameras on, but the incident was captured by a nearby surveillance camera.”
The other two she highlights are worse. The police union will campaign against Streano, likely finding a more ‘favorable’ candidate to run against her.
I imagine Streano’s competence will be brought into question, specifically with the 2011 fatal DUI wreck in Stevensville that resulted in the driver getting 40 years in prison. Later on, the Montana Innocence Project got involved, said Streano did a poor job, sought a new trial, but a Missoula judge didn’t allow it. You can read more here.
For Department 2 we have Thorin Geist.
I believe he grew up in Alaska, for that’s where he got his BA in psychology as well as his BA in Justice. He then headed on down to UM, where he got his JD in 2007.
Geist was the Ravalli County Deputy Attorney from 2012 to 2020, but now he’s with the Cotner Law Office in Missoula.
He also operates an LLC called Montana Child Support, a tech company which aims to develop software to assist judges in the calculation and collection of child support.
He just started that venture, but five years ago he started SecureWarrant, which is another tech company, this one helping judges with the preparation and execution of search warrants.
In addition to that work, he’s served as a substitute judge and justice of the peace in Missoula since last year, and from 2019 to 2020, was a Special Assistant United States Attorney, working on drug and weapons cases in southwest Montana.
His most high-profile case was probably the prescription ‘abuse’ case involving Chris Christensen.
For Department 3 we have Ethan Lerman.
Lerman got his BA in Government in New York and then his JD in New Orleans. He’s practiced in D.C., New York, and Montana. Since 2010 he’s operated the firm Lerman Law Firm, located in downtown Missoula.
Prior to that he worked with Montana Legal Services for two years and then for the State of Montana as an attorney for four years. Before getting into the law, he was an account executive for the NBA team, the Washington Wizards.
I can’t find anything about any cases he’s been involved with over the years.
Remember, we still have about 7 weeks for people to file and run for these positions, and I fully expect each judicial department will have two to three candidates.
These are some of the most powerful positions in local government, yet we pay attention to them the least.