Justice of Peace: Public defender cites extensive legal background

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William L. Managhan

Age: 48

Party: Non-partisan

Family: Married with seven children, ages 14 to 25

Education: B.A. in Criminology & J.D., both from University of Montana

Occupation: Lawyer, Office of the State Public Defender, Region 1, Flathead County

Background: 20 years legal experience; native Montanan with blue-collar background

Q: What makes you qualified for this position?

A: I have 20 years of legal experience. I was privileged to be selected to work for Montana Supreme Court out of law school. I helped write approximately 40 legal opinions covering most areas of Montana law. I then went into private civil practice in the Flathead. In 2003, I founded Managhan Law Firm, which I successfully managed for a decade. About five years ago I elected to go into public service and I accepted a position with the state Office of the Public Defender. Through my 20 years of experience I have represented Montanans in both civil and criminal proceedings. I have appeared in almost every legal forum ranging from federal courts to administrative hearings. I have extensive legal experience. This broad-based experience allows me to see all sides of issues, something a good judge must be able to appreciate.

My personal life has also molded me into someone who understands many things. I understand what it is like to be a victim of a violent crime. When I was a freshman in high school, my oldest sister was murdered by her boyfriend. This experience permanently changed me. At the same time, my experience as a public defender as shown me that not everyone who is charged is guilty and that every situation is unique. I have spent countless hours in jail with my clients and countless more comforting their families. These polar opposite experiences broadened my understandings of the complexities of justice. A good judge is neutral and capable of understanding both sides of every situation.

Q: What are your plans to hold more convicted felons accountable for their crimes, in terms of jail/prison time?

A: Justices of the Peace do not have jurisdiction over felony crimes except for considering bond on their initial appearances. Regardless, primary considerations for sentencing are the nature of the crime and the offender’s criminal record. At a starting point, violent, sexual or serious repeat offenders are supposed to be punished with incarceration. Sec. 46-18-101(3)(e), MCA. We all make mistakes and most people deserve a second chance, but not necessarily a fourth, fifth, etc. At some point, the next innocent victim deserves protection as well. Regardless, there is no such thing as cookie-cutter justice. A good judge must consider all the facts of each case before rendering judgment.

Q: What are your thoughts about Flathead County having a drug court?

A: I fully support a drug court. Flathead County is facing a serious meth and heroin problem. Drug addiction does not respect social economic status and many addicts are good people once they beat their addictions. Drug courts are not new and they have proven to produce higher success rates, which results in saving the county money. Furthermore, federal grant programs exist to cover startup costs. Although the federal grant eventually expires, the money saved by reducing repeat arrests, court hearings and jail time, not to mention the human costs, more than pays for a drug court in the long term.

Q: What other issues do you want addressed?

A: Flathead’s legal system is experiencing growing pains as our county population continues to grow and a rapid rate. Our justice courts like everything else are being overwhelmed with high caseloads. Unlike most lawyers, I have a real blue-collar experience. I first learned about what real work was when I started logging at age 12 for my grandfather. Yes, he had me operating a C-6 caterpillar and running a chain saw. Later, as a young adult I worked a 16-hour day as a welder because we needed to meet a deadline. I graduated from college early and I graduated from law school early. I opened and built my own law firm. Now as a public defender, I am required to manage a very large caseload of serious cases. I am not afraid of hard work and I know how to get things done.

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