Two candidates have entered the nonpartisan race to take Mark Sullivan’s place as Flathead County Justice of the Peace.
One of them, Paul Sullivan, wouldn’t be a newcomer to the bench. A Bigfork native and University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate, Sullivan serves as a substitute judge in Flathead County Justice Court, Columbia Falls City Court and Kalispell Municipal Court. He also serves as a partner at Measure, Sampsel, Sullivan & O’Brien, P.C.
“These two experiences have kind of led me to the doorstep of this election,” he told the Daily Inter Lake. “I’m the only candidate with judicial experience.”
If elected, Sullivan said he would like to make the justice of the peace position his full-time job and work to stay on top of his docket.
“My approach would be to treat everyone fairly and well,” he said. “I think no matter what you’ve been accused of, you deserve to be treated like a human being.”
In his view, overcrowding in the Flathead County jail has kept judges from holding criminals accountable as much as necessary.
While the county’s effort to build a new jail has riled many residents, Sullivan aims to make better use of a recent renovation that increased the facility’s capacity to 164 inmates. “Having the space in the jail is something I plan to take advantage of and hold people accountable for their crimes if convicted.”
In addition to his legal work, Sullivan, 37, serves as a volunteer tennis coach and on the board of several civic and nonprofit groups, including the Bigfork School Board, the internal review committee at Kalispell Regional Medical Center and the board of the University of Montana’s Davidson Honors College. He has previously served as the president of CASA for Kids and the secretary of the Northwest Montana Bar Association.
His opponent, William Managhan, would be donning the judicial robes for the first time, but is hardly a stranger to the courtroom. He clerked for the Montana Supreme Court upon graduation from law school, and worked in private practice from 2001 until about five years ago, when he became a public defender.
The road to his legal career wasn’t a smooth one. As the Daily Inter Lake reported recently, he endured the murder of his sister and the challenge of supporting twin sons as a single father before going to the University of Montana School of Law.
Managhan, 47, framed these setbacks as an asset.
“The last thing you want is some person who’s led a charmed life judging you,” he said. It’s this “combination of 20 years of legal experience with my overcoming personal hardships that has molded me into someone who can be a fair and neutral judge.”
His judicial philosophy is simple: “I believe in our Constitutional rights and I will always defend them. I believe in getting the work done in a timely manner.
“I believe in treating everyone fairly and with respect.”
“In applying the law, you only consider the facts in front of you. Anytime you start taking outside influences into that ... you’re no longer being fair and neutral.”
Managhan serves as an officer with the Elks Lodge and a guest lecturer at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, and teaches Continuing Legal Education classes for the State Office of the Public Defender. He also volunteers for a wide range of youth athletic activities.
Both candidates were supportive of establishing a county drug court, specifically designed to treat criminals with drug and alcohol problems. Sullivan, however, expressed concern about funding it over the long term.
Both Sullivan and Managhan will be on the ballot in the June 5 primary. Absentee ballots will be mailed out May 11.
Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 758-4407.