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Lewis and Clark County adds second Justice of the Peace position

Posted at 4:23 PM, Nov 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-13 20:42:19-05

HELENA – Lewis and Clark County is getting a second Justice of the Peace to help ease the workload on current Judge Michael Swingley.

Judge Swingley currently attends to thousands of cases ranging from civil cases, to small claims court, to traffic violations. In 2017, there were more than 3,000 citations issued that go through the Justice of the Peace, and over a thousand other civil cases.

Because of the workload, Judge Swingley’s court asked for a part-time Justice of the Peace to help.
County commissioners granted that request Tuesday by voting in favor of a second position, saying the current system is bogged down.

“I would characterize it as a log jam. That’s really what it is. Criminal justice and the process can’t move any faster than Justice Court can get people in to hear their cases,” Jim McCormick, Lewis and Clark County Commissioner, said.

It will be two years before a new judge takes office. Because the position is entirely new and not a vacancy, the next judge will need to be elected rather than appointed. The next judicial ballot is in 2020.

Commissioner McCormick and Susan Good Geise voted in favor of the position. Commissioner Andy Hunthausen was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.