Judge Magdalena Bowen

-Adjunct professor at MSU

-standing master in Gallatin County district court

-Former member of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team 

In your mind, what is the purpose of a judge elected to the municipal court position?

 According to State Law and the Bozeman Municipal Code the duty of a judge elected to municipal court is to hear and determine all suits, actions and prosecutions instituted in the municipal court pursuant to state law and ordinances of the city. Simply put, this judge presides over legal proceedings involving misdemeanor citations that are issued within the  Bozeman City limits. The judge’s purpose is to ensure the law is upheld and applied in a fair and impartial way. 

Why did you decide to run for Judge?

I decided to run for Bozeman Municipal Court Judge because I care deeply about the safety of our community and increasing individuals’ access to justice. Because the municipal court deals with misdemeanor citations, most people in the courtroom are experiencing the justice system for the first time. This means both that they may require assistance navigating the system and that the way cases are handled is particularly impactful. The decisions made at this level have an enormous effect on people’s futures, whether they will be in the courtroom again, and their view of the legal system’s fairness in general. My experience and patience will serve those individuals well. In my current judicial capacity, I commonly guide individuals without attorneys through the legal process. I also have experience teaching First Year Seminar and Business Law at MSU and mentoring young people in nordic ski programs and am accustomed to clearly explaining processes and answering questions. I believe I have the energy, legal expertise, and life experience to make our growing Bozeman community a safer and more equitable place.

What experience do you have that will allow you to carry out the duties of being a judge?

I have over 25 years of legal experience in our community in both civil and criminal law, with the last ten years serving as a judge for our highest local court. I also rely on my extensive life experience to craft workable solutions which follow the law and hold individuals accountable but provide evidence-based opportunities for learning, growth and second chances. I have instituted innovative approaches to provide greater access to justice for self-represented litigants and am willing to listen openly to the needs of our university/city community.  

What opportunity do you think having a new judge seat offers Bozeman? 

A second seat on the municipal court allows for a critical re-evaluation of our local justice system, including an emphasis on addressing institutional barriers, implicit bias, administrative responses and university/city safety priorities. This provides an opportunity to reassess how well we are serving the needs of the community and what can be done to make our courts more efficient and accessible. For instance, if elected I plan to investigate the viability of offering court times available outside traditional working hours to provide greater access to justice for those working eight to five. 

What do you think are the two most important qualities of a judge in the municipal court?

While there are many important qualities for a judge in municipal court, I provide two critical qualities: I openly listen to both sides of a case before making any determination because each party deserves to be fully heard.  Additionally, I focus on being patient and respectful to those who appear in court, understanding that it can be a frightening experience with uncertain outcomes and that there are substantial life impacts to the individuals involved.  

Why should MSU students vote for you?

MSU students who vote for me will appear before a judge who understands the social and financial challenges of attending college and being on your own and responsible for the decisions you make - which may have consequences for the rest of your life; I believe holding people accountable for their actions can be an important learning experience and an incentive to engage in future productive behaviors if given a second chance.

What issue should young Montanans be most concerned about from your perspective as a judge?

Young Montanans should have the opportunity to decide for themselves what issues are most important to them. In order to do this, however, they need reliable, accurate information that is available and accessible. I believe young Montanans should be most concerned about having access to information on how the courts work and what laws affect them as well as an opportunity for interacting with public officials.

What are your favorite things about living/working in Bozeman?

Skiing from my back door almost every month of the year, smiling dogs, Wilcoxson’s ice cream, the Museum of the Rockies and yearly community activities from parades to art walks to music and athletic events. Bozeman has everything to be a happy and well-rounded person!    

Judge Colleen Herrington 

-Bozeman Municipal Court Judge

-Retired Montana Army National Guard Officer

-Former public defender

In your mind, what is the purpose of a judge elected to the municipal court position? 

A Judge’s role is to listen to the facts and apply the law in an objective and fair manner. This is  the way I have always worked and will continue to work as Judge. Bozeman Municipal Court  oversees all criminal misdemeanors, traffic citations, and civil Orders of Protection within the  City Limits of Bozeman, including MSU. In the past ten years as judge, I have learned the  importance of being fair, impartial, and an advocate for justice in the criminal system.  

Why did you decide to run for Judge? 

It has been an honor to have been appointed as one of Bozeman’s Municipal Court Judge three  times during the past ten years and now I have the privilege and opportunity to become an  elected Judge. 

I believe that I have best experience for this position as I have dedicated most of my career to  public service. I have been a public defender, am an Officer in the Montana Army National  Guard and Judge. Having the opportunity to continue to serve is why I am running for this  position.  

What experience do you have that will allow you to carry out the duties of being a judge? 

I am the only candidate that is ready to serve from the first day of the term. I have been  presiding over 40% of all Bozeman Municipal Court cases since 2012 working with the current  elected Judge. On average the court has heard 5,000-6,000 cases yearly, with our highest years  having over 8,000 cases. With such a large case load, it is imperative to have a judge that will be  efficient to protect defendants’ right to a speedy trial. I actively work and will continue to work to maintain an effective and efficient calendar.  

In addition to the case load I preside over, I also started the Veterans Eligible Treatment Services  (VETS) Court to assist Veterans involved in the criminal justice system to be held accountable  while seeking treatment. The goal of a Treatment Court is to help the participants graduate out  of the criminal justice system, while keeping them safely in the community and not incarcerated.  The VETS Court provides a wholistic approach to Veterans that suffer from co-occurring mental  health and substance abuse issues.  

What opportunity do you think having a new judge seat offers Bozeman? 

While this position is going to full-time, it is not a new judge seat. With the opportunity to  become the second elected judge, I will be able to expand the time I spend at court, to grow the  VETS Court, and look towards future opportunities to implement additional models of justice  and accountability, like a DUI Treatment Court for the citizens of Bozeman.  

What do you think are the two most important qualities of a judge in the municipal court?

Fairness and integrity - I must fairly and consistently apply the law to each and every litigant that  appears in court. I also believe I must understand and utilize my strengths and weaknesses. I  have learned that being true to myself as a Judge allows me the confidence and ability to treat  each person that appears in front of me with respect and dignity. I consider this to be a hallmark  of an effective Judge.  

Why should MSU students vote for you? 

I am one of the first judges that most MSU students will experience, whether due to a class  obligation or a citation. I have always given students, when in court for a class obligation, the  opportunity to ask questions and speak with me. I will continue to provide this opportunity to  the students. For those individuals that appear in front of the court for citations, I will continue  to treat each individual with respect and dignity and to be fair and impartial to each case.  

What issue should young Montanans be most concerned about from your perspective as  a judge? 

All citizens should be concerned about having an independent, impartial, and non-activist judiciary. From the first day on the bench, I have maintained my independence and impartiality.  It is also important to have an advocate for justice on the Bench. In Bozeman, most young  individuals have their first experience with Municipal Court for minor traffic offenses or lesser  misdemeanors. Appearing before a Judge can be a nerve-wracking situation. Each voter should  choose a judge that will listen to you, treat you with respect, and apply the law fairly. In my  years of experience, I have had many young Montanans appear before me. With each  appearance, I have always tried to listen, treat each person with respect, and applied the law  fairly to each case. 

What are your favorite things about living/working in Bozeman? 

Bozeman is a dynamic and growing city which provides many opportunities for good restaurants,  film, art, theater, music and nature that is unlike most anywhere else we could choose to live. I  thoroughly enjoy the mountains and the weather. I love all seasons here in Bozeman. My  family, including our three dogs, get outside and enjoy the trails, camping, and water activities as  much as possible.

Judge Sheryl Wambsgans

-Owner and co-founder of Bridger Law 

-Substitute judge for Bozeman Municipal Court

In your mind, what is the purpose of a judge elected to the municipal court position? 

In Bozeman Municipal Court, the purpose of the judge is to preside over misdemeanor  criminal code violations that occur within the city limits of Bozeman, local ordinance  violations, and protection orders. The judge must engage all individuals seeking justice,  both defendants and victims, in the process of adjudicating offenses and maintain the rule  of law. 

Why did you decide to run for Judge? 

This is a position I have aspired to reach since I was very young. Throughout law school,  as well as through my practice as an attorney in the community of Bozeman, I have had  this goal in mind. Bozeman Municipal Court gives me a unique opportunity to engage with  the community when they need it the most, and use my skill set to bring a new voice to the  bench and hopefully have a positive impact on those facing the justice system. 

What experience do you have that will allow you to carry out the duties of being a judge? 

I graduated from Montana State University-Bozeman, earning my Bachelor of Science degree in 2005, focusing on Justice Studies. From there, I went straight to law school, earning my Juris Doctor degree in 2008. Throughout the years, I have had the privilege of working in both the private and public sectors in Bozeman's legal community, and have had the honor to serve as substitute judge for Bozeman Municipal Court. My unique experiences working in the legal community for past 11 years, and working within the framework of the laws of Montana and the municipal code of Bozeman city, give me a different perspective when sitting on the bench and will help guide me as a judge. 

I have made a commitment to advocate for my clients over the years and am dedicated and fair-minded. I strive to demonstrate respect for the fundamental principles of law and thrive in the courtroom. 

What opportunity do you think having a new judge seat offers Bozeman? 

Better ability to interact better with our community here. We all know that when we get  overworked and stressed and out of time (which happens in an overburdened court system)  we don’t perform at our best. I’ve seen this dynamic play out and I pledge to give my best  to every individual who comes to Municipal Court. Our opportunity with this election is a  fresh start on our city court and I think I have the energy and compassion to take over. 

What do you think are the two most important qualities of a judge in the municipal court? 

Compassion and Commitment. As a judge in the Municipal Court, we are encountering  individuals that are part of our community’s most vulnerable population, as well as many 

individuals that are experiencing the justice system for the first time. It is important to  maintain compassion in order to preserve neutrality and engage individuals in the process. It is also important to preserve the commitment we make as judges, to the rule of law, and  to all of the individuals that are entering the courtroom. 

Why should MSU students vote for you? 

It is time for a new voice in the justice system of this community. I have made a commitment to advocate for my clients over the years and am dedicated and fair minded. I strive to demonstrate respect for the fundamental principles of law, as well as the individuals that I encounter on a daily basis in and out of the courtroom. I have committed my career to serving the people of Bozeman in the legal community and would be honored to continue to serve as a Municipal Court Judge. 

What issue should young Montanans be most concerned about from your perspective as a  judge? 

Access to justice. The first step for Montanans is to understand the process and what’s  happening in the court system. It is important that the community be guided in  meaningful participation with the system and a judge has an integral role in this process. 

What are your favorite things about living/working in Bozeman? 

We are fortunate to live in a beautiful landscape and a thriving community. I love having such easy access to outdoor activities, such as hiking and skiing/snowboarding. I also love  the vibrancy of Bozeman, the restaurants, the local events and the feeling of community  that exudes everywhere around town!