From the Billings Gazette: Billings attorney running for District Court judge stresses reducing court backlog and timely decisions

Colette Davies Running for District Court, Billings GazetteFive candidates are running for Yellowstone County District Court judge in Department 7. That list will be narrowed down to two after the primary election on June 5.

The successful candidates will take office Jan. 2, 2019.

Here are candidate Colette Davies’ responses to questions from The Billings Gazette:

Candidate and hometown

Colette Davies. Billings. 48 years old.

Current job

Partner at Bishop, Heenan & Davies. Primarily works on civil cases involving insurance coverage disputes and personal injury.

Career bio

Davies graduated from University of Montana law school in 1997. She has 21 years of legal experience. Her legal career is as follows:

  • 15.5 years in civil litigation, specializing in trial work, including insurance coverage disputes, employment law, negligence prosecution, consumer bankruptcies, discrimination law and defense work. Past employers are Billings firms Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole & Dietrich; Nelson Law Firm; Cozzens, Warren & Harris; and Mountain Mudd Espresso, where she was general counsel.
  • 5.5 years as a Billings Municipal Court judge, presiding over mostly criminal proceedings and helping to establish and operate the city’s treatment courts.
  • Three years at Montana State University Billings teaching a 200-level course on community-based alternatives to incarceration.

Q&A

Proudest career moment

“Early in my career I would have answered this question very differently than now,” Davies wrote. “I would have pointed to victory at my first trial as first chair and to a successful oral argument before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that resulted in a published decision. While I still enjoy reflecting on these events, I am most proud of good results for clients that have stemmed from outside-the-box creative thinking and problem solving. I am also proud of the impact my recent practice has had directly on the lives of my individual clients. I have had the pleasure in a few instances of obtaining life-changing (economic) recoveries for my clients despite challenging legal obstacles, and I am thankful for that opportunity.”

What do you hope to change or improve in 13th Judicial District?

Davies, if elected, would make reducing the backlog of cases and rendering timely decisions her top priority. “We have serious and severe backlog in our courts,” she said. “We also have judges who don’t make decisions. At the district court level, your job is not to set policy, your job is to call balls and strikes.”

Davies said all judges should manage their own scheduling so they can allot the appropriate length of time for each case from the outset and minimize rescheduling delays.

Other ideas for improvement include better use of mediation — offering additional pro bono mediators and setting mediation deadlines sooner — and better use of technology, such as more video conferencing for out-of-town parties, an electronic filing system so attorneys are notified immediately of new filings, and even a courthouse reader board on the first floor directing litigants to the proper room.

Position on the Montana County Attorneys Association’s proposed change to the mandatory minimum for sexual offenses against children? 

Davies stressed that district court judges do not write policy and declined to comment directly on the proposal.

“I think judges need to have as many tools in their tool belt as possible to make individual sentencing decisions based on the individual crimes at issue, and the individual facts and circumstances that got the offender to that point,” she said. “And we also have to consider and balance in the victim’s needs. But you need to give the judge as many tools in her tool belt as possible.”

Position on MCAA’s proposed change to sentencing range for repeat DUI offenders? 

Davies again declined to comment directly but said that as a municipal court judge, she presided over misdemeanor DUIs “all day, every day, for almost six years,” and eventually formed strong opinions about “what’s working and what’s not,” she said. “But when you get to the 10th, 11th, 12th DUI, you really need the ability as a judge to juggle the safety of the community and put that as a priority. Because by the time you get to 10, 11, 12, treatment’s obviously failed” on the first nine DUIs, she said.

Local affiliations

Davies serves on the board and on subcommittees for Billings Family Service, which provides food, clothing, rent and utilities assistance to families in need. She’s active in the Billings Preservation Society Foundation and volunteers in her children’s schools and on their sports teams.

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