After interviewing both candidates Wednesday morning, the Helena City Commission nominated Anne Peterson to be the next municipal court judge.
Peterson is a prosecutor for the Lewis and Clark County Attorney's office. The commission also interviewed James Reavis, an assistant appellate lawyer for the Office of the State Public Defender.
The city commission plans to vote on Peterson's nomination at its next public meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 11. City commission approval is required for her appointment to take effect.
If Peterson is confirmed, she will serve from March 1 to Dec. 31. An election to determine who will fill the next full term will occur in November of this year.
Current Municipal Court Judge Bob Wood plans to retire in March after more than a decade on the bench.
The city commission agreed that Person's "experience with individuals" and "people-oriented" nature make her a good fit for the job, according to commissioner Heather O'Loughlin. Mayor Wilmot Collins has worked professionally with Peterson in child dependency and neglect cases and agreed that her ability to connect with people on a "personal level" was a quality the entire commission was seeking for the job.
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A longtime trial lawyer, Peterson is a Carroll College and University of Montana School of Law alum who has spent time on both sides of criminal law, serving as a public defender for three years before becoming a prosecutor for the county.
Peterson was most recently working on dependency and neglect situations with Child Protection Services. In her application for the judgeship, she estimated she appeared in court for 70 hearings per month.
"Patience and the ability to communicate respectfully are the qualities I believe far exceed any others, with the exception of impartiality, in importance for a municipal court judge," Peterson wrote in her application.
The commission is currently juggling a few changes within the municipal court. It will be moving from the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse to the new Law and Justice Center on Fuller Avenue downtown, which will separate some important offices.
Commissioner Andres Haladay said he believes Peterson is prepared to work with the commission on making the municipal court system more efficient.
Helena Municipal Court enforces laws for the city. It is responsible for all misdemeanor traffic, criminal and animal control offenses, city ordinances, orders of protection, and civil cases that occur within city limits.