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Judicial candidates apply for vacancy

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MONTANA — Four attorneys have applied to fill a vacancy in the 20th Judicial District, covering Lake and Sanders counties, pending the retirement of Judge Jim Manley on June 1. Gov. Greg Gianforte will appoint the new judge and is currently accepting public comment and letters of support at 

Candidates are Benjamin Anciaux, Kathryn McEnery, Molly Owen and Alisha Rapkoch. To qualify for consideration, each must receive at least three letters of support.  

According to information posted online at 

Benjamin Anciaux has served as a deputy Lake County attorney since 2015, maintained a private law practice in Polson since 1986, and worked as Ronan city attorney since 2018. He’s a graduate of the University of Montana Law School. During more than 35 years of practice, he’s worked as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, handling criminal and juvenile cases, including those involving youth dependency and neglect.

Kathryn McEnery moved to Montana from Illinois, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Valparaiso University School of Law, was editor of the school’s law review, and interned with the U.S. District Court for the North District of Indiana and the Porter County Circuit Court. She was elected to her current post as Powell County Attorney in 2018, after serving as deputy county attorney for nearly two years in Anaconda-Deer Lodge County. She was a city attorney in Hot Springs and Thompson Falls, and also helmed a private practice and worked for law firms in Missoula and Kalispell. 

Molly Owen earned her law degree in 2012 from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State in Tempe, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, earned the Excellence for the Future Award and was managing editor of the Arizona State Law Journal. She’s served as town attorney for St. Ignatius since 2017 and worked as deputy Lake County attorney since 2015. She was an assistant city prosecutor for the City of Mesa and spent a year working as a judicial law clerk for division one of the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Alisha Rapkoch, an assistant public defender for Region 1 in Kalispell, earned her law degree in 2014 from the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando, FL, graduating with high honors in trial advocacy and litigation. She’s spent most of her career working for the state of Montana as a public defender, employed at offices in Missoula (as managing attorney) and Kalispell.

A 10-person advisory council will scrutinize applications, interview candidates and make recommendations to the governor. Committee members include attorneys Casey Emerson, Ann Marie McNeel, John Mercer and Ryan Rusche; Boone Cole, former chair of the Flathead Joint Board of Control; Dennis DeVries, former Polson city judge; Becky Dupuis, co-owner of Polson Theatres; Susan Lake of Lake Farms, Inc.; Don Strine, former justice of the peace for Sanders County; Lori Thibodeau, a probation and parole officer for the Montana Dept. of Corrections; Teresa Wall-McDonald, human resources director at Salish Kootenai Community College; and Ben Woods, Lake County undersheriff.

The public comment period ends May 11 and the governor has until June 10 to announce his appointment. 

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