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12 Lake County Justice of the Peace candidates offer voters range of choices

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POLSON — With 12 candidates vying for Lake County Justice of the Peace, many folks are interested in just what a JP does in of the course of the job. 

The Lake County Justice of the Peace sees many arraignments and initial appearances of felony cases that are later transferred to another court, according to sources at the courthouse. 

Justice of the Peace Chuck Wall resigned on Aug. 8. Since that date was after the primary election, state law mandates that a new Justice of the Peace be elected in the general election to complete Wall’s term.  

Judge Ann Marie McNeel, temporarily filling the position until a Justice of the Peace is elected, also sees civil cases. Civil cases are filed by one party against another, such as someone who owes another person money or landlord whose renter has not paid his or her rent for six months.

All misdemeanor cases are handled by Justice Court, too, such as assault, obstructing justice, partner or family member assault, drug offenses and DUIs.

Many Justices of the Peace perform marriages, although McNeel has opted not to during her stint on the bench.

The office also collects fines and issues warrants.

Candidates for the position were interviewed to get their views and ideas.

 

Dennis L. DeVries

Age: 63

Family: Married to Patricia, one son Daniel.

DeVries has been a resident of Polson for 31 years. He is a retired banker, with 30 years in the business, Resource Conservation and Development Coordinator and S&K Holdings.

He graduated from Conrad High School, received a BS in Agricultural-Economics at Montana State University, Bozeman, and is a graduate of Pacific Coast Banking School, Seattle, Wash.

Community involvement: Past president of Polson Chamber of Commerce, church vestry, Mission Valley Elks Club, Lions, a Little League coach, past chair of the Lake County Conservation District, Chair of City of Polson Study Commission, and a board member of Friends of the Museum of the Plains Indian.

Asked why he wants to serve as Justice of the Peace, DeVries said his 30 years of experience in banking has shown he is a good listener and has and uses common sense. He’s been a landlord for more than 20 years and has experience in resolving disputes. 

“I think the people of Lake County deserve a common sense justice that will be fair to everyone,” DeVries said.

“I bring a concern for justice for everyone in Lake County and the willingness to work hard to achieve it,” he added. “With good judgment and a desire to be fair for all parties concerned, I can show justice for all citizens.”

DeVries said what sets him apart from the other candidates is experience, common sense, the desire to be fair to everyone and no predisposed agenda. 

“The position does not require a law degree; it requires common sense,” he explained.

 

Rick Schoening

Age: 55

Family: Married for 35 years to Carolyn, three children: sons Brendeon and Liam, daughter Arden. The Schoenings live in Reservoir Valley, west of Pablo.

Schoening received his BS in wildlife biology/secondary education at the University of Montana and graduated from the Montana Law Enforcement Academy with basic and intermediate certificates.

Currently a Polson Police Officer, Schoening said his special skills are as a communicator, problem solver, peacekeeper and self-starter. With strong personal ethics, he’s spent 29 years applying the law fairly to Montana citizens as a game warden and now as a police officer. 

“As Justice of the Peace, I want to bring my practice of common sense interpretation to applying the laws,” Schoening said, describing his reasons for running for the office. 

“I am an advocate for victims of crimes and wish to see justice for them and their families.

I also want to make sure that people’s Constitutional rights are respected throughout the whole judiciary process.” 

He said he brings stability, accountability, decency, integrity, respect and common sense to the job.

Schoening’s 29 years of law enforcement sets him apart from the other candidates, he said. He also understands jurisdictional questions and issues that arise on the Flathead Reservation as well as the mindset of the citizens of Lake County. 

“I have the ability to communicate with all walks of people,” he explained. “I have been a peacekeeper my entire life, so I understand conflict resolution.”  

 

Ron Boyce

Age: 63

Family: Married to Lori Boyce since 1975, four children: Tracey Frye, Jimmy Frye, Ronni Boyce and Scott Boyce. The Boyces live in Polson.

He served in the US Army from 1968 to 1971 and is a Vietnam veteran. Boyce served as a Polson City Commissioner and has been a Polson businessman since 1998.

After working for the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office, Boyce served two terms as Mineral County Sheriff. He also served as assistant chief of the Polson City Police Department from 1986 to 1998.

Boyce attended Montana State University and the Law Enforcement Academy.

He is a licensed pilot and an avid hunter and  sportsman.

Boyce said he has a desire to continue in public service and contribute to the community through his proven commitment, honesty, integrity and more than 30 years of experience with the law.

He brings 30 years working knowledge of the law in and out of the courtroom and a longstanding reputation of being fair and impartial. With his proven dedication to public service and working with people to get results, Boyce explained that he is ethical, non-biased and open-minded.

What separates him from the other candidates is “good common sense, an excellent knowledge of the law, a reputation based on being fair, ethical, grounded and impartial, and the knowledge that I am working for the public and am a public servant,” Boyce said.

 

Edwin R. (Ed) Jonas III

Age: 64

Family:  Married to Connie, three grown sons, two granddaughters.

A cattle rancher, Jonas lives in Rollins. He earned his BA in education at Rutgers University and his Juris Doctor at Rutgers School of Law. Jonas also attended New York University Master of Law program for LLM in taxation.

Jonas is a former court-appointed arbitrator. He helped facilitate resolution of differences between parties in complex legal matters. 

“As a board certified trial attorney, I have written hundreds of trial motions, briefs and appellate briefs and served as an expert witness for legal malpractice cases, which entrusted to me the determination of appropriateness of legal representation,” Jonas said. 

He has represented clients and argued in appellate courts including the United States Court of Appeals.

Asked why he wants the Justice of the Peace job, Jonas said with his significant legal experience, it’s his way of giving back to his community in his field of expertise and helping restore respect and trust in the legal system in all who come before the court.

Jonas said he has a balanced view toward justice, can be fair and impartial and can exercise intellectual discipline to remain unbiased, unprejudiced and fair-minded in all matters of life, including his judicial experiences. 

“Experience of over 34 years for both parties and on various sides in legal matters has helped me hone my ability to remain objective and not jump to conclusions not supported by law and factual evidence, but carefully analyze evidence including testimony and reach conclusions supported by the facts and the law,” Jonas added.

What sets Jonas apart from the other candidates, he said, is an excellent legal education from Rutgers School of Law, a top-100 law school, more than 34 years of active, day-to-day legal trial practice and board certification in 1988 and 1995 as a certified civil trial attorney and adjunct law professor.

 

Sharon Richardson

Age: 69

Richardson has lived in Polson since 1980.

Born Sharon Hayes in Nampa, Idaho, Richardson graduated from Nampa High School, Nampa Business College and attended National Judicial College and maintains her certification through the Court of Limited Jurisdiction.

Richardson began her career in the Montana judicial system as a court clerk. She was elected Lake County Justice of Peace in 1999 and has served as a judge in Polson as well as St. Ignatius. 

The Justice of the Peace position requires her qualifications to return its level of integrity to the community, she explained. 

“A level head with stern resolve is needed to apply common sense of a position such as Justice of the Peace,” Richardson said. “I am a non-partisan candidate with no hidden agenda or corrupted former affiliations. My track record of being equal to all citizens of Montana will level the playing field for all voters.”

“Bringing an established, uncorrupted responsibility to the title of honorable judge is what makes me the best choice for Justice of the Peace in Lake County,” Richardson explained.

 

Dave Weinandy

Age: 65

Family: Adult children.

A veterinarian who has practiced in the area for more than 30 years, Weinandy lives in Pablo and attended Michigan State University, where he received his bachelor of science and doctor of veterinary medicine degrees

Weinandy is federally accredited and a deputy state of Montana veterinarian. As special skills, he has to know, administer and sometimes enforce the rules of the law of the United States and Montana.

As far as reasons why he’s running for Justice of the Peace, Weinandy said he thinks over the years, problems have developed in Justice Court. 

“The majority of the problems are in administrative areas of the court, before and after the trial, people charged with the wrong crime,” he said. “...There are a lot of administrative issues that need to addressed.”

Rancher, farmers and business people who have lived in the Valley all their lives, Confederated Salish and Kootenai descendants and newcomers all appear in Justice Court and they all have their own expectations of the justice system and their own views of the world, he explained. 

“It’s very complex, understanding people and compassion for how their lives mesh with the court,” Weinandy said. 

For instance, he asked, if an 82-year-old lady got a ticket for going through a stop sign, “Do you think that woman was terrified?”

A court appearance might be frightening plus a $45 fine might be a tremendous amount of money for someone on Social Security. 

When asked what sets him apart from the other candidates, he noted, “I’m not a member of the Montana bar, that about covers it.”

“It basically depends on what the voter thinks. They have to determine who to vote for,” he added.

 

James Raymond

Born and raised in Polson, excepting his first year in law school, where he was a resident of Missoula, Raymond has been a lifelong resident of Lake County.

Age: 48

Family: Married in 1991; three kids - two sons, junior and sophomore, and “The Princess,” a sixth grader. The Raymonds live in Polson.

Education: Raymond graduated Polson High School in 1982 and the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1987, served as a combat officer in the United States Marines, saw action in the first Gulf War and later attended University of Montana School of Law graduating in 1996.

Raymond is an attorney at law in private practice, though he also has public clients, namely, the former traditional Northwestern A high school rivals Polson and Ronan.

As for special skills, Raymond said he’s “received a veritable rainbow of training in a dizzying array of arcane arts and interests. I can both drive Navy ships and raise honeybees, for example, not to mention organize an infantry assault or build my own kitchen cabinets.”

Summarizing his special skills, Raymond said, “I’m an efficient and effective problem-solver in a wide variety of human endeavors.”

Raymond said it’s not really a question of wanting to be Justice of the Peace. He is the right fit and perceives that as a public duty.

Raymond said he would bring skill, knowledge, integrity and experience to the position.

“Well, as far as I know, I’m the only Lake County native on the roster, though I may be mistaken in that,” Raymond said, describing what sets him apart from the other candidates.

Raymond has been a substitute for Judge Chuck Wall, who served as Lake County Justice of the Peace until his resignation, for many years.

“I’ll have a very steep learning curve and be at full-throttle faster than anyone,” Raymond said. 

 

Steven “Steve” Robert Kendley

Age: 54

Kendley has been married for 28 years and has one daughter in high school and a grown son.

The Kendleys live north of Polson, and he has been a Lake County resident for more than 30 years.

Kendley received his BS from the University of Montana. He is also a licensed FAA aircraft mechanic and an Advanced Certified Montana Public Safety Officer.

Kendley worked in the private sector for more than 30 years as a laborer, a farmer, and then in sales and engineering. He also spent five years as a youth court officer, working first for Lake County and then for the Montana Supreme Court.

He put himself through the Montana Law Enforcement Academy and served seven years in law enforcement, including patrol, school resource officer and detective, along with heading up multiple special units.

Kendley retired from Lake County Sheriff’s Office in August 2012, due to a duty related injury.

As for special skills, Kendley has devoted more than 730 hours to public safety training, not including hundreds of hours of training in basic certification, to include juvenile probation and parole basic, public safety officer basic and coroner basic.

He hold a current Montana Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Certification, Public Safety Officer Basic /Intermediate/Advanced certificates and a Master Instructor Certificate specializing in domestic violence.

Kendley sees the Justice of the Peace position as his opportunity to set a high standard of justice for citizens requiring the services of the Justice Court system.

“I bring stability, compassion, experience and a desire to help people,” Kendley said.

What sets Kendley apart from other candidates is that “while there are many candidates of varying skills and with varying situations in this race, I am not interested in my own agenda,” he stated. “I am a God-fearing man who will bring fairness and honesty to the position.”

 

Alan Booth

Age: 43

Family: Moved to Polson in 1999 with his three children, remarried and had three more children

A Polson resident and Polson Police Detective, Booth has 1,100 hours of professional, advanced and supervisor certificates from the Public Safety Officers Standards and Training and an associate degree of applied science in criminal justice. 

Booth said he has been involved in the justice system for more than 12 years in Lake County, first with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Reserves, moved on to be a LCSO Detention Officer, worked as a Polson Police Officer and has served as in the detective position for six years 

“Communication has been the most valuable skill for my position. Taking the time to listen not only to what a person may be saying but how they are making the statement. This can make a change to the meaning. I have also learned to appreciate other non-law enforcement professionals who advocate for victims in their time of need. Together we can make the best outcome possible for the public.”

As the Justice of the Peace, Booth said he understands that all cases have their own special circumstances and need to be viewed case-by-case. As in law enforcement, people may be a defendant or victim depending on the day. Having an unbiased judge who will look at each case individually and judge cases on their own merit is key to delivering a fair decision.

Booth believes his honesty, integrity and professionalism throughout his career and working with victims, offenders, advocates, justice professionals and the public have steered him to the Justice of the Peace position. He sees this as an opportunity to increase his professional development and community relationship. The JP position is not a stepping stone for further advancement or a power and control position for Booth, but a long-term commitment to the public that he wishes to fulfill for many years, he explained.

Booth said he could not measure his qualifications against any other candidate. “What I can say is that I believe that I am the best candidate because of my honesty, integrity, reliability and willingness to learn,” Booth said. “This position is not taken lightly. I understand that it will require a lot of work, attention to detail and unbiased decisions. You can expect this from me.”

 

Kathleen O’Rourke Mullins 

“Age is a state of mind. Biologically, I’m old enough.” 

Family: Three sons, two grown, and the youngest a sophomore at Mission High School

O’Rourke Mullins lives in St. Ignatius and earned her Bachelor of Arts from Eastern Montana College, Billings, with joint majors in English and government/history and her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Montana School of Law.

She is the owner/attorney at O’Rourke Mullins Law Office, Ronan.

O’Rourke Mullins said her legal training and experience are special skills applicable to the Justice of the Peace position. 

She focused on trial practice and courtroom procedure in law school and served as a member of the Judicial Relations Committee for the Montana State Bar for more than six years. She also took courses in child and family psychology and counseling, behavior problems, assessments for minors and working with special needs children. O’Rourke Mullins also served as guardian ad litem in child custody disputes, as St. Ignatius city attorney for two years and as a mediator attempting to resolve legal disputes at the District Court level and the Supreme Court level. She’s also been an office manager for two large corporations and a business owner, running her own law office. 

“I know how to balance a budget and be fiscally responsible. I have hired, fired and supervised staff members,” O’Rourke Mullins added.

As far as why she wants to be Justice of the Peace, O’Rourke Mullins said she chose to reside in Lake County and work within its legal system 22 years ago and hopes to continue working in this system for remainder of her professional career. 

“I am very familiar with the duties and responsibilities of the Justice of the Peace, and what qualifications are necessary to fulfill those duties,” she said

What O’Rourke Mullins would bring to the job is her training and experience. 

“There is not one aspect of this position that I would have to learn, so I would hit the ground running,” she said.

She’s worked as a licensed attorney in the State of Montana for 22 years and said she has more training and experience in Montana law, civil and criminal, than the other candidates.

Since a Justice of the Peace will have to resolve civil lawsuits, not just handle criminal cases, a thorough knowledge of civil law is necessary, O’Rourke Mullins explained. 

“I have practiced in many Montana Justice Courts, District Courts, its Supreme Court, our Federal District Courts and the Ninth Circuit Court,” she said. “I have conducted myself throughout my career in a professional and highly competent manner.”

Holding the office of Justice of the Peace is a privilege, O’Rourke Mullins said. 

“I will always be mindful that the authorities of that office are not to be abused or misused,” she said.

 

Daryl Kerr

Born and raised in Lake County, Kerr has successfully started and managed multiple businesses in Polson. 

He lives in Polson and attended Charlo schools from kindergarten through graduation. He is also a New Horizons-Microsoft certified systems engineer.

“I am a leader and go-getter, always doing what it takes to get the job done,” Kerr said.

Kerr said he wants his candidacy for Justice of the Peace to be about the people and what he can do to make a difference. 

“I have the time and energy to do anything and everything for the benefit of our community,” he said. “I am acquainted with the problems in the community and will work to resolve them. I care for each individual as a person and would like to see everyone prosper.”

What Kerr would bring to the job is his belief the community should give individuals a chance to rehabilitate, such as supplying programs like community service for the individual who wants to improve his or her life. 

What sets Kerr apart from the other candidates is that, if he is elected, “justice will become smooth and effective.”

“I will be fair, but strict to make a difference in our community,” he said. “I feel that community service vs. jail time can vastly improve Lake County as a whole.”

Individuals with minor violations will benefit from community service as opposed to jail time, saving tax dollars.  Kerr also wants to expand the court’s computer sytems.

“Fines and fees paid by Internet will make the system run more efficiently,” Kerr said. 

 

Joey Jayne

Jayne, an attorney, is married and lives in Arlee. She is licensed to practice law in Montana District Court, Montana Federal District Court, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Court, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Court and Blackfeet Tribal Court in Montana; Coeur d’Alene Tribal Court in Idaho; and Navajo Nation Tribal District Court in Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

She served as a state representative HD 73 from 2001-2004 and as HD 15 from 2004-2008.

Jayne received her BS in agricultural industries at Arizona State University, her masters in watershed management/hydrology from the University of Montana and her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Montana School of Law

As for special skills, Jayne serves as an Appeals Court Judge with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and has practiced family law, criminal law, Indian law, contracts, water law, probate and filed cases with the Montana Supreme Court.

Jayne said she wants the Justice of the Peace position to be accountable to the public. 

Justice Court judges decide disputes between individuals by finding facts and interpreting and applying the law.  

“I believe there must be wise, independent and unbiased judges,” Jayne said. “My commitment is to use these values in deciding cases in Justice Court.”

“I bring character, respect, independence, honesty, and accountability to the people,” she said. 

Her diverse and extensive experience in law as an appellate court justice and attorney sets her apart from the other candidates, according to Jayne. 

She has also been a prosecutor, legal services attorney, managing owner/attorney of Joey Jayne Law Office, PLLC, in the State of Montana, watershed manager, advocate, hydrologist, past Montana State Representative, and county extension agent and has practiced before administrative tribunals, federal, tribal, state district courts and justice courts. 

“The vast legal knowledge, experience, and skills gathered over 20 years will allow me to make law-based, wise, independent, and unbiased decisions,” Jayne said. 

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