Missoula County commissioners change justice court to ‘court of record’

During Thursday’s public hearing, Missoula Justice of the Peace Landee Holloway said changing justice court to a “court of record” will help with transparency and efficiency. (Dave Stalling/Missoula Current)

The Missoula Board of County Commissioners voted Thursday to establish Missoula County Justice Court as a “court of record” beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

A “court of record” is one in which records of proceedings are captured and stored, and can be used in cases that are appealed. In courts where proceedings are not captured and stored, those proceedings and related work often have to be repeated if a case is appealed. 

Missoula Justice of the Peace Landee Hollway, who spoke in favor of the change, said it will allow the court “to provide more transparency and efficiency.” 

Of the approximately 14,000 criminal, civil and traffic cases filed each year in justice court, about 20 to 25 are appealed to district court. 

“The number of appeals is relatively small,” said Justice of the Peace Alex Beal. “But every one of those cases involves someone’s life. If even one of those cases doesn’t have to go through the whole process again, then this change will be worth it.”

Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst also spoke in favor of the change. 

“The county attorney’s office is strongly in favor of this change,” she said. “It will help us provide better transparency and promote accountability.” 

The county has already installed new recording and audio equipment in each of the two justice court courtrooms and is training employees on its use.

No one spoke against the resolution during Thursday’s public hearing. Commissioners David Strohmaier and Josh Slotnick voted in favor. Commissioner Juanita Vero was out of state attending a conference.