Juli Pierce says her parents, both teachers, had a big influence on her when she was growing up in Billings.
“They always instilled values of taking care of other people and giving back to the community,” Pierce said.
While completing her degree in sociology and criminal justice at Gonzaga University, Pierce met someone else who influenced her career path: Georgie Ann Weatherby, a criminal justice and sociology professor at the university.
“Dr. Weatherby always believed in me,” Pierce said. “She encouraged me to go to law school before I had even considered that as a career choice. Without her, I would not be where I am today.”
After graduation, Pierce went to work at the Child and Family Services Division of the Montana Department of Health and Human Services because she still wanted to be involved in social work. Working for the state gave Pierce valuable experience for the next stage of her career.
“I thought I could help children who were victims of crimes by going to law school to become a prosecutor,” Pierce said. “I interned both summers during law school at the County Attorney’s Office and then was hired here after law school.
“I began my time at the office by working on the civil cases involving child abuse and neglect. After about a year and a half, I moved to prosecuting criminal cases,” she said. “Thanks to my past and present supervisors, I am fortunate enough to be able to prosecute the cases that continue to be near and dear to my heart. I enjoy working with children and other victims who need assistance.”
What’s the toughest challenge you face in your job?
It is a constant challenge to balance justice for victims in the criminal justice system with the constitutional rights afforded to offenders. Both are important, but many victims feel traumatized, used and re-victimized by the system.
If you could make one positive change for Billings, what would it be?
Families need more access to housing and services in our community. Many children and their parents, especially low-income families and those suffering from chemical dependency problems or domestic violence situations, have little understanding how to find agencies and people that can assist them. Providing access to affordable housing is a positive change we need in our community.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job?
Of course, I feel I am doing my job as a prosecutor when an abuser is held accountable for his or her actions. But I also strive to make victims’ experiences in the criminal justice system as positive as possible given the circumstances. If I can restore a sense of safety to a victim and his or her family as well as protect the community in my job, then I am successful.
Which living person do you most admire?
That has to be a tie among my parents and Dr. Georgie Ann Weatherby.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Winning the Charles Z. Smith Public Service Student of the Year in law school (at the University of Washington), which was voted on by my peers.
I’m happiest when...
I’m at a Washington Huskies or MSU Bobcats football game.