Five candidates are running for Yellowstone County District Court judge in Department 7. That list will be narrowed down to two after the primary election on June 5.
The successful candidates will take office Jan. 2, 2019.
Here are candidate Teague Westrope's responses to questions from The Billings Gazette:
Candidate and hometown
Teague Westrope. Billings. 37 years old.
Deputy city attorney for Billings’ criminal division. Currently serves on the Organized Retail Crime Association, a multidisciplinary team aimed at reducing local shoplifting.
Westrope graduated from the University of Montana law school in 2005. He has 13 years of legal experience. Legal career history is as follows:
- Eight months as associate at Lovell Law Firm in Billings. Primarily did civil litigation, including family law, estate planning and probate work.
- 1.5 years as a public defender in Billings.
- 7.5 years as the city's chief domestic violence prosecutor, and two years as prosecutor for the city's DUI, drug and mental health treatment courts.
Proudest career moment
Westrope has spearheaded efforts to pass two state laws increasing penalties for sexual assault and domestic violence perpetrators, drafting legislation, meeting with lawmakers to gain support and testifying at committee hearings. One, passed in 2011, bumps sexual assault charges to the felony level on a third offense. The other, passed in 2013, closes a loophole that had allowed certain prior out-of-state convictions for domestic violence not to count toward enhanced penalties at sentencing on an offender’s subsequent domestic violence offense committed in Montana. “I genuinely care about victims,” he said. “And it seems like Montana’s always 20, 30 years behind the times, unfortunately.”
What do you hope to change or improve in 13th Judicial District?
Westrope, if elected, would work to implement a specialty treatment court for domestic violence offenders, which would be the first in Montana. Westrope said existing treatment for batterers is ineffective, and he’s been studying various models for the proposed court. He would pursue funding with the state Legislature as well as possible statutory reforms to incentivize participants to enroll in the proposed treatment court. Westrope said it takes 2,000 hours of counseling for offenders to change the thinking that leads them to commit domestic violence, but in Montana, officials rely on a 40-hour, “one-size-fits-all” program for all offenders, regardless of how many times they’ve been charged with domestic violence. “And it is just crazy to me to think that we make these people go through the same flawed program time after time after time.”
Position on the Montana County Attorneys Association's proposed change to the mandatory minimum for sexual offenses against children?
“I support it.”
Position on MCAA’s proposed change to sentencing range for repeat DUI offenders?
“I absolutely support it.” Westrope said the city prosecutes more than 600 misdemeanor DUIs a year, and pointed to a recent case he prosecuted as an example of the need for harsher penalties for repeat DUI offenders. In that case, a man who had seven prior DUI convictions crashed into another car, sending both the driver and her infant to the hospital. The man fled the scene so law enforcement could not take a blood or breath sample, but prosecutors believe he was driving drunk. "Had there been stiffer penalties for repeat DUI offenses, he may still have been on probation, under supervision, and that accident may never have happened," Westrope said.
Westrope attends Atonement Lutheran Church, where he’s been active with the youth group. He’s coached youth soccer for his daughter’s team. And he was head coach for the Skyview Debate Team for one year and has since volunteered with the group.