Corbit Harrington smiles toward a crowd

Corbit Harrington smiles toward a crowd at the McCormick Cafe on Friday after announcing his bid for district judge.

PAUL RUHTER/Gazette Staff

Corbit Harrington, a senior deputy county attorney who prosecutes child abuse and neglect cases in Yellowstone County, became the first candidate to announce he’ll file for the district court judge seat held the last 30 years by G. Todd Baugh.

Harrington, 45, who’s practiced law for 21 years, made his announcement before family and friends Friday evening at a downtown Billings restaurant.

He said people are “skeptical and disappointed” with a judicial system that allows criminals to serve as little as 20 percent of their imposed sentences and can’t deliver on restitution for an increasing number of victims.

He said he believes victims should be given more consideration at sentencing.

Harrington said he had no comment on Baugh’s work in the Yellowstone County District Court. It would be “ethically improper” to comment, he said, “whether I agree with his decisions or not.”

Harrington said he generally does not bring cases before Judge Baugh, whose comments in August about a 14-year-old rape victim —that she was “older than her chronological age” and that she was “probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant” — drew criticism from around the country.

Baugh has not announced whether he’ll seek a sixth six-year term.

With their heavy caseloads, district court judges must have a strong work ethic, something Harrington said he learned slopping hogs while growing up on a ranch near Ekalaka. “I hope you’ll work with me for change,” he told those gathered for the announcement, saying he wants to be a judge to help people “build homes, raise children and enjoy the labors of their work free from harassment, crime and violence.”

After a speech that lasted less than 10 minutes, Harrington said during an interview that he considered trying to succeed former District Court Judge Susan Watters, who was recently sworn in as a federal district judge.

But Watters’ successor won’t be named before the filing period for Baugh’s seat closes in early March. That led Harrington to seek the position currently held by Judge Baugh.

Harrington said he decided to announce nearly 11 months before the November 2014 election “to get my name out there” and to “let other potential candidates know that we are going to do this to help them make their decisions.”

He said he plans to formally file for the position early next month.

His campaign could feature a number of activities, he said, including door-knocking, fundraising, distributing campaign signs and “speaking to every group we can.”

“Next time we meet,” Harrington told his supporters, “I hope it will be a celebration —and I hope,” he added with a laugh, “there will actually be food at that event.”

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City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.