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“Courts of justice shall be open to every person, and speedy remedy afforded for every injury of person, property, or character … Right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial, or delay.” – Montana Constitution Article II, Section 16.

Access to justice is at the heart of our state’s judicial system. It ensures that those who have been charged with a crime receive the benefit of a fair and speedy trial and allows crime victims to be heard and — when possible — made whole. I have given much of my adult life to ensuring that everyone has the ability to exercise their rights as part of this process. I do not take lightly the role I now seek as a District Court judge in Yellowstone County.

I grew up in Billings, the daughter of schoolteachers who taught me the importance of active participation in our community. After college, I worked as a social worker serving the needs of children and families. It was only then I realized the critical impact that attorneys and judges have on us all. This realization led me to complete law school.

For 13 years, I served as a prosecutor with the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office, including two and a half years as the chief deputy. This experience gave me significant legal and courtroom experience. It was my privilege to represent our county in 39 jury trials and countless bench trials. I focused my energy on prosecuting sexual and violent felonies and helped to convict some of our county’s most violent offenders.

My time as a prosecutor gave me the opportunity to serve on treatment court teams, which provide innovative ways to save money while protecting the community. Treatment and accountability are combined for those who have committed nonviolent, drug-related offenses, or who had their children removed because of drug addiction. As a District Court judge, I will continue to advance the important work treatment courts do to treat individuals, curb recidivism, and save taxpayer dollars.

My commitment to the citizens of Yellowstone County has always extended beyond my work as a prosecutor. I have volunteered on nonprofit boards for Eagle Mount of Billings, Second Chance Homes, and the Center for Children and Families. Since 2011, I have donated hundreds of hours to better the legal profession by serving on the Yellowstone Area Bar Association and the State Bar of Montana boards, currently acting as president-elect of the State Bar. Since entering private practice, I have committed to providing free legal representation to clients in divorce cases, guardianship cases and criminal cases — ensuring my practice represents those who cannot afford legal assistance. What I have been most passionate about is the opportunity to represent hundreds of abused and neglected children as a guardian ad litem, giving them a voice in the courtroom.

Yellowstone County District Court is the highest-volume court in our state. Cases heard in this court have life-changing impacts, from criminal and civil cases, to divorce and child custody matters. Our residents deserve to appear before a judge who has the knowledge and experience to render timely, well-reasoned, and impartial decisions. I possess these qualifications. I am the ideal choice to serve as the first judge in Department 8 — one of two new departments created by our legislature.

I am ready to make difficult decisions to keep Yellowstone County safe, enable access to the courts for all citizens, and do my part to provide justice in our communities as a public servant. I invite Gazette readers to learn more about my background and experience on my website (julipierce.com) or my Facebook page (Juli Pierce for Judge).

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Juli Pierce and Ashley Harada are candidates in the nonpartisan election for Division 8, District Court judge in Yellowstone County.

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