Elizabeth Best

Elizabeth "Beth" Best

Courtesy photo

HELENA - Elizabeth "Beth" Best, an attorney in private practice from Great Falls, announced Thursday she is running for an open justice's seat on the Montana Supreme Court next year.

Best, 55, is running for the seat being vacated by Justice James Nelson, who is retiring from the seven-member court.

She is the second candidate to enter the race. In September, Ed Sheehy, a Missoula lawyer who works for the Office of State Public Defender, announced his candidacy.

Best said she is running for the Supreme Court "because I believe in public service and access to justice for every person as guaranteed by our Constitution."

"I've had a long and really pretty varied legal career," she said. "I really believe in public service. I think my record reflects that. That's what makes our democracy work."

Best, a plaintiff's attorney, said she handled divorces early in her legal career, has done a number of adoptions, worked as a U.S. Army prosecutor, handled some legal defense work and worked on property and easement matters. She has worked as an attorney with her husband, Mike, also a lawyer, at the Best Law Firm in Great Falls since 1985.

She recently won a $500,000 settlement for a Vaughn woman who sued the city of Great Falls after being escorted out of a 2007 city commission meeting for exceeding the three-minute comment limit.

"She wasn't kicked out," Best said. "She was assaulted and battered. She was representative of people who have had their constitutional rights disrespected by the government. It was a good reminder that the government gets its power from all of us, and not the other way around."

Best was born in Louisville, Ky., where her father was serving in the Army, and moved to Montana, her mother's home state, four years later.

She attended Great Falls public schools from kindergarten until graduation from Charles M. Russell High School. Best received a political science degree from Montana State University in 1978 and a law degree from the University of Montana in 1981.

Best said she met her husband in law school when he recruited her to play receiver on the school's touch football team.

After law school, they were both captains in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Judge Advocacy Corps and served in Germany. She prosecuted crimes, provided legal services to soldiers and taught the law of the war to soldiers.

After returning from the Army in 1984, Best clerked for U.S. District Judge Paul Hatfield in Great Falls before opening a private practice in 1985 with her husband.

She and her husband raised two kids, Matthew and Sydney, on their small family ranch in the Eden area south of Great Falls, for 21 years. They raised Angus calves, 4-H lambs, chickens, geese and ducks. Best served six years on the board of trustees for the Centerville schools.

She and her husband now live between Craig and Cascade.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or at chuck.johnson@lee.net.


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