Ten attorneys have filed with the state's judicial branch their bid to fill the district bench vacancy to be opened when Judge Karen Townsend retires later this year.
The deadline for applications closed Thursday, while public comment period opened Friday on the applications, all of which are available online on the Judicial Nomination Commission's website.
The commission will select candidates for interviews on July 3, then conduct those interviews publicly in Missoula on July 15. The final cut of nominations will be submitted to Gov. Steve Bullock on July 28. He will have 30 days to select the appointment to Townsend's bench.
The field includes prosecutors, public defenders, private attorneys and a number of substitute judges. The applications are linked to their names below:
- Travis Dye — A Hellgate High School and University of Montana graduate, about half of Dye's recent cases have involved representing doctors, dentists and other health care providers in professional negligence claims before state administrative panels and licensing boards. Additional practices include construction defect litigation, landlord-tenant cases, general defense, personal injury, consumer law and criminal defense.
- Carrie Garber — Garber's current practice is almost entirely, 99%, insurance defense, primarily discovery and motions. Garber ended a six-year stint as senior deputy Missoula city attorney in June 2018 and moved to Wills Law Firm, P.C. In January, she began serving as a substitute for Missoula Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Jenks.
- Karen Kane — Kane is an assistant attorney general and supervisor of the Child Protection Unit, spending 100% of her practice prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases in district courts throughout western Montana. In that role, she also trains county attorneys, child protection specialists, child and family services division, expert witnesses and court appointed special advocates.
- Larry Mansch — Mansch was most recently legal director of the Montana Innocence Project. He retired from that position in February, but stayed on at the nonprofit as senior counsel. In that role, he supervises investigations, case development and litigation. In post-conviction practices, time is split between civil and criminal law.
- Jason Marks — As chief deputy Missoula County attorney, Marks supervises attorneys in the agency's criminal and civil divisions, although he lists criminal law and trial work as specialties. He's held that position for four years, previously serving as a deputy county attorney and public defender for both the Missoula and state offices.
- James McCubbin — Senior Deputy Missoula County Attorney McCubbin primarily prosecutes felony drug offenses and works cases as a member of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Missoula Drug Task Force. McCubbin advises law enforcement in that task force on handling informants and undercover drug operations. His current caseload exceeds 100 open felony cases in Missoula District Court.
- Ryan Phelan — As an equity partner with P. Mars Scott Law Offices, Phelan, also a Missoula native, spends approximately 90% of her practice in family law, including divorce, parenting, orders of protection, child abuse and neglect and more. Other areas of practice include preparing wills, administering estates, landlord-tenant issues and property disputes.
- Tracy Rhodes — The majority of Rhodes' practice also includes dependency and neglect proceedings, often seeing crossover of parents' companion criminal cases. She is the sole owner of Tracy Labin Rhodes P.L.L.C. in Missoula, and in the past nine years has been a substitute justice of the peace, Appellate Court judge for the Fort Belknap Tribe, special judge for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Court and special master and settlement master in Missoula District Court.
- Michael Sherwood — The president of Sherwood Law Offices, Sherwood is a criminal defense attorney, spending 98% of his time in that arena in state and federal court. He was named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Montana Trial Lawyers Association in 1988, and two years later named Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year by the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
- Leta Womack — Since 2015, Womack has been the senior staff attorney in the Missoula Conflicts Office for the state Public Defender's Office, which represents defendants in cases passed out of the Public Defender's Office. She had previously served as a public defender in Polson and Kalispell before coming to Missoula. She previously urged alternatives to jail as punishment during an unsuccessful 2013 run for Missoula Municipal Court judge.