When a defendant appears in Missoula Justice Court, there is no court stenographer to capture every word that is said during the court appearance, so the Justice Courts have not been official ‘courts of record’.

KGVO News spoke with both Missoula County Justices of the Peace, Landee Holloway and Alex Beal about the change.

“Oftentimes justice court is considered a ‘people’s court’ and counties have had the option whether or not to be courts of record,” said Judge Holloway. “This was something that I had desired since I took the bench, and then with Judge Beal coming on board we expressed our thoughts to the County Commissioners and requested that we do become a court of record.”

Rather than having an official court stenographer, the entire proceedings will be captured on a digital audio recorder that would be available to other courts as the case progresses.

There has previously been tension between the two justice courts, but when Judge Beal was elected the two courts were able to cooperate more fully.

“The collaboration between the two courts has been good, and I think we’ve made a lot of progress in giving the justice court that more professional appearance,” said Judge Holloway. “Some of the benefits of being a court of record include when a case is appealed. Justice Court was called a court of ‘do novo’ which means that the process must start over, however being a court of record means the district court judge would be able to review the official record by listening to the actual recording of the proceedings, which would lead to a substantial reduction of the costs.”

Judge Beal said the most important part of the upgrade for him will be the positive effect on the people involved in the justice court cases.

“To me, the biggest difference if for the victims of crime,” said Judge Beal. “Right now on an appeal that person has to come back into court and tell their story, such as the victim of a sexual assault or someone who had to get an order of protection. When we see those people who come in and tell their story, to think that all someone has to do is appeal that and the whole thing is all for naught. That’s heartbreaking to see, so for me that’s the best thing about the change.”

Holloway and Beal said after a hearing this week before the Missoula County Commissioners in which the resolution is expected to pass, the new police will begin in January 1, 2020.

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