Youth research

Four candidates apply for the vacant position of the 20th judicial district

Governor Greg Gianforte announced last week the creation of an advisory board to help vet qualified candidates to fill the vacant position of district court judge in the 20th Judicial District (Lake and Sanders counties). Gianforte will appoint a replacement for Judge James Manley, who is expected to retire in June.

Governor Gianforte announced in March that he was accepting applications and nominations for the vacant 20th Judicial District office from any attorney in good standing who meets the qualifications set forth by law to serve as a district court judge. The deadline for submitting applications was Monday, April 11. Applications can be viewed at

The vacancy attracted four candidates: Ben Anciaux, assistant county attorney for Lake County; Kathryn McEnery, Powell County District Attorney; Molly Owen, Lake County Assistant District Attorney; and Alisha Rapkoch, Assistant Public Defender for Region 1 (Kalispell).

Members of the 20th Judicial District Advisory Board include: Boone Cole, former chairman of the Flathead Joint Board of Control; Dennis DeVries, former Polson City Judge; Becky Dupuis, co-owner of Polson Theaters; Casey Emerson, attorney at Mission Mountain Law; Susan Lake, Secretary and Treasurer of Lake Farms Inc.; Ann Marie McNeel, attorney and director of Lake County CASA; John Mercer, attorney at Turnage, Mercer and Wall, PLLP; Ryan Rusche, attorney for the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes; Don Strine, former Sanders County Justice of the Peace; Lori Thibodeau, probation and parole officer for the Montana Department of Corrections; Teresa Wall-McDonald, Director of Human Resources at Salish Kootenai Community College; and Ben Woods, Lake County Deputy Sheriff.

“Bringing decades of experience working in their communities, the members of the 20th Judicial District Advisory Council will help me identify outstanding candidates to serve as their new district court judge,” Gianforte said. “I have asked the members of the advisory board to identify qualified candidates who are committed to fair, consistent and objective application of the law and who will interpret the laws, not write them from the bench.”

The public can provide letters of support or other comments regarding the nominees to [email protected] through May 11. Candidates must receive at least three letters of support to be considered for a governor’s nomination.