Sanders County Ledger - Your Best Source For Sanders County News

ELECTION 2018: Justice of the Peace


Doug Dryden

NAME: Douglas Dryden

EDUCATION: B.S. Range Management/Wildlife, Washington State University. 1600+ hours of Montana P.O.S.T. Certified law enforcement training.

FAMILY: Married to Jolene for 37 years with six children; two sons are active duty military and three adult children are living and working in Montana. Our youngest daughter is a high school senior still at home; 6 and a half grandchildren.

OCCUPATION: Sanders County Justice of the Peace.

EXPERIENCE: Appointed to the position of Justice of the Peace by the Sanders County commissioners in July of 2017, 26 years in law enforcement prior to becoming Judge, 11 years working on or managing cattle ranches. Agricultural consultant for banks and private ranches.

WHY ARE YOU THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR THIS POSITION? I am a certified Judge in the state of Montana having passed the Montana Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Judicial exams in September of 2017. I have had many years of experience in the courtroom while serving as a Montana Game Warden, Sanders County Deputy and Narcotics Detective. I have worked state and federal cases and testified in Justice Courts, District Courts and Federal Courts, providing me with a good background as to how our judicial system works.

I have consulted for banks, private ranches and other companies dealing with financial matters. I have performed Ag loan reviews for banks which has provided me with a background in civil and contract matters. Civil lawsuits and collections are a significant part of the Justice Court Judge's workload.

WHAT IS YOUR GENERAL JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY? I believe that the role of a Justice Court Judge is to balance punishment with rehabilitation to help the offender be in compliance with the laws of Montana. The judicial branch of our government exists as a safeguard (checks and balance) to the executive and legislative branches of government. I carefully consider constitutional matters such as probable cause affidavits, search warrant applications, motions to suppress, etc. based first on the Montana and federal constitutions coupled with my law enforcement and judicial training.

I encourage communication with the deputies, troopers and officers who write citations into Justice Court, the county attorney who prosecutes cases in Justice Court, and the public defenders and private attorneys who represent defendants. When all of these people are communicating in a proper and legal manner, cases can often be resolved before going to trial, thus saving the county taxpayers the costs of such trials. Each person who comes before me is treated individually and my decisions take into account the crime committed with the defendant's ability to pay fines or to do jail time. The court is provided with a bond schedule and suggested jail terms, but Justice Court Judges are encouraged to treat each person individually and to use their best judgment when sentencing rather than using the bond schedule as a strict guide.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE METHODS FOR IMPROVING COURT PROCEDURES AND EFFICIENCY? Leadership from the judge and encouraging communication between all of the parties involved. Proper training and mentoring of the Justice Court clerks and enabling the clerks to perform all of the functions that are allowed by the Montana Supreme Court. My clerks actively contact defendants who owe fines to the court encouraging them to make their monthly payments on time and also those who have warrants encouraging them to communicate with the court to set up payment plans in lieu of going to jail.

WHAT DO YOU PERCEIVE AS THE GREATEST OBSTACLE(S) TO JUSTICE, IF ANY? The growing case load in Justice Court coupled with shrinking budgets and more people coming into Justice Court in crisis.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN YOUR CAREER? I've been blessed to have been very successful as a law enforcement officer and as a consultant, speaker and trainer across our great nation.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WOULD LIKE VOTERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU? I strive to be a good leader for my own family first, then at my workplace and for my community. I believe in honesty, integrity and leadership as being wholesome values which we need more of in our country.

NAME: Mark T. French

EDUCATION: Bachelor's in Science, Medical Technology

FAMILY: Fourth generation Montanan, born and raised in Sanders County. Married to Kathleen with five children.

OCCUPATION: Medical Laboratory Scientist at Clark Fork Valley Hospital for the past 16 years. Hay and beef provider in the Clark Fork Valley and surrounding region for the past 14 years.

EXPERIENCE: A license or specific law experience is not required. The Justice of the Peace is designed to be a normal citizen advocate between people and overzealous government. Laymen can find rapid remedy from problems germane to everyday issues. However, I have served on multiple grand juries and have represented myself on issues in Justice and District Court, so I am very familiar with the processes, Montana Code and the Constitutions. I am currently working in the Montana Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court, addressing liberty issues, judicial transparency and free speech for judicial candidates.

WHAT IS YOUR GENERAL JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY? The purpose of government is to secure the God given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property), not to remove rights under color of law without due cause. A judge should not make law, and they should offer only opinions. The judge can affect the outcome of one case at a time. The judicial branch is where the citizen goes if they feel they have been wronged by people, the lawmaker, or an officer. The concept of "Separation of Powers" is paramount and is being ignored. A good judge can effect eventual change in code and executive behavior as he dismisses unlawful codes and citations.


PROCEDURES AND EFFICIENCY? Dismiss the trivial revenue building fines, and focus time, energy, and funding on aggressive drug trade, theft, extortion and vandalism. Real crime would garner the attention of the Peace Officers and they would stop wasting their time on everyday citizen stops. This would easily cut the workload of the Justice Court in half. Over 50 percent of the tickets written each week are for trivial traffic violations. Let's focus on real crime.


1. Judges nullifying the jury by lording over them with often contradictory and intimidating instructions that violate their conscience, instructing them to decide a matter in a certain way "even though they believe the law ought to be otherwise."

2. Not allowing the jury to receive the defendant's jury instructions.

3. The judge and prosecutor are separate branches with separate roles and goals, but often are a team against the defendant.

4. The judge often seems to be an extension of the executive branch, simply enforcing the codes written in the legislature. By design, the judicial branch should check and balance the executive and legislative branches when unconstitutional behavior happens.

I would be an unbiased servant ensuring a level playing field for defendant and prosecution. Both parties will have adequate time to present their case. I will give the jury the tools to make their most unbiased informed decision in each unique case.

WHY ARE YOU THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR THIS POSITION? It is paramount to have a healthy fear and reverence for God. I place honoring God and upholding the constitution above any quest for power.

Mark French

I will honor my oath of Office to uphold the Constitution of Montana and the United States, so help me God. I will be a judge in the judicial branch and an advocate for the people. Law with Grace would be my motto. If you are harming, expect punishment. If you are not harming, expect remedy. I will not be an extension of the executive branch (law enforcement) or the legislative branch (blindly following the Montana codes instead of recognizing the unconstitutionality of them). The law states "innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt." The statistics from our justice court do not bear this fact.

Finally, I would like to stop the revenue building and promote the return of the Peace Officer, where the law serves the people instead of the people serving the law. Reduce the Law enforcement attitude, to bring unity between the people and their servants. We can have new life in Sanders County.

People causing harm should fear the law, but people who cause no harm should live in peace.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019