Michelle Wilson runs for associate judge to fix tribal court’s ‘problem areas’
Thu, 11/02/2017 - 5:00am admin
By Andrew Turck / Big Horn County News
Last year, Michelle Wilson made the decision to run for associate judge of the Crow Tribe with the goal to help “our system become better.” As a legal advocate certified in both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne courts, Wilson said she has noticed some “problem areas” in Crow Tribal Court during her four years in the position.
“One of the areas of concern is an imbalance in the sentencing and the fines,” she said. “They aren’t consistent. We see this consistently, the imbalance.”
As an example of what she believes to represent an imbalance, Wilson remembers an instance where a woman with five DUIs and a woman with one DUI each received the same sentence on the same day – “45 days flat.”
Serving as a legal advocate, according to Wilson, allows one to empathize with those they are judging and understand their circumstances.
“If we could have judges practice even a year, I think they would better serve the people,” she said. “You’re providing a public service, whether you are an elected official or whether you are an advocate.”
Right now, she believes defendants “don’t have a recourse” for their sentences, adding “the chief judge is the end-all be-all.” The court is supposed to have an ethics board, she said, but it’s not being implemented.
According to Wilson, she has hope that 14-0 decision on Oct. 19 by the Legislative Branch to overhaul the Crow judicial and criminal justice systems could provide a commission for people to register complaints, she continued.
As judge, she intends to work with Montana officials to reopen Two Rivers Detention Facility in Hardin, which closed in 2016 for want of a contract from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Both she and Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid expressed the desire for the facility to reopen and ease overcrowding among American Indian prisoners.
In an Oct. 25 meeting between Daines and Director Bryan Rice of the Interior Department’s Office of Wildland Fire, Rice told Daines that the Two Rivers lease is “on its last review out of the Bureau.” According to Rice, “the target we’re shooting for is 90 days,” or by January 2018.
The judicial race is set to be decided in this Saturday’s general election.
Wilson may be reached via Facebook at www.facebook.com/michelle.wilson.756.