The Board of Madison County Commissioners spent Friday, March 21 interviewing four candidates to fill the interim position for the soon-to-be vacated Justice of the Peace seat for the county, ultimately selecting attorney Suzanne Nellen.
“Justice of the Peace is one of the most serious positions we’ve had to interview,” Commissioner Dave Schulz said. “It is an important role in the county and it also deals with the judicial system.”
Schulz continued to say each of the candidates interviewed brought valuable traits and experience to the interview.
“We were very fortunate to have the quality of applicants we did,” he said. “We felt [Nellen] stood out a little bit above the other candidates. She knows the court system—she has worked in justice and district courts throughout the area—and she has a demeanor about her that will make her an excellent [Justice of the Peace]. She’s patient, but serious. She likes to give people the benefit of the doubt, but she knows when enough is enough.
Nellen has lived in Madison County for 11 years on a ranch near Sheridan. Until recently, Nellen’s primary law practice was based out of Bozeman with an auxiliary office at the Sheridan ranch, but in the last 18 months Nellen said she moved her main office to Sheridan.
“I emphasize water transactional work, real estate law and I have done a tremendous amount of misdemeanor appearances in justice courts,” Nellen said. “I’ve been an attorney for over 30 years, working in Madison and Gallatin counties.”
Nellen said she was confident when she applied for the position because of her experience with the legal system and justice courts.
“Timing is everything and I am fortunate this all worked out when it did,” she said. “I have time to get familiar with the court before I take over.”
The interim position will fill the vacancy created when current Justice of the Peace MaryAnn O’Malley retires on April 15. Since this in an election year, Nellen will serve from April 16 to Dec. 31, unless she also wins the election and assumes a four-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2015.
Currently, there are four candidates—Nellen, Arthur Behar, Victor Bunitsky and Marc Glines—running in the June 3 primary. After the primary, the race will be narrowed to two candidates and the seat will be determined during the general election.
Nellen said she will continue to practice law, but her role as Justice of the Peace in Madison County will be her primary commitment.
“I owe Madison County to be available and present,” she explained. “I’m excited and ready for this.”