District Court Judge Loren Tucker is seeking a third term on the bench in a district that covers nearly all of rural southwest Montana and nearly 11,000 square miles.
In Montana, District Court Justices serve six-year terms. Tucker started his service after winning election in 2000. He is the district judge for Beaverhead, Jefferson and Madison Counties. He splits time equally between the three counties, Tucker said.
The three counties have about an equal number of residents and cases, he said. That means he must split his time fairly.
“It’s the only way I’ve ascertained that people can have regular access to a judge,” Tucker said.
It means a lot of time on the road between courthouses in Virginia City, Dillon and Boulder, he said.
Tucker grew up in Iowa and practiced law in Minneapolis before moving to Montana in the 1970s with visions of being a rancher. “A roving spirit and an overburden at having spent more time than I could tolerate in the big city” spurred his move to Montana, he said.
Over the years he’s been able to work at both his passions: ranching and law. He and his wife MaryAnn O’Malley have a small ranch near Virginia City. O’Malley is the Madison County Justice of the Peace.
Over the past eleven years as district court judge, Tucker has seen his caseload increase about 50 percent. He attributes this to both population increases in the areas he serves and a general increase in the propensity of citizens to seek solutions through the court system.
“Certainly there’s a trend in the number, the number has trended significantly upward,” Tucker said.
His cases are split fairly evenly between criminal and civil cases, but the criminal proceedings take up the majority of his time.
In Montana, district court judges are responsible for presiding over all criminal felonies and any related misdemeanors, along with all types of civil cases, juvenile cases and child abuse and neglect cases.
Tucker served as Madison County Attorney from 1981 until 1996. In those years, the county attorney was a part time position and so Tucker had a private practice as well, focusing on banking and real estate litigation.
Tucker serves on the Montana Supreme Court’s Sentence Review Division and is currently president of the Montana Judge’s Association. He was appointed to the Montana Board of Banking by former Gov. Marc Racicot, serving as its chairman. He has served the Montana County Attorney’s Association and the Fifth Judicial District Bar Association, along with various other state associations and councils. He has also served with various local organizations, as a volunteer fireman and a charity auctioneer.
He enjoys being a district court judge, calling his work a blessing and privilege.
“I’m very grateful that the people have had confidence in me to let me serve this period of time,” Tucker said.
Of his time in office, one of his proudest accomplishments has been helping to establish a Court Appointed Special Advocate program within his district.
CASA is a program where volunteers work with children who find themselves in the court system as victims. The CASA volunteer represents the interest of the child.
“Their interests are advanced by those volunteers who are dedicated and special people, every one of them,” Tucker said.
The other thing he is proud of is the general sense of satisfaction people in his district seem to have with the court system.
“It seems to me that the people are satisfied that if they come to court they’re going to get a fair shake and I guess that’s my largest gratification, that people have confidence in their court system,” he said.
No one has yet filed in opposition to Tucker. The deadline for filing for office is March 12.