My name is Herman Watson and I am president of the Gallatin County Bar Association. On behalf of the Board of the Gallatin County Bar Association, I am urging you to vote yes on the Gallatin County Courts Building Bond.
Our Law and Justice Center is the housing facility for both district and justice court. These courts handle (1) all felony criminal charges in Gallatin County; (2) misdemeanor charges within county jurisdiction; (3) divorces and family law cases; (4) civil litigation, such as business disputes; and (5) small claims. The Law and Justice Center is a former high school; it was not designed for its current use.
One result is that the building’s layout is inadequate to separate criminal defendants from their accusers and alleged victims. The design often forces opposing parties in both criminal and civil disputes to wait in the same narrow hallway.
Gallatin County needs a new courts building. One of our three District Court judges is housed in an annexed trailer building. Recently, a much needed fourth district court judge was approved for Gallatin County. The Law and Justice Center does not have a court room for that new judge. Continuing to annex trailers is neither a safe nor sustainable solution.
Perhaps most important, the current building is not structurally safe. Seismic activity is a common occurrence in southwest Montana and the Law and Justice Center fails to meet current building standards. This is a serious problem.
We already voted to build a new municipal court building, which houses the municipal court, police station, fire station, and city attorney’s office. I encourage you to vote yes on the bond for the Gallatin County Courts Building to ensure we support the safe and sustainable administration of justice in all our most serious matters.
Published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle - October 31, 2021