The race for judge in District 8 Department A in Great Falls features two people who have been on the bench before. The incumbent, David Grubich, has held the position for just over a year. The challenger, Michele Levine, was appointed to the post in 2020 but was never confirmed by the Montana State Senate.
“You can count on me for fairness, independence and especially safety,” said Levine.
“I’m known for my integrity, I’m known for my honesty, and I’m known for, as a judge, applying the law,” said Grubich.
The 42-year-old Levine is a Carroll College graduate and a graduate of the University of Montana Law School. She also spent three terms in the Montana House representing a district in Missoula. Her legal experience includes time as a civil attorney, nearly half a year as a District Judge, and she is currently a Deputy Cascade County Attorney, prosecuting felony cases.
“I understand it is not a judge’s job to try and be a prosecutor or a criminal defense attorney,” said Levine. “A judge is to be a referee, they’re not to be a player on the field. They’re not to try to be a coach, it’s their job to be a clear, fair referee.”
Grubich is looking to retain the seat he was appointed to last year. The 52-year-old grew up in Illinois and joined the Air Force after High School. He was an Illinois police officer for 10 years before moving to Montana and attending the University of Montana where he got his degree in philosophy and later went to law school. Before becoming a judge, he was a standing master in the 8th Judicial District for three years.
“I’m known for my temperament, I'm known for my knowledge of the law, I’m know for my integrity,” said Grubich. “That’s important because people need to be able to trust that the person who’s sitting on the bench is going to do their job.”
Both candidates understand Cascade County has a high number of foster kids and has been the site of some high-profile child abuse cases.
Levine says the problem can be addressed by everyone working as a team.
“When judges work with all the players involved to put together a good treatment plan, for the parent to tackle those problems with mental health and chemical dependency, and a good team effort, we have seen some good results in parents working to get their kids back,” said Levine.
Grubich says it is important to hold all parties accountable.
“To ensure that these parents are being monitored and that they’re not falling through the cracks, because if the parents fall through the cracks, the children fall through the cracks,” said Grubich. “So as a judge, being at the position of overseeing how these cases are done, it’s my job to ensure that everyone else is doing theirs.”
Levine was appointed by former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock after being recommended by the non-partisan judicial nominating commission. When the 2021 Montana legislature did away with that commission, she was not confirmed by the Montana senate. That led to Republican Governor Greg Gianforte appointing Grubich to the position.
Both candidates say politics has no place in a race like this.
“Politics isn’t what got me this job,” said Grubich. “My merit, my experience, my background and a trust in my ability to follow the law and do the job a judge I supposed to do are what got me this job.”
“I have not accepted or used endorsements from any partisan politicians, organizations, or candidates,” said Levine. “The code of judicial conduct requires that we not seek, use, or accept partisan endorsements from partisan candidates, elected officials or organizations.”
The candidates will take part in a public forum Thursday night, September 15th at Great Falls College-MSU in room B-101. The event is sponsored by the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce.
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