District Court judge candidate: David Grubich

Name: David J. Grubich

Age: 52

Occupation: District Court Judge

Party affiliation: Non-Partisan

Experience relevant to position sought: Eighth Judicial District Court Judge, July 21, 2021 to present; Eighth Judicial District Court standing master, Aug. 6, 2018 to July 21, 2021; Ugrin Alexander Zadick, P.C., attorney, Aug. 23, 2010 to Aug. 6, 2018; police officer, Harvard, Illinois Police Department, May 1995 to July 2004; U.S. Air Force, security police, Sept. 1988 to Sept. 1992

Campaign website/social media accounts, if applicable: Facebook; website

Q: Why are you running for district court judge?David Grubich new

A: I currently serve as a District Court Judge in Cascade County. I am running to retain my position. I have over four years judicial experience. I served as the District Court Standing Master (a judicial position) presiding over divorces, parenting plan actions, criminal matters, and assisted as judge in the Veterans and Drug Treatment Courts. Now, as a District Court Judge I preside over all matters filed in the court. In my four years as judge, I have earned a strong reputation for being fair, impartial, independent, and having a character and temperament well-suited for a judge. I am well-known for listening closely to all parties and treating everyone with dignity and respect while still maintaining control of my courtroom. I learned many of the skills and traits I use daily on the bench through my experience in the military, law enforcement, and as a small business owner/operator (coffeehouse). My real-world experience gives me the tools necessary to be a good judge. I spent many years of my life serving and protecting my country, state, and community. Public service is where my heart lies. I was told by another judge in our district that I was born to be a judge. Reflecting on my experience on the bench, I believe that to be true. I think Cascade County deserves someone who will work hard, get the job done, remain independent from outside influences, and maintain the dignity and public trust in the court.

Q: What do you believe is the role of a district court judge?

A: As judge I have many roles, but I will limit them for brevity. I oversee and ensure the proper application of the law. To do so, I maintain a steadfast loyalty to the rule of law and a deep desire to find the correct answer within it. I have proven I can be trusted to set aside bias, prejudice, political beliefs, and any other distractions which interfere with seeking the true facts and applying them to the law. I make decisions. People bring legal disputes to the court seeking an answer. As judge, I must provide it without undue delay so they can move on with their lives. I protect our community by ensuring criminal offenders are held accountable for their crimes and the harm they cause. I also ensure offenders rights are protected. It is a delicate balance, and it is my job to balance it. A judge represents the law and our system of justice. How a judge acts reflects upon how people view that system and the courts. If a judge is unfair, disrespectful, or closed-minded the legal system loses respect and credibility. I must be aware of this while also maintaining control of the courtroom and remaining firm and decisive. Judges have a leadership role in their community and among local legal professionals and must promote civility, the rule of law, community involvement, and exemplify those traits inside and outside the courtroom. A judge has many roles, and it takes a person with fortitude, humility, integrity, and character to succeed in that position, which is the reputation I have earned in my years as judge.

Q: What do you believe are the top three challenges facing Cascade County?

A: The drug problem, the crime that comes along with it, and a difficulty accessing community-based services to help address it. Drug addiction is a problem the court sees daily. Fentanyl and methamphetamine the most troublesome and accessible. They create strong and fast addictions. Fentanyl is dangerous because even the smallest amounts can lead to overdose. Many people use these drugs use in front of their children, who often have traces of the drug in their system and hair follicles. Addiction is often the reason children are neglected, abused, and ultimately removed from their homes by family services. Crime naturally stems from addiction. Drug possession and distribution, theft, burglary, robbery, and violent crimes are often a result of addiction. High crime burdens our court, fills our jails, and leaves the public with a decreased sense of safety. Unfortunately, Cascade County has mental health and chemical dependency providers who are being pushed to their limits. Mental health conditions and addiction often go together. Therefore, available services for both are essential to helping people overcome the troubles which often are root causes of crime. A judge must be aware of the deep connection between these three challenges in our community to address them in court properly. I certainly appreciate the work law enforcement and our mental health professionals are doing to help address the challenges in our community.

Q: If elected, what would be your initial priorities and how would you accomplish those goals?

A: My initial and enduring priority is to ensure that the work of the court gets done. Cascade County has four district court judges. Over 6000 civil and criminal cases filed each year in Cascade County are equally apportioned leaving each judge around 1200 cases to oversee each year. Criminal and youth dependency/neglect cases take a large amount of the court’s time. However, the remaining civil lawsuits and other civil actions such as parenting actions and property disputes, which are very important to those litigants involved, demand the court’s attention just the same. A judge must prioritize addressing the long list of cases before it above all else. In my time as judge, I have already been accomplishing this primary goal. I have maintained good control of my heavy caseload and will continue to do so after the election. I have developed other priorities as well, some of which came from my experience during the election process. I am concerned about the public’s perception of the judiciary. I think it is incumbent on judges to get out and interact with our community, answer appropriate questions, and explain our job and our role. This informs the public and allows people to get to know who is sitting on the bench which leads to the establishment of trust.

Q: How would you conduct public outreach on controversial matters before the county, or to promote a general understanding of the county’s public process?

A: A judge must be careful not to speak out on controversial matters. Controversial matters have a good chance of landing in court. For example, controversial or public issues such as the encampment downtown and the question of allowing marijuana businesses to operate in the city have both resulted in actions being filed before court. Therefore, to conduct outreach, promote, or even comment on controversial issues such as those can give the appearance of bias by the judge. I certainly have my own thoughts and opinions on such issues, but they remain mine and I must be trusted not to act on them, which is my reputation as a judge. Despite having to refrain from answering such questions, I don’t just leave it there. I always guide the person to contact the appropriate people and follow procedures for voicing their concerns be it the city or county commissioners or their local state legislators. People must know that their voices are important and need to be heard on such issues, and on controversial issues even more. Please stay involved and stay informed.

Q: How would you approach working with county and city officials to address broader community needs and goals?

A: I interpret this question to mean issues that are not legal matters before the court. I have a good working relationship with the county commissioners. The county owns and maintains the county courthouse, so the judges must work with them to address occasional needs that arise. I am not one to just shoot off an email. I speak with individuals personally and believe personal interaction is the best way to get things done, and the best way to develop meaningful working relationships. I certainly do not come in with a “my way or the highway” approach to things. The court, the city, and the county each have their own objectives and goals in such matters but should work together to come up with solutions that provide the greatest benefit. I have an open door. I am always happy to give the court’s perspective on community issues if it is not a matter that could come before me. I have assisted at a public safety roundtable discussion with Governor Gianforte and served on the advisory committee to assist in hiring the new director of the Office of Public Defender. As a judge, I make myself available because my position gives me an important perspective that can help lead to solutions that meet community needs and goals.

Q: What do you believe a district court judge can, or should, do in relation to improving public safety?

A: In short, I must do my job. As a District Court judge, I make decisions that effect public safety in many ways. Public safety is a statutory factor the court must consider when setting bail amounts and sentencing criminal offenders. As a judge, I must take time to properly prepare for each matter before me and consider all the circumstances. Most of the time, criminal cases resolve through plea agreements in which the county attorney’s office makes a sentencing recommendation to the court. I would be remiss at my job if I simply accepted them without a close review of the case to ensure a person is being properly held accountable. Normally, a plea agreement’s recommendation is acceptable, but sometimes they are not. As a judge, I fail to properly consider public safety if I simply rubber-stamp every plea agreement that comes across my bench. Though it would make my job easier, I was not appointed to take the easy route. I was appointed because I could be trusted to do the job right. The same goes with consideration of bail. I must consider the protection of others in setting an appropriate bail amount. I also make decisions affecting public safety in other matters such as protective orders, child abuse/neglect cases, mental health commitments, family law cases and many other areas. My life experience and my experience as a judge has given me great insight when making decisions that protect and improve public safety.

Q: How would you work with the sheriff’s office to ensure public safety?

IA:  believe having an open door to discuss developing concerns in our community. Staying informed through the Sheriff, the Great Falls PD, and Probation and Parole helps me maintain awareness of specific public safety issues in our community. I have a good working relationship with all the local departments and make myself available when public safety discussions are needed. As to the daily operations, decisions of how that office is run and how law enforcement sets policy on addressing public safety, I leave it in their good hands as I must. As a judge I am often called during and after working hours to review and sign search warrants, arrest warrants, and investigatory subpoenas. I make myself available and review them as quickly as possible so that law enforcement is not waiting to do their jobs.

Q: How would you work with the sheriff’s office in terms of jail overcrowding as it relates to those awaiting trial?

A: Our jail is often at or over maximum capacity. As judge, I sometimes receive motions from the county attorney’s office to release inmates on their own recognizance solely based on the overcrowding issue. I review each motion closely and consider the overcrowding issue. However, I must also consider all twelve statutory bail factors when deciding if it is appropriate to release a criminal defendant onto the street. Those factors include the risk the defendant will fail to show up to court, fail to follow bail conditions, will put others at risk of harm, criminal history, connections to the community, and mental health issues. If a review of those factors reveals that releasing the defendant on his/her own recognizance is not appropriate, I do not grant the motion. I certainly understand that an overcrowded jail creates a dangerous situation for our corrections officers and jail staff, as well as the inmates in the jail, so I consider reducing numbers when it is safe for the community to do so. I do not allow jail overcrowding to affect my decision in sentencing.

Q: How would you approach sentencing to ensure fairness to those convicted, victims and the community while also addressing public safety?

A: Sentencing is done by the judge. I approach sentencing the same way for every criminal offender. I follow Montana’s sentencing policy which is set out in our statutes. It requires the court to punish an offender based on the harm caused by the offense, hold the offender accountable, incarcerate violent and serious repeat offenders, consider the victim, and provide opportunities for self-improvement and rehabilitation. To render a fair sentence to the offender and the public, it is essential I consider all factors so that an appropriate and legal sentence can be handed down. In every felony matter, I order a presentence investigation which provides me a great deal of background on a defendant including criminal history, circumstances of the offense, victim impact statements, an assessment on risk of reoffending, family, mental health, and substance use. I consider all the information carefully. At the sentencing hearing, I also consider the victim’s statement, the defendant’s statement, and sentence recommendations. I put a lot of thought into each sentence I order, and I would not be doing my job if I didn’t. I review plea agreements closely, and most meet the mark. However, if a plea agreement does not hold an offender properly accountable, I do not accept it.

Q: What do you believe a district court judge can do to ensure speedy trials and lessen the backlog of criminal cases in the local court system?

A: I must ensure every criminal defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial is protected. Defendants have an attorney who will keep close watch on time. However, cases are often continued repeatedly by both the defendant and the county attorney. Good cause for doing so must be given. However, the court must keep the county attorneys and public defenders on task to ensure cases continue to move forward and defendants are not left waiting for finality. Repeated continuances create a backlog. I have 10-20 jury trials scheduled almost every week. I can usually only hold one trial per week. Incarcerated defendants and those whose cases are oldest have priority. However, often none of the trials scheduled in a given week proceed because defendants either accept a plea agreement or request a continuance. Ultimately, if a case has languished too long, it is the court’s duty to hold the parties to a trial date. As judge, I must also stay on task by addressing motions and other matters requested of the court that could cause delay if not addressed in a timely manner. It is ultimately my duty as judge to keep cases moving.

Q: What do you envision your working relationship with court/county staff would look like?

A: I have worked in this courthouse for four years. In that time, I have developed a good working relationship with court staff, county staff in the clerk of court’s office, bailiffs, and everyone else who works in the courthouse. I treat everyone at work in the same manner I treat everyone who appears before me – with dignity and respect. I have great respect for everyone with whom I work and for the work they do. I have always had a knack for getting along well with a wide variety of people. I think I developed that ability when I served in the U.S. Air Force and worked with people with a multitude of different backgrounds. I continue to have enduring relationships with people I worked with going all the way back to my time in the Air Force thirty years ago. You can tell a lot about a person by how they get along with the people around them. I believe strongly that mutual respect and trust form the basis of a good working relationship.

Q: Any additional comments on your plans if elected (but please be concise)?

A: It has been my honor and privilege serving as your District Court Judge. I have earned a strong reputation as a good judge. I will continue to work hard and do my job as it is meant to be done. I love this community and I look forward to serving Cascade County as judge for years to come. I would appreciate your vote to retain me in the general election.