The seemingly mundane race for Ravalli County Attorney took an interesting turn in early August when Republican candidate William Fulbright came forward with detailed records of his long-standing battle with bankruptcy. He reportedly released the documents in the interests of transparency and to dispel rumors in advance of the November election.
According to court records, Fulbright entered Chapter 7 in August 2003 after 10 years of fighting the Federal Student Loan Commission over the capitalizing of interest on his student loans. Fulbright—who currently serves as a deputy county attorney under his political opponent, incumbent George Corn—owed $47,095 in principal and $42,461 in interest as of October 2004. Fulbright disclosed the debts in an interview with the Ravalli Republic in early August.
But the information contained in Fulbright's bankruptcy schedule also sheds considerable light on his history as a practicing attorney. The documents he released to the public list a number of professional liability claims from his years as a lawyer in California. Records with the San Joaquin County Superior Court show that then-Sacramento resident Dee Gomez sued Fulbright for legal malpractice in 2002, securing a claim of $250,392. In 2001, Monica R. Larkin (also a Sacramento resident at the time) secured a malpractice claim from Fulbright totaling $55,370.
The San Joaquin court also lists a professional negligence case filed in 1998 against Fulbright by Alan A. Cheney, though no related claim appears in the bankruptcy schedule. He first registered with the State Bar of California in 1988.
Fulbright relocated to Montana from California in the late 1990s and qualified with the State Bar of Montana in May 1999. His campaign website says Fulbright received the Montana Prosecutor of the Year Award in 2007.
Fulbright did not answer repeated calls from the Independent regarding his campaign or his bankruptcy status, and has not returned messages left by voicemail and e-mail.