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Replacing "Let 'Em Loose Louden"

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Accused of driving drunk, speeding or being a minor in possession of alcohol in Missoula? Chances are you'll end up in municipal court. That means you might want to pay attention as the city shops for a new municipal court judge to replace Donald Louden, who steps down Nov. 18.

During his more than two decades on the bench, Louden developed a reputation for being empathetic—some would even say lenient—and acquired the nickname "Let 'Em Loose Louden." Whomever the Missoula City Council selects to replace him will help shape how justice is served in Missoula.

Missoula City Council President Ed Childers is one of 12 city representatives who will vote for the candidate each thinks is best suited to replace Louden. Childers says management skills are important, but fairness is paramount. "I think more than anything, it's important to try to apply the laws the same to everybody."

As of Friday, Oct. 28, the city clerk's office had received nine applications for the judgeship. Those vying for the gig are Missoula attorney Ethan Lerman, who's worked for the Montana Legal Services Association and the state's Public Defender's Office; Missoula's Chief Prosecuting Attorney, Andrew F. Scott, who's said publicly that the court needs to get tougher on DUIs; Max Baucus's Missoula Field Representative and Counsel, Jennifer Lois Ewan; part-time judge Marie Anderson; private practice attorney Mark McLaverty, who's served as a public defender; Samuel M. Warren, of Warren Law Offices; Missoula's Chief Civil Administrative Attorney, Susan A. Firth; Matthew S. Sonnichsen, an associate with Watson Law; and Kathleen Jenks, who worked as a prosecutor for the Montana Attorney General's Office.

The position pays $81,618.58 per year plus benefits.

Council is mulling over whether to extend last Friday's application deadline in order to invite additional candidates.

Whomever is selected will serve out the remainder of Louden's four-year term, until a successor is chosen in the 2013 municipal election. Those wishing to voice an opinion should contact their city council representatives or chime in during Missoula City Council's Nov. 7 meeting.

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