GREAT FALLS, Mont. — The two candidates vying for an open seat on the Montana Supreme Court outlined the stark differences in their legal experience during a forum Thursday night.

Law professor Kristen Juras and District Judge Dirk Sandefur spoke to about 100 people in Great Falls, The Tribune reported (http://goo.gl/R2Wbp ).

Juras, who has taught at the University of Montana since 2000, argued that her experience as an attorney for farmers, ranchers and small business owners would fill a void on the court. She added that she would bring a perspective of property and contract issues.

Meanwhile, Sandefur said there is no substitute for his “relevant experience” as a judge.

“I’ve been your judge,” he said. “I stand for the law, period.”

Sandefur, a district judge since 2003, told audience members that if they talk to lawyers in their communities, they will find out who is most qualified for the seat.

The former public defender and deputy Cascade County attorney said the high court is no place for people with philosophical or political agendas, a point that Juras seemed to agree with.

“I strongly believe the three legs of government have important but separate goals,” she said. A “court is a court and not a legislative body.”

Juras and Sandefur are running for the seat vacated by Patricia Cotter, who decided not to seek another eight-year term.

Thursday night marked the first time the two have faced off in a public forum since the June 7 primary.


Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com