- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - Friends and colleagues believe a vivacious Kalispell attorney with a passion for justice and community service will be the perfect fit for the Flathead District Court bench.

Amy Eddy was sworn in to fill the seat vacated by Judge Ted O. Lympus.

“I look forward to meeting the legal needs of the community and fairly considering the perspectives of all the parties to work for the benefit of everyone,” Eddy said of her appointment. “It’s really nothing but an enormous privilege and responsibility to serve as a District Court judge.”

Eddy is an Idaho native who worked at her family’s lodge in Stanley, Idaho, before she graduated from the University of Montana School of Law in 2001. She began working in Flathead Valley law firms shortly thereafter. In her time as an attorney, she specialized in complex civil litigation and appeared before the Montana Supreme Court in more than a dozen instances.

When asked by the Judicial Nomination Commission about a moment that profoundly impacted her vision of the judiciary, Eddy recalled listening to Montana Supreme Court Justice James C. Nelson speak during a hotly contested re-election campaign.

“A member of the audience asked him why he didn’t exercise his First Amendment rights to defend himself during the course of the campaign,” Eddy wrote in her application for judgeship. “Justice Nelson responded that his own First Amendment rights would never outweigh a litigant’s fundamental right to due process, including a fair and impartial judiciary. His commitment deeply influenced my view of our system of justice. While attorneys must be zealous advocates for their clients, they must also respect and defend the integrity of the judicial system so that all litigants may have a meaningful day in court.”

An unrelenting passion for her clients, but balanced view of the law is exactly what attorney Michael Viscomi has observed while working with Eddy over the years. Viscomi is the mediator for cases in Flathead Valley. He has worked more than a dozen mediations where Eddy represented a client.

“She has the fine balance between being zealous for a client and being reasonable,” Viscomi said, adding the most attorneys are either too enthusiastic to reach a compromise or not passionate enough to get a good deal for their clients. “She knows how to balance those two extremes. Some lawyers are just a lot easier for mediations. She is a little bit more zealous about representing her client, but not in a bad way.”

Viscomi said he believes Eddy’s work ethic will lead her to get rulings out within a reasonable amount of time, something that is not always a given in the court setting.

He also said he believes Eddy will be fair to litigants and act within the scope of the law. Viscomi said some judges rule on what they think is just or fair but do not necessarily act within the scope of the law.

“I feel very confident that (litigants) will be treated fairly and that she will listen to both sides and come to a reasonable ruling within the constraints of the law,” Viscomi said. “A judge’s job is to determine the facts, and apply those facts to the law and come up with a sound decision.”

Application of the law is something that Kalispell attorney Santana Caballero stressed as important in her endorsement of Eddy in a letter to the Judicial Nomination Committee.

“A number of times, I have heard Ms. Eddy explain to her clients the law at issue and the reasons some of their issues would not succeed under the law,” Caballero wrote. “She had the ability to do so in a straight unbiased manner. It takes a special kind of individual to explain complex law to a layperson in such a manner that the layperson understands the law after the discussion.”

Eddy’s relationship with her clients is something that Whitefish Fire Capt. Sarah Peterson said she appreciated as Eddy worked pro bono on a case for her. Peterson said that when she first encountered Eddy that she felt scared and alone, but after spending time with Eddy, her attitude changed, although Eddy was straightforward, didn’t sugarcoat the case and admitted that Peterson might not have much luck in prevailing.

“She actually has empowered me, as a female and as a leader, to stick up for myself,” Peterson wrote to the Judicial Nominating Committee. “She has empowered me to take control of my situation and not let it control me. She has given me a backbone again, put my shoulders back and head up. For this, I am grateful.”

Eddy also caught the attention of some of the state’s most seasoned legal figures. Retired U.S. Magistrate Leif B. Erickson noticed Eddy’s ability to pick out applicable law early in her career. She clerked for Erickson while she was a law student. In his recommendation for her judgeship, Erickson said Eddy was among the best of the interns he had over the years and that she was “quickly able to identify the salient facts and applicable law in the cases directed to her and to competently prepare rough drafts of opinions for my consideration.”

Erickson administered the oath of office to Eddy.

The accomplishment will be the pinnacle of an already bright legal career, which included defending all but one of the retired Montana Supreme Court justices in a 2011 case called Western Tradition Partnership that weighed the balance of corporate free speech, a litigant’s right to due process and the state’s interest in preserving a fair and impartial judiciary.

Eddy called the case the highlight of her career thus far. It made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The United States Supreme Court ultimately ruled that balance tipped in favor of corporate free speech,” Eddy said. “However, I continue to assign great value to the preservation of an independent, fair and impartial judiciary. It is essential to the public’s trust and confidence, and remains a compelling state interest for Montana. A litigant’s due process rights are equally important. It is the responsibility of all citizens, but particularly the bench and bar, to protect the independence of the judiciary. It is a responsibility I would continue to take very seriously as a district court judge.”

Aside from her work in the courtroom, Eddy’s colleagues also laud her dedication to community service. She has served on the Whitefish school board, taught classes at the University of Montana and served as president for both the Montana Trial Lawyers Association and Northwest Montana Bar Association.

She is a wife and mother of two daughters.

“She’s just very dedicated to the community,” former law partner Jeffrey Ellingson said. “She is a great lawyer. She is high-energy.”

The accomplished attorney has never lost touch with her snowy Idaho roots, according to Ellington, who said that it was not uncommon for Eddy to jump up from her desk and take off on cross-country skis at times.

“I was humbled by her athleticism,” Ellingson said.

Ellingson said he thinks Flathead Valley will be better off with Eddy as judge.

“She’s always thinking of making things work better and particularly making things work better for the next generation,” Ellingson said.


Information from: Daily Inter Lake, https://www.dailyinterlake.com

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