|Drew Blewett earned his law degree from University of Montana School of Law in 2007 and his bachelor of science degree in political science from Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. He is an associate at Hoyt & Blewett in Great Falls. Drew has been a member of Montana Trial Lawyers Association since 2007.
Hon. Dana Christensen was nominated by President Obama on May 5, 2011, to be the seventeenth U.S. District Court Judge in Montana. Before his appointment, Judge Christensen was a principal in the Kalispell law firm of Christensen, Moore, Cockrell, Cummings & Axelberg. There, Judge Christensen had a civil defense practice focusing on the defense of medical and legal malpractice claims. He served as President of MDLTA in 1992 and has served as a member of the UM School of Law Board of Visitors. Judge Christensen has given many presentations to classes at UM on subjects relating to the defense of personal injury claims. He also served as a member of the faculty of the UM Advanced Trial Advocacy Program for many years. Judge Christensen served as a lawyer representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference for the years 2007-2009. He was appointed in 2010 by Hon. Chief Judge Kozinski to a three-year term on the Advisory Board of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Christensen was raised in Missoula, Montana, and attended Stanford University. He then attended UM School of Law, graduating in 1976. He was a member of the Law School Moot Court Team.
Domenic A. Cossi graduated from UM School of Law in 2010 with high honors. After law school, Domenic clerked for Hon. N. Randy Smith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. While in law school, Domenic was involved in the Environmental Law Group and helped start the nonprofit Environmental Legal Education Network, a nonprofit focused on improving the experience of environmental law students at UM. He also published an article in the Public Lands and Resources Law Review titled Getting Our Priorities Straight: Streamlining NEPA to Hasten Renewable Energy Development on Public Land. He performed his clinical externship in the chambers of U.S District Judge, Hon. Donald W. Molloy.
Justice Patricia Cotter graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1977, after which she became licensed to practice law in Indiana. After practicing law in South Bend for a number of years, she and her husband Michael moved to Montana in 1983, and began practicing law in Great Falls in 1984 with John Hoyt. In 1985, they established the law firm of Cotter & Cotter. Justice Cotter was twice honored with MTLA’s Public Service Award, and received the group’s Appellate Advocacy Award in 1999, after chairing the Amicus Curiae committee for seven years. From 1996 to 1998, she served as chair of Montana’s lawyer representatives to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. In 2006, Justice Cotter was presented with the Edward C. Alexander Award for distinguished legal service and professionalism by the Cascade County Bar Association. On November 7, 2000, Justice Cotter won election to the Montana Supreme Court for an eight-year term and was re-elected in November, 2008. She and her husband Michael have two grown children.
Hon. Russell Fagg was first elected to the bench in 1995, and has been re-elected twice. Before becoming a judge he was a member of the Montana legislature for two terms and served as the House Judiciary Chairman. Judge Fagg clerked for the Montana Supreme Court, was in private practice, was the Billings City Prosecutor, and was a Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney before becoming a judge. Judge Fagg has tried well over 100 jury trials as a state judge. Judge Fagg earned his law degree from the University of Montana School of Law in 1986. He is currently the secretary of the Montana Judges Association and has been honored with the Montana Bar Association's Karla M. Gray Equal Justice Award. He serves in the house of delegates of the American Judges Association, as chair of the City of Billings Ethics committee, and as board member of the Yellowstone Area Bar Association.
Rick Friedman built his reputation representing people and small businesses injured by large corporations and government agencies. His cases include those involving catastrophic injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, insurance bad faith, and business torts. Among Rick’s landmark cases are Myrick v. Mastagni, believed to be the first case in California holding a building owner liable for injuries sustained in an earthquake, and Robinson v. State Farm, which exposed State Farm using phony doctor’s reports to deny claims. He has obtained four verdicts in the past twelve years which LawyersUSA ranked in the top ten verdicts of the year. Rick is a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates and the author of three books on trial advocacy published by Trial Guides: Rules of the Road: A Plaintiff Lawyer’s Guide to Proving Liability; Polarizing the Case: Exposing and Defeating the Malingering Myth, and Rick Friedman on Becoming a Trial Lawyer. He practices in Alaska, Washington, and California, and also appears pro hac vice in state and federal courts around the country.
Hon. Katherine Bidegaray Irigoin took office as District Judge of the Montana 7th Judicial District in January 2003. Prior to taking office, Irigoin engaged in the general practice of law in Sidney, Montana. In addition, Irigoin served as the Public Defender for Richland County and filled in at the Richland County Attorney’s office. Before returning to Sidney, Irigoin worked three and one-half years for the State Auditor’s Office in Helena, first as a staff attorney for the Montana Insurance Department and then as Deputy Securities Commissioner. While at the State Auditor’s Office, Irigoin represented the Montana Insurance Department in administrative actions involving alleged licensing violations and unfair trade practices by insurance agents and insurance companies. She also coordinated prosecution of violations of the Securities Act of Montana with various law enforcement agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the U.S. Attorney, and numerous county attorneys. Judge Irigoin also drafted legislation and lobbied during three legislative sessions. A graduate of the UM School of Law in 1985, Irigoin worked as a teaching assistant for the Montana Defender Project and served as an editorial staff member of the Montana Law Review.
Karen Koehler is past President of the Washington State Association for Justice and previously received its Trial Lawyer of the Year award. She has held leadership positions in the American Association for Justice, including past chair of its Motor Vehicle Highway Design Premises Liability section. She currently chairs the AAJ Spinal Cord Injury Litigation Group, AAJ Executive Committee on Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group and is on the AAJ Board of Governors. A mother of three daughters, she has handled numerous high profile cases, some of which have resulted in the creation of new laws. Karen co-produced the How to Prepare Your Client for Deposition DVD and How to Prepare your Client for a Defense Medical Exam – both distributed by Trial Guides. Karen is the president and executive director of the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Washington. Karen’s blog – The Velvet Hammer – was chosen this year as the top trial practice blog in the Top 100 Blawg competition of the American Bar Association.
Chief Justice Mike McGrath was raised in Butte, Montana. He earned a degree in business administration from the University of Montana in 1970 and graduated from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1975. Following graduation from law school he worked as a Reginald Heber Smith Community lawyer fellow in Reno, Nevada, providing legal services to low-income clients. He served in the United States Air Force from 1970 until an honorable discharge in 1972. He was a Montana Assistant Attorney General from 1977 to 1982. He was elected to five terms as Lewis and Clark County Attorney beginning in 1983. He was elected to two terms as Montana Attorney General. As Attorney General he served from 2000 to 2008, oversaw a staff of more than 700 employees and focused on methamphetamine prevention and natural resource and land issues. Mike McGrath was elected to an eight-year term as Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court in November, 2008, and took office January 5, 2009. He and his wife Joy have two sons, Pat and Chris, and one granddaughter, Alexis.
Hon. Justice Brian Morris was born September 5, 1963, in Butte, Montana. He received a B.A. in 1986 and M.A. in 1987 from Stanford University. Justice Morris graduated with distinction from Stanford School of Law in 1992. He served as law clerk for the Honorable William H. Rehnquist at the United States Supreme Court and for the Honorable John T. Noonan, Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He worked in private practice in Bozeman from 1995 through 1999. Justice Morris also served as a legal assistant at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal and as a legal officer at the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, before becoming the Solicitor for the Montana Department of Justice in 2001. He served as Solicitor until being elected to the Montana Supreme Court in November 2004. Justice Morris and his wife, Cherche, have three sons and a daughter.
Prof. Greg Munro regularly researches and writes the Insurance Consumer Counsel’s Column for Trial Trends. Prof. Munro has published articles, a book and book chapters on topics of insurance, torts, medical-legal and legal education. He teaches Insurance Law, Trial Practice and Torts at the University of Montana School of Law where he is a Professor and Director of Professional Skills. He has also taught Pretrial Advocacy and Remedies and co-coached the law school’s national championship Trial Team from 1989 until 1999. He regularly teaches CLE for organizations of lawyers, judges and law professors. Munro is a past president and board member of MTLA. He serves on the Montana State Uniform District Court Rules Committee. He practiced plaintiff’s civil litigation in Billings for thirteen years before joining the UM School of Law in 1988.
David R. Paoli played noseguard for the Grizzlies as he put himself through college on a football scholarship. He was a member of the Board of Regents of the Montana University System during law school. After graduating with honors in, he was a law clerk to Judge Jack D. Shanstrom, United States District Court, District of Montana. While working for Judge Shanstrom, Mr. Paoli served on the Montana Human Rights Commission. After practicing personal injury law in Billings for three years, he began his own plaintiffs' civil litigation practice in 1992. He moved his offices to Missoula in 1993. David has represented individuals and small businesses from across the state of Montana in cases involving FELA, personal injuries, insurance bad faith, products liability, medical negligence, and bank bad faith. David is a past president of MTLA and has been honored with its Public Service and Trial Lawyer of the year awards. He is a sustaining member of MTLA and AAJ. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and is Designated Legal Counsel to the United Transportation Union. David has previously served as Chairman of the United States Magistrate Judge Selection Committee.
Kathleen Flynn Peterson is a partner with the national law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi where she chairs the Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice practice group. She is a Civil Trial Specialist certified by the Civil Litigation Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. Kathleen limits her practice to representing individuals and families who have experienced injury or death as a result of negligence. She is a past president of AAJ as well as the Minnesota Association for Justice. She is the 1999 recipient of ATLA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers and ABOTA, serving as President of Minnesota’s ABOTA chapter in 2005. Ms. Flynn Peterson’s verdicts and settlements have consistently been reported among the highest in Minnesota. She has been repeatedly named in Best Lawyers in America and Law & Leading Attorneys. In 2007 she was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 50 Most Influential Women Lawyers; and as an Attorney of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer. In 2010 Kathleen was named Best Lawyers Lawyer of the Year in Medical Malpractice – Minneapolis, and was again named attorney of the year by Minnesota Lawyer for 2010.
Hon. Mike Salvagni was born in Butte and raised in Walkerville. He graduated from Carroll College in 1969 and earned his law degree from the University of Montana School of Law in 1973. Following law school he served as a law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, then maintained a private general law practice and served as public defender for 6 years in Bozeman. In 1982, he was elected as Gallatin County Attorney, an office he held for 14 years. In 1996, he was elected District Court Judge of the 18th Judicial District, and was reelected in 2002 and 2008. For 11 years Judge Salvagni presided over the Gallatin County Treatment Court. He served on the District Court Council for three years. He is a member of the Uniform District Court Rules Commission. Judge Salvagni chairs the Gallatin County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. He serves as treasurer of the Montana Judges’ Association.
Matt Wessler is the Kazan-Budd Attorney at Public Justice in Washington, DC. He represents clients in a range of public interest areas, with a particular focus on issues surrounding the access to justice, including ERISA, mandatory arbitration, preemption, and civil rights. He has briefed and argued several important ERISA reimbursement cases, including the landmark case of US Airways v. McCutchen, in which the Third Circuit held that an ERISA plan could not obtain 100% reimbursement and that any recovery must be limited by principles of equity, and CGI Technologies v. Rose, which poses a set of similar issues and is currently pending in the Ninth Circuit. He is also counsel in a number of cases involving the use of pre-dispute mandatory arbitration cases, including Homa v. American Express, pending in the Third Circuit. He has authored a number of briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court, including in Rent-A-Center v. Jackson, a case concerning pre-dispute mandatory arbitration, two cases involving federal preemption, Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc. and AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, and, most recently, in AEP v. Connecticut, a case about global warming. Before coming to Public Justice, Matt worked at the law firm Williams & Connolly in Washington, DC, and clerked on the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. He is a graduate of Cornell School of Law and Williams College.
Hon. Justice Michael E. Wheat graduated from the University of Montana School of Law in 1978. He practiced as deputy county attorney in Butte from 1978 until 1981, then moved to Bozeman and entered private practice with Mike Cok (now Cok & Kinzler). Justice Wheat’s law practice focused primarily on personal injury, products liability, and insurance litigation. He was a member of MTLA for 28 years and President in 1995-96. He served in the Montana State Senate in 2003 and 2005, and served as chair of the Judiciary Committee during the 2005 Session. Justice Wheat was appointed to the Montana Supreme Court by Governor Schweitzer in 2009, sworn in January 2010 and popularly elected November 2010. His term ends in December 2014.
Tess White graduated from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1995 and immediately began practicing in Chicago as a “captive” lawyer for a substandard insurance carrier. Thereafter Tess worked in-house for St. Paul Insurance Company in Chicago. Tess returned to her roots in Indiana in 2005 and worked in-house for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in Carmel, IN. In 2008 Tess had an epiphany and decided to join the side of good and justice and began her own practice focusing on Personal Injury. In total, Tess had tried over 40 jury trials for the defense. She has mediated and arbitrated hundreds more. After 13 years of exclusively handling insurance defense cases, Tess has a keen awareness of the inner-workings of the insurance industry.