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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Q&A: Erin Farris-Olsen, Democratic Candidate for Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court

Erin Farris-Olsen

We are gathering information from all statewide candidates as a resource for the 2024 Primary Elections. Responses were limited to 200 words per question. Political attacks may have been removed, but otherwise, the responses are published unedited.

What is your full name, as it will appear on the ballot?

Erin Farris-Olsen

What is your age?


Where do you live?

Helena, MT

What is your education background?

First generation college graduate from Carroll College, majoring in Environmental Studies and Communication. Law Degree from University of Oregon School of Law.

Please list your current and previous occupations.

I have worked on community-based solutions regarding everything from access to justice, to natural resource management, and rural development.

I’ve invested many years throughout my career as an attorney, working on access to justice initiatives that balance the needs of attorneys, courts, and the public.As a Law Clerk for the Montana Supreme Court, I reviewed filings and participated in Clerk organized events.As Administrator of the Supreme Court’s Self Help Law Centers, I worked with clerks, judges, attorneys, and litigants statewide. Pro se individuals present a significant time commitment for the Supreme Court Clerk and courts across the State. When handled well, the court is more efficient, cases proceed in a more timely way, and the public has support in accessing the legal resources they need.As Equal Justice Coordinator for the Montana State Bar, I worked with attorneys to find creative ways to fill justice gaps. I’ve seen the administration from all sides and look forward to having the opportunity to protect judicial integrity and improve the court process and access for all.

I have also managed mid to large scale non profit organizations. Managed budgets, supervised staff, and developed strategic programming.

What motivated you to seek the office of Clerk of the Supreme Court?

Clerks of court are the first line of support for Montanans seeking justice.

The Clerk of the Supreme Court is an incredibly important position and should be done ethically and impartially. I am an attorney, I have worked for the Montana Supreme Court, and have collaborated with judges, clerks, courts, attorneys, and legal associations across the state improving court efficiencies that also serve people.

What experience do you have in filing, storing or managing court records?  

As an attorney and court staff, I have observed and experienced filing procedures at the district courts, the State Supreme Court, and federal courts.

I understand that filing processes vary by jurisdiction and I have worked to develop a shared understanding of different approaches and advance uniformity where possible. I know that in order to be fair and effective, the Clerk of the Supreme Court needs to be available, knowledgeable, and solution oriented.

What role does partisanship play in the office of Clerk of the Supreme Court? 

While partisan, the Clerk of the Supreme Court has always been independent that protects the court and the people.

Partisanship should end on Election Day. The Clerk is expected to comply with an ethical code that expects impartiality and fairness. Inserting partisanship, prejudice, or an individual political agenda is inappropriate and threatens the integrity of the judiciary.

Do you think there are ways the office of Clerk of the Supreme Court can improve?

Yes. I think the Clerk can be more available to the people. I think the Clerk can actively support office staff. The online case information can be improved and relationships with district courts, court administration, and the State Bar of Montana can be enhanced. The rampant partisanship occurring in the office must come to an end.

What role should the Clerk play in the operations of the Montana Supreme Court?

It’s the job of the Clerk to ensure that cases are presented to the Supreme Court according to the rules and in a manner so that the Court can carry out a fair and objective review according to the law. The Clerk should take precautious to always maintain impartiality, objectivity, and protect the integrity of the Judiciary for all Montanans.


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