Criminal Defense is Not About Politics; It’s About Justice

by Tim Baldwin

I recently joined the notable criminal defense law firm of Quatman & Quatman, PC in Whitefish, Montana. This is a tremendous and unique association of attorneys. Let me briefly explain why.

Jack and Phyllis Quatman are very experienced criminal trial attorneys who are former prosecutors from California. Both of them have hundreds of jury trials under their belts, including capital offenses. They moved to Whitefish, Montana almost 20 years ago. When they moved to Flathead County, they noticed concerning things in the judicial system. In short, they saw corruption or at least a system that did not promote the equality of justice in the County: judges were controlling which attorneys would be appointed as public defenders; the then-public defenders were not going to trial and filing defense motions for their clients; the County Attorney was using his power to interfere with attorney-client relationship; etc.

So, Jack and Phyllis Quatman challenged the system, the “good ol’ boy” network. Naturally, they made enemies. But they kept fighting for justice and attempting to correct the system. Eventually, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) got involved and filed a lawsuit, which resulted in substantial changes to the way the public defender system worked in Montana. Now, instead of the judges controlling which attorneys are public defenders, there is a completely independent system, the Office of Public Defender; and it is that office that assigns attorneys to defend those who cannot afford an attorney. Were it not for the efforts of the Quatmans, perhaps the judges would still control which attorneys represent those who cannot afford an attorney—and those attorneys would be those who stay in the good graces of the judges.

Here we are fifteen years later, and I find myself engaged in the same kind of battles. For example, I represented the Defendant in the cases of State v. Cory Franklin, DC-2013-465 and DC-2014-128. In those cases, I learned of evidence that Deputy County Attorney, Kenneth R. Park was intentionally interfering with my client and his family. Mr. Park and Officer McKeag Johns had threatened my client’s wife, that if my client does not fire Tim Baldwin, well, it will not be good for my client. The ethical and lawful violations were outrageous. So, I did what any good defense attorney would do: I filed defense motions in response to this egregious prosecutorial misconduct. Particularly, I moved the Court to recuse Mr. Park as prosecutor in the case; I moved for sanctions against Mr. Park and Flathead County Attorney, Ed Corrigan; I moved to compel the depositions of Kenneth Park, Ed Corrigan, Sheriff Chuck Curry, and Officer McKeag Johns. After I pushed to defend the rights of my client, guess what the result was. You guessed it: the Flathead County Attorney dismissed my client’s cases.

While I was engaged in these legal battles, I came to know Phyllis and Jack Quatman on a professional and personal level. I learned that their experiences were similar to mine. I learned that we share the same passion for bringing justice to our client’s matters. I learned that we share the same philosophy of vigorously defending our clients, upholding the Constitution (state and federal), and making sure that due process is strictly adhered to by prosecutors and judges alike.

So, we decided to join forces, and it was like we were bringing two sides of history into the same office to ensure that we grow our criminal defense philosophy. And along with this unique association comes the “contradiction” that some people cannot quite understand. That is, the Quatmans are deemed “liberal Democrats” and I am deemed a “conservative Republican,” so called. When people around town learn of our new association, they seem surprised, and here is our response:

Criminal defense is not about politics; it’s about justice. The Quatmans and Tim Baldwin share the same zeal for justice and vigor for defending our clients. We are not in the good ol’ boy system. We are in the protect-the-Constitution system. For that reason, we make a great team, regardless of political views.

I am happy to be an associate of the Quatman and Quatman, PC law firm. If you have a criminal matter for which you need representation, contact us and we will get back to you.

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