Attorneys and Staff - Montana Legal Services Association (2022)

Abby Birdhat, Intake Specialist

Abby's primary work experience is in sales and retail. During her time as a student she volunteered for the Crow Allottees Association, a Montana non-profit corporation. The opportunity to contribute her time to an important cause regarding the land rights of Indigenous people was gratifying and very enlightening. Her desire to serve others became greater due to that experience as a volunteer, so she is grateful to be a apart of an organization like MLSA that is devoted to helping others. Abby joined our team in 2022 and received her education from Little Big Horn College. She enjoys hiking, yoga, and any activity that helps keep her balanced spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Alex Clark, Community Outreach Assistant

Alex Clark began his current position at MLSA in 2016 after spending two years at MLSA as a Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps Member. He graduated from the University of Montana with a B.A. in History and Philosophy. In his free time, Alex enjoys spending time outdoors where he has the space, time, and solitude to contemplate the great mysteries of life and humanity’s place in the world.

Alexandra House, Domestic Violence Attorney

Alexandra House joined MLSA as a Domestic Violence Attorney in 2020. She received her J.D. from Tulane University School of Law where she also received a certificate in International and Comparative Law. While at Tulane, Alexandra worked with the Criminal Justice Clinic where she advocated for clients at various stages of the justice system. She also interned with the Innocence Project, the Bozeman Office of the Public Defender, and Hogan Lovells in Paris. She received her undergraduate degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In her free time she enjoys riding ATV's or cross-country skiing, depending on the season.

Amy Hall, Senior Attorney, Housing Law

Amy Hall is MLSA's housing specialist and works on MLSA’s Agricultural Workers project. She also has experience representing domestic violence survivors. She received her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. Before coming to MLSA, Ms. Hall worked at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc., primarily in housing and farmworker law. Ms. Hall was recognized by the Montana Justice Foundation as one of its 2014 Champions of Justice, awarded for her extraordinary efforts on behalf of equal justice.

Anna Chithelen, Legal Assistant

Anna Chithelen started at MLSA in 2016 as a Legal Assistant and works with Attorney Beth Hayes in MLSA’s Consumer Law practice group. Prior to working at MLSA, Anna served at the Self-Help Law Center in Billings as an AmeriCorps in the Justice for Montanans program. Anna grew up in New York.

Ashley Bauer, Advocacy Assistant

Ashley received her bachelor's in Sociology from Carroll College. She has a background working with children and families in Montana and held roles working with AWARE, Inc, as well as training and supporting foster families for Child and Family Services. Ashley's personal interests include playing board games, video games, and reading.

Barbara Harris, Attorney, Victim Legal Assistance Network (VLAN)

Barbara Harris started at MLSA in March 2019 to assist elder Montanans with their civil legal issues. She has over 35 years of experience as an attorney, including many years working statewide as a prosecutor. While Barb uses the technology that is a part of our lives, she gains perspective and solace from being outside. She enjoys hiking, biking, and skiing.

Ben Gellman, Montana Eviction Intervention Program (MEIP) Intake Specialist

Ben Gellman graduated from Colorado College May 2022 with a B.A. in History. Throughout college he had internships with the Colorado Springs Public Defender's Office and the Public Information and Communications Section of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Ben loves to run, listen to podcasts, and read.

Beth Hayes, Attorney, Montana Consumer Protect Project

Beth Hayes received her J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 2009. Ms. Hayes has previously worked with the Foreclosure Assistance Program, as a Triage Staff Attorney, and as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellow at MLSA. She also currently serves as the Vice President of the Western Montana Bar Association, and plays trumpet in the Missoula City Band and Missoula Community Concert Band.

Brent Getty, Montana Health Justice Partnership Attorney

Brent Getty joined MLSA in the fall of 2021 after a 14 year career with the Montana Office of the Public Defender, including 9 years as a public defender in the Kalispell office and 5 years as the Deputy Training Coordinator. He also has experience as an appellate lawyer, an insurance regulator, and a professional fundraiser. Brent obtained a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas. He lives in Missoula with his wife, their two dogs, and two cats.

(Video) Episode 92 of Montana Shares on HCTV. Montana Legal Services Association.

Bridgitt Erickson, Public Benefits Attorney

Bridgitt Erickson graduated from Creighton University Law School in Omaha and then served as an assistant state prosecutor in Omaha before being appointed Platte County Attorney in Nebraska. Bridgitt continued in government practice with Montana state agencies until 2014 when she was named to the Federal Register of Administrative Law Judges and narrowed her practice to administrative law. Bridgitt serves as MLSA’s Public Benefits attorney focusing on social security, disability, and Medicaid/Medicare issues.

Brittney Mada joined MLSA in 2021 as a Crime Victim Attorney. She had previously worked at MLSA as a Equal Justice Works Victims Justice Corps Legal Intern in 2019. She also has experience working with non-profits throughout Montana, including the Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force, CASA of Yellowstone and Missoula County, the Community Dispute Resolution Center of Missoula, SAFE Harbor, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gallatin County, and VISIONS Service Adventures. She earned her JD from the Alexander Blewett III School of Law with a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution and a Pro Bono Honors designation. Mrs. Mada is an insatiable reader, novice seamstress, experimental home chef, hobbyist fitness buff, drone pilot, and small business owner. She is also admitted in the Fort Peck and Northern Cheyenne Tribal Courts.

Cecelia Yager, Payroll Accounting Technician

Cecelia Yager joined MLSA in 2020. She earned her Business/Accounting associates degree from Helena College of Technology in 2014. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and her 2 chiweenies, Frank and May.

Daniel Webster, Law Clerk/Housing Attorney

Daniel Webster joined MLSA in 2022 after receiving his J.D. and certificate in American Indian Law from University of Montana School of Law. Daniel was a Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic student. Daniel also has a B.A. in Psychology from University of Montana. During law school, from 2020-2021, Daniel served as a Housing Justice intern with MLSA and he worked at MLSA as a Consumer Law Intern. Prior to going to law school, Daniel worked as a case manager for adults with disabling mental illnesses. Additionally, he worked 7 seasons at the U.S. Forest Service in Libby and Kalispell on the timber crew, occasionally working on wildfires. Daniel loves playing and watching basketball and he enjoys spending time with friends and his dog, Beau, in Montana's beautiful outdoors, preferably near water.

Diana E. Garrett, Senior Attorney, Domestic Violence Law, Law Clinic Supervisor

Diana Garrett is a Senior Attorney with MLSA’s Domestic Violence Practice Group and she also supervises a clinical program for the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana. Diana received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and received her J.D. in 2002 from the University of Montana School of Law (now the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana). Diana is based in MLSA’s Missoula office and serves on the Montana Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, the Planet Kids Supervised Visitation Center Advisory Council, the Legal Issues Committee of the Ravalli County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the JUST RESPONSE (Missoula Justice System Coordinated Team Response to Intimate Partner Violence).

Ed Higgins, Senior Attorney

Ed Higgins received his J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 2000. After earning his law degree, he served as Judicial Staff Attorney to the Honorable John W. Larson. Mr. Higgins has been with MLSA since 2001 and has previously served as a Managing Attorney and Staff Attorney.Mr. Higgins serves as a member of the Board of Directors at the Community Dispute Resolution Center of Missoula. Additionally, he is the Vice Chair of the Western Montana Bar Association Pro Bono Committee, a member of the Missoula County Foster Care Review Board, and a member of the Montana Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission's Committee on Self Represented Litigants. Mr. Higgins also sits on an advisory committee for the Missoula Housing Authority’s Housing Self Sufficiency programs.In 2016, Mr. Higgins received the George L. Bousliman Professionalism Award from the Montana State Bar. The Bousliman award recognizes lawyers who have established a reputation for professionalism and have demonstrated extraordinary professionalism by contributing time and resources to public service, public education, charitable or pro bono activities, and encouraging respect for the law and our legal system by making the legal system more accessible and responsive.

Edna McPherson, Farmworker Legal Assistant

Edna joined MLSA in 2022 newly experiencing the legal profession. She has a degree in Veterinary Medicine from the National University of Colombia and a Masters in Education from the University of Providence. Edna also majored in Biology and minored in Spanish from the University of Providence and Carroll College. She worked as a veterinarian for 20 years and spent 12 years in education as a Spanish and animal science teacher, math and reading tutor, Spanish tutor and interpreter. Edna enjoys traveling, languages, hiking, swimming, reading, the ocean, zip lining, snorkeling, matcha tea, learning about different cultures, and animals.

Elizabeth Finn, Montana Eviction Intervention Program Navigator

After serving with MLSA's Justice for Montanans project for two years, Elizabeth returns to MLSA in 2022 as a full-time employee. Elizabeth received her Bachelor's in History from the University of Montana and she enjoys photography, trying new foods, and being outside.

Ellie Webster, Pro Bono Coordinator

Ellie joined MLSA in 2020 as the Crime Victim Navigator and currently serves as MLSA's Pro Bono Coordinator. She graduated from the University of Montana in 2015 with BA in Political Science. Since then, she has worked for the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and the Helena Tourism Alliance. In her free time, she enjoys floating Montana Rivers and hiking.

(Video) Episode 47 of Montana Shares on HCTV. Montana Legal Services Association

Emily McLean, Montana Eviction Intervention Program Navigator

Emily McLean started her MLSA journey as an intern and now serves as a Montana Eviction Intervention Program's (MEIP) Case Navigator. Emily recently graduated from Carroll College with a B.A. in Sociology and a B.A. in Spanish. She loves to knit, hike, and ski in her spare time.

Emily Obermiller, DV Attorney

Emily Obermiller joined MLSA in 2021. Before starting law school, she was an AmeriCorps member at Northwest Justice Project in rural Washington state. In law school, she interned with Alaska Legal Services in Anchorage, AK and WildEarth Guardians in Missoula, MT. After graduating law school, she served as a judicial law clerk and court facilitator in Colville Tribal Court in Nespelem, WA. After clerking, she joined the Ada County Public Defenders in Boise, ID. In her free time, she enjoys climbing, backcountry skiing, fly fishing, mountain biking, and playing frisbee with her dog.

Emma O'Neil, Development Associate

Emma O’Neil joined MLSA as a Development Associate in 2015. She graduated from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR with a B.A. in History and has previously worked at the Lewis and Clark Library. A Helena native, Emma enjoys spending time outdoors and traveling.

Emma Whitehead, Legal Assistant

Emma Whitehead joined MLSA in March 2020 as an intake specialist, and became a Legal Assistant in 2021. She earned a B.A in International Political Economy from the University of Puget Sound. Prior to joining Montana Legal Services, Emma served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Area IV Agency on Aging. Emma grew up in Washington, DC and enjoys dragon boating, traveling, and baking.

Formerly a Domestic Violence staff attorney for MLSA from 2004-2006, Ethan Lerman returned to MLSA in February 2022 as the Agricultural Farm Worker & Housing Attorney. His past experience includes: Office of the State Public Defender for the State of Montana, Staff Attorney, 2006-2010, Attorney & Owner, Lerman Law Firm, PLLC, 2010-2018, and Missoula Municipal Court Judge, 2018-2021. Ethan graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton NY with a BA Government and received his JD from Tulane University Law School in New Orleans. His personal interests include downhill skiing, running & hiking.

Gillian Ellison, Rurual Incubator Project Coordinator (RIPL) / Intake Specialist

Gillian Ellison joined MLSA in 2020 as a Legal Assistant for the Domestic Violence Legal Practice Group. She is a graduate of the University of Nevada and received a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a focus on Environmental Justice in 2018. In her free time, Gillian spends her time rock climbing.

Gina Zobenica, Intake Specialist

Gina Zobenica first joined MLSA in 2017 in MLSA's Missoula office as a Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps member. After completing two terms, Gina rejoined MLSA in 2020 as an Intake Specialist. Gina has a BA in History with a Minor from the University of Montana and received her JD from the University of Montana School of Law in 2016. In her free time, Gina enjoys DIY projects, painting, and walks around town.

Harley Brown, Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps Coordinator

Harley Brown is the JFM AmeriCorps Coordinator for MLSA and she joined the team in March 2020. She received a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Western Washington University in 2014. She is a JFM AmeriCorps alumni and returned to MLSA after spending four years in program management at rural and urban domestic violence and sexual assault victim advocacy organizations in Washington state. In her spare time Harley enjoys knitting, sewing and camping.

Heather Olson, Domestic Violence Staff Attorney

Heather Olson joined MLSA in 2020. Before joining MLSA, she spent two summers providing free estate planning services to tribal communities during law school; her first summer she spend with the Blackfeet Nation in Montana and the second summer she spent with the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho. She was also a legal intern for the University of Idaho's Immigration Law Clinic where she helped provide free immigration assistance to low income individuals. She received her undergraduate degree from Montana State University in Anthropology and Sociology and received her JD from the University of Idaho College of Law with an emphasis in Native American Law. Heather is also admitted in the Chippewa Cree Tribal Court.

Jain Walsh, Attorney, Victim Legal Assistance Network (VLAN)

Jain received her J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 2011. Prior to joining MLSA in 2019, Jain operated her own family law practice in Missoula. Jain embraces the opportunity her position grants her to travel all over that great state of Montana. In her free time Jain enjoys music, fishing, travel, and DIY hands-on projects.

(Video) Legal Resources in Montana

Joy Barber, Domestic Violence Staff Attorney

Joy graduated with high honors from the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana, earning her J.D. and a certificate in American Indian Law. Joy also has an M.A. in English Studies from Western Washington University and a B.A. in English Writing from Pacific Lutheran University. Prior to joining MLSA, Joy clerked for the Hon. Mike McGrath, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court. She was awarded for her work in the Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic during law school and also served as a research assistant for the Rural Justice Initiative, investigating pretrial release and detention procedures. Joy previously served with MLSA as a Justice for Montanans (JFM) AmeriCorps at the Yellowstone County Self-Help Law Center. Before JFM inspired her to pursue a legal career, Joy taught college writing and completed a prior year of service in Seattle's Literacy AmeriCorps teaching ESOL and citizenship classes. Joy grew up in Anaconda and is a Montana history fan. She loves art and local symphony and theater performances. She is a lifelong runner and is forever chasing the writer's dream--meaning she always wishes she spent more of her free time writing fiction and lyric essays.

Kathryn Seaton, Attorney, Tribal Law

Kathryn Seaton joined Montana Legal Services Association in 2016. She earned her B.A. in Sociology from Truman State University, graduating magna cum laude. In 2016, Ms. Seaton received her J.D. from the University of Iowa, graduating Order of the Coif. During law school she received the Katherine Finn Milleman Memorial Law Award, the Public Interest Law Award, and the Public Interest Law Foundation Grant to support her public interest work at the Montana Innocence Project and Iowa Legal Aid. In 2022, Ms. Seaton was awarded the Frank I. Haswell award for best contribution to the Montana Lawyer. Prior to becoming the Supervising Attorney for the Tribal Law Practice Group, Ms. Seaton worked as a domestic violence attorney in state and tribal court with MLSA, and as a legal intern at the Montana Supreme Court where she worked for Justice Beth Baker on Access to Justice Commission projects. Ms. Seaton’s additional bar memberships include Blackfeet Tribe, Chippewa Cree Tribe, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe, Crow Tribe, Fort Belknap Tribe, Fort Peck Tribe, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, United States District Court (Montana), United States Court of Appeals (Ninth), United States Supreme Court. Her favorite team is the Orlando Magic, and her favorite player is LaMelo Ball.

Kearan Burke, Legal Assistant

Kearan started at MLSA in August of 2019 as the Tribal Law Practice Group Legal Assistant in Helena after completing a year as a Justice For Montanans AmeriCorps member. She earned her BA in political economy from Williams College in 2018. Kearan is a Massachusetts native who loves Boston sports and enjoys hiking around Helena’s South Hills. Kearan is admitted in the Blackfeet Tribal Court.

Krista Partridge, Executive Assistant

Krista Partridge joined MLSA in 2012. She graduated from the University of Montana with a B.A. in Political Science. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and gardening.

Megan Dishong, Attorney, Providence St. Patrick Hospital Medical Legal Partnership

Megan Dishong joined MLSA in 2020 as the Medical Legal Partnership attorney in partnership with Providence St. Patrick's Hospital. Ms. Dishong graduated from the University of Montana School of Law in 2007 with high honors. She then served as a law clerk for the Honorable John Warner at the Montana Supreme Court and the Honorable Donald W. Molloy at the United States District Court for the District of Montana. Following her clerkships, Ms. Dishong spent several years as an associate attorney at Garlington, Lohn, and Robinson, and she then served almost six years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Montana. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Ms. Dishong was responsible for developing the affirmative civil enforcement program for enforcement of federal laws and regulations across a variety of programs in the state of Montana, primarily regulation of health care providers. In her spare time, Ms. Dishong enjoys spending time with her husband, children, and pets, as well as cross-country skiing, hiking, and reading. Megan is also admitted in Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Court.

Melissa Magnuson, Grants Manager

Melissa Magnuson first joined MLSA in 2016 as a Crime Victim Navigator. She then worked at the Friendship Center in Helena doing case management and advocacy with domestic violence survivors. Melissa now serves as MLSA's Grants Manager. She received her BA in Criminal Justice from Metropolitan State University in St Paul, MN in 2011. She is a Minnesota native and in her free time, Melissa enjoys camping with my family, hiking, and spending time outdoors exploring the beautiful state of Montana.

Michelle Weltman, Domestic Violence Attorney

Michelle Weltman joined MLSA in 2020. Before working at MLSA, she worked in Missouri and Illinois on issues of education, partner violence, and general civil rights. She received her JD and MSW from Washington University in St. Louis in 2009, and her BS in Business and Marketing from Washington University in St. Louis in 2001.

Monique Voigt, Staff Attorney

Monique is a staff attorney at MLSA. She joined the Billings office in June 2020 after having previously worked in the area of insurance defense and bad faith litigation of a little over twelve years. Monique graduated from the University of Montana School of Law in 2007 and joined the Montana Bar that year. She later took the Wyoming Bar and maintains her license to practice in both Montana and Wyoming. Monique has previously served as a Trustee for the Montana Bar Association and focuses her present work in the area of domestic violence. Monique is also admitted in Northern Cheyenne Tribal Court.

Rhonda Crouse, Administrative Assistant

Rhonda Crouse joined MLSA as an Administrative Assistant in May of 2022. Originally from Canada, Rhonda brings decades of experience to our team. She enjoys golf, crocheting, baking, cooking, and has a black belt in Taekwondo.

(Video) Strategic and Ethical Pro Bono

Sadie Michael, Eviction Prevention Compliance Specialist

Sadie Michael graduated from Rocky Mountain College with degrees in sociology and philosophy. She joined MLSA in 2019 as part of the domestic violence practice group, and transitioned to the Montana Eviction Intervention Program in 2022.

Shannon Fleetwood, Accounting Technician/Office Manager

Shannon Fleetwood joined MLSA as an Accounting Technician in 2007. She graduated from Idaho State University with a B.A. in Elementary Education. She loves spending time in the mountains, particularly during Montana summers.

Sheri Medow, Montana Eviction Intervention Program Administrative Assistant

Sheri joined MLSA in 2022 after her tenure with the State of Montana which included working with MT Disaster and Emergency Services, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Department of Transportation. She graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in Forest Resource Management and enjoys outdoor activities with family and friends.

Tammy Peterson, Administrative Assistant

Tammy Peterson joined MLSA in 2019 as an Administrative Assistant after retiring from the Montana Supreme Court as IT Manager. In her free time, she loves spending time with her grandchildren and hiking in the summer.

Tim Frederick, Network Administrator

Tim Frederick joined MLSA as an IT Support Technician in 2011. He has worked in a computer related field for over thirty years. In his free time, Tim is an avid outdoorsman.

Trevor Wright, Legal Assistant

Trevor joined MLSA as a Legal Assistant after previously serving as a Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps member from 2019-2020. He graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a BA in Political Science and Sociology. In his free time, he likes hiking and reading.

Vivian Smith, Crime Victim Navigator

Vivian Smith joined MLSA in 2021 and serves as the Crime Victim Navigator. Prior to MLSA, she worked with literacy programs and domestic violence hotlines. She graduated from Alverno College and received her Paralegal Certificate from the Center for Legal Studies. Vivian has written 7 novels and enjoys embroidery, reading, and learning the cello.

Wednesday Szollosi, Disaster and Housing Attorney

Wednesday Szollosi received her J.D. from the University of Toledo, College of Law in 2000. After earning her law degree, she spent five years in private practice assisting clients in the areas of guardianship, probate, mental health hearings, criminal defense and ERISA fringe benefits. Ms. Szollosi then served for thirteen years as an Assistant Attorney General in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office bringing civil enforcement cases on behalf of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. She has represented clients before administrative bodies, state and federal courts. Since 2021, Ms. Szollosi has served as a staff attorney with the Montana Legal Services Association with a focus on disaster and housing law. She holds licenses to practice in Ohio and Montana. Contributions to pro bono and legal services is a valued part of her work.

Yvonne Johnson, Program Assistant

Yvonne Johnson first joined MLSA as a Justice for Montanans AmeriCorps member in 2016 before joining MLSA permanently as a Program Assistant in 2017. She has a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a Minor in Political Science and B.S. in Criminal Justice Administration. She previously served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco from 2012-2014 and as an AmeriCorps Vista from 2014-2016. In her free time, she likes to cook and bake.

Videos

1. Pro Bono Bankruptcy
(Montana Courts)
2. Finding Justice in Montana (One Family's Story of Civil Legal Aid)
(MTLSA)
3. U.S. acting attorney for Montana sends letters of statutes to state law enforcement
(KTVH Helena)
4. How to Spot an Unethical Lawyer
(Rossen Law Firm)
5. Intro to Discharge Upgrades with Some Intermediate Discharge Practice | 2019 Veterans Law CLE
(Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana)
6. Montana Lawyers in Libraries, Presented by the Missoula Public Library
(Missoula Public Library)

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