JP candidates Molina, Bear Don’t Walk tout experience and commitment to public service

Thursday, November 1, 2018
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Karen Molina

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Ernie Bear Don’t Walk

Two people with decades-long connections to security and law enforcement are looking to make the jump to the judicial branch this November by running for Big Horn County justice of the peace. Justices of the peace preside over marriages and inquests, as well as cases involving misdemeanors, small civil disputes and more.

One candidate, Ernie Bear Don’t Walk, is the supervisor and director of a federal 638 security contract at the Indian Health Service facility on the Crow Reservation. The second, Karen Molina, works for the county district court on three different levels as court bailiff, process server and administrator for the 24/7 sobriety program.

Of the candidates, Molina garnered the most votes in the July 5 primary election with 926, followed by Bear Don’t Walk with

706. Incumbent Justice of the Peace Leroy Not Afraid garnered 614 votes and was knocked out of the race.

Molina has 36 years’ experience in the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office, 22 of which were spent as a deputy sheriff and nearly six as a bailiff. In addition, she was appointed to the position of undersheriff for about six months in 2010. She has served on the Hardin City Council since 2014.

During her time in the Sheriff’s Office, Molina said, she has been involved in “everything that goes on from the time the offense takes place to the time they get out of jail.”

“As deputy sheriff, I learned how to read and decipher the laws, and I know how to apply the laws. I know how to read the statutes,” she said. “Also, with the job I have now – plus, as a deputy sheriff – I know the process in the courtrooms. I’ve had to testify in them [and] I bailiff in them.”

As for Bear Don’t Walk, he has about two decades’ experience as a corrections officer, spending the majority of his time at the Minnesota Correction Facility-Stillwater in Bayport, Minnesota. The 1,600-bed facility, he noted, houses “some of the most violent offenders” in Minnesota. He retired from his corrections career in 2011 as a lieutenant in good standing.

In both his corrections and contract jobs, Bear Don’t Walk said, he’s been diligent in finishing paperwork while practicing a life philosophy of “Roman stoicism,” or moderation.

“I’ve always been a leader, in terms of the classical servant leadership, where leaders serve their people,” he said. “We did have a court system inside the prison that primarily dealt with offenses that occurred inside the facility. I sat through many hearings.

“Throughout my time at IHS, anytime there’s ever been a major incident, I always was placed in the incident command center because of my vast knowledge of the incident command system.”

Both Molina and Bear Don’t Walk noted that, if elected, they intend to serve as justice of the peace on a full-time basis. According to Molina, this would save the county money on the use of pro-tem – or temporary – judges and possibly help free up space in the county’s overcrowded jail.

“If they’re capable of coming up to me, getting arraigned and taking care of it that day,” she said. “I prefer doing that instead of letting them stay in jail overnight.”

Bear Don’t Walk and Molina also entered the race with the stated intentions of improving their community. On a personal level, Bear Don’t Walk said, he intends to advocate for the implementation of a drug court, which specializes in cases dealing with substance abuse.

Secondly, he intends to push for “restorative justice,” a form of arbitration that he explained often would take place prior to a court meeting.

“If I smash your mailbox and we go through the arbitration process, and it was determined that I’ll just fix your mailbox instead of going into [criminal court],” he said, “it will ease the load on the courts.”

While Big Horn County’s combined monthly budget for addictions treatment would barely cover the cost necessary for one person, Molina said, she intends to help people willing to do the necessary legwork.

“It’s been my experience, when they want to get sober, that’s when it works,” she said. “If they come up and say, ‘I’d like to get in a program’ – and they can find a program – I would work with them in lieu of a sentence.”

According to Molina, she hopes to become a judge who isn’t feared by those who arrive in court. Rather, she wants to earn the respect of those who appear for arraignment or trial, and guide them to “respect the system.”

“I’m just so used to being a public servant that I wanted to do something,” she said. “It’s my community. I was born and raised here, my daughter’s here, my family’s here; I just want to make a difference in the community.”

Her three promises to anyone in her courtroom are that she’ll work full-time, treat everyone equally (even if she didn’t like them in high school) and do the best job possible.

Bear Don’t Walk, when using his “analytical thought process” to make decisions, draws from the “sociological concept of a good society,” a hypothetical place he described as: “Where government provides excellent infrastructure for the populace to build [from]; and a good, clean environment that offers things for the populace to do.”

As a justice of the peace, he continued, he would take Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into account. This five-tier psychological chart states that, to reach selffulfillment, one must first meet his or her basic needs and psychological needs. Basic needs run the gamut from food and warmth to safety and security, while psychological needs span intimate relationships and friends to prestige and feelings of accomplishment.

“Before [people] can have some sort of self-realization and change,” he said, “they need to have those things provided or provide those things in their lives.”