Commissioners Approve Magistrate for Felony Treatment Court

Ryan W. McGrath (Image courtesy of Horning, Horning & McGrath, LLC Website/Used with Permission)
Ryan W. McGrath (Image courtesy of Horning, Horning & McGrath, LLC Website/Used with Permission)

The Campbell County Commissioners approved a request Tuesday from Sixth Judicial District Circuit Court Judges Wendy M. Bartlett and Paul S. Phillips to have Ryan W. McGrath serve as a part-time circuit court magistrate.

McGrath will serve as the magistrate for the Felony Treatment Court (what was formerly known as the Adult Drug Court). The Adult Drug Court program was split into two tracks – the Felony Treatment Court and DWI Treatment Court – a number of years ago.

McGrath will replace Judge Phillips in the program, who has held the roll as Felony Treatment Court Judge and prior to his ascension to the judiciary, as Drug Court Magistrate, for 10 years.

Commissioners Rusty Bell, Bob Maul, and Del Shelstad (top, from left) with Drug Court Program Coordinator Chad Beeman and Judge Paul S. Phillips. (Commissioner Colleen Faber in attendance, but not pictured). (Image courtesy of Gillette Public Access)
Commissioners Rusty Bell, Bob Maul, and Del Shelstad (top, from left) with Drug Court Program Coordinator Chad Beeman and Judge Paul S. Phillips. (Commissioner Colleen Faber in attendance, but not pictured). (Image courtesy of Gillette Public Access)

Treatment Court Program Coordinator Chad Beeman, who attended the meeting with Judge Phillips, said, “We could not be happier with the service that Judge Phillips gave to the program. Ten years in a program is an incredible commitment and Judge Phillips maintained that commitment as both an attorney in private practice and when he became a circuit court judge.”

Commissioner Rusty Bell commented that McGrath will have big shoes to fill.

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McGrath is an attorney at the Gillette law firm of Horning, Horning & McGrath, LLC. He received his J.D. from the University of South Dakota School of Law and moved with his wife to Gillette in 2008. McGrath was born and raised in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Adult Treatment Courts

The Adult Treatment Courts are designed to provide an alternative sentencing option for substance abuse offenders. Depending on circumstances, offenders can select, with judicial approval, the treatment court tracks as an alternative to incarceration.

Felony Treatment Court participants are required to maintain full-time employment (or be in school full time), make $225 monthly payments to the program ($2,700 program minimum) and attend drug court sessions every Tuesday. They are also required to obtain a high school equivalency degree if they have not already done so.

Depending upon which phase of the program participants are in, they may also be required to consent to electronic/GPS monitoring, random alcohol and drug tests, home visits, contact with only program-approved visitors, outside recovery group participation and participate in other classes (e.g. nutrition, financial management and parenting classes).

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According to Beeman, the Felony Treatment Court program currently has a success rate over 90%. That success rate tracks program participants for three years after completing the program. In order to be considered a success, participants can have no arrests in that period (arrests are not limited to strictly substance abuse).

To date, the total treatment court program has graduated 201 participants. There are currently 26 total participants between the Felony Treatment Court and DWI Treatment Court.

The role of magistrates

Under Wyoming law, circuit court judges may submit names to the local Board of County Commissioners requesting the appointment of magistrates to assist the judge(s). In counties that do not have a circuit court judge in residence, full-time magistrates may be appointed. In counties where circuit court judges do reside, part-time magistrates are allowed.

Wyoming law does allow for lay magistrates, who are not required to be trained in the law, but limits the work they can do. It is preferred to have magistrates who are trained in the law. As the positions are part-time, magistrates are allowed to continue practice as a private attorney. Law-trained magistrates may perform the same duties as a circuit court judge.