A longtime military man, legislator and attorney said one thing takes him to the forefront of the run for state attorney general — experience.
“I don’t have a bad word to say about any of my opponents, but I have the experience, and I think experience counts, and I’m here to enforce (the law) fairly and impartially, period, ” state Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, said in an interview Monday.
Shockley is the only Republican so far who has declared his intent to file as a candidate for state attorney general.
Democrats Pam Bucy and Jesse Laslovich have said they will file for the Democratic nomination. Shockley said the job of state attorney general, while complicated in details, is simple — to enforce the law, regardless of what it is.
“The biggest role of the attorney general is enforcing the law whether he likes it or not …, ” Shockley said. “The law is the law. Whatever the law is, he’s obligated to defend it. It’s his job. ”
That can take many forms, he added, including representing the government in court, offering protections to consumers, handling all appeals from the state courts, offering assistance to county attorneys, handling complex regulations on issues such as Medicare and environmental and recreational law, as well as serving on the state land board.
He said his experience makes him the best-qualified candidate to handle those varied duties.
Shockley joined the U. S. Marine Corps when he was 18, and served in Vietnam, where he was wounded in combat.
He returned to Montana, where he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana in Missoula, then re-enlisted and entered Officer’s Candidate School. After serving as an infantry officer, the Corps sent him back to UM to study at the law school there.
He retired as a major after 25 years in the Corps.
“I was glad to come home, ” Shockley said.
He started a practice in Victor, where he has worked for years, and while his wife, Marilee, worked as the town’s only certified public accountant.
Shockley was elected to the state Legislature in 1998, and he served three two-year terms as a state representative, and now is finishing his second term as a state senator.
Shockley said that he has prosecuted and defended all levels of criminal cases, up to and including murder, rape and armed robbery. In his private practice he also contracted as a public defender and has had a long career handling a variety of civil issues — “What a small town practitioner provides, ” he said.
He said he has no major changes he wants to make in the attorney general’s office, but there are some issues on which he would focus from the start, including prosecuting any misdeeds by law enforcement and corrections officers.
“When I see crime in the criminal justice system, I’m going to get involved, ” he said.
Another is making sure the state system to track sex offenders is kept current and accurate. Shockley said that now, some 25 percent of the people required to register have gone out of the system, with their current address unknown.
“I don’t know what the problem is, but I would look into solving it, ” he said.
He said he also is a strong supporter of stricter drunken driving laws, including one he passed last session allowing officers to apply for a warrant to obtain breath or blood samples from people suspected of driving under the influence, and the requirement for twice-daily alcohol tests for people convicted of two or more DUI’s, requested by current Attorney General Steve Bullock, now running as a Democrat for governor.
Shockley resigned as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was hearing drunken driving legislation at the time, after he was cited for an open container violation while driving home from Helena. He said at the time he resigned that it was a case of bad judgment, and although it was not even a misdemeanor offense and he tested below the level for drunken driving, resigning was the appropriate action.
Shockley said Monday that another issue he would focus on is providing help to county attorneys, whether it is helping them with major cases — many Montana county attorneys have little experience on issues like murder — or with complex issues like Medicare fraud.
He said he also would work as a member of the land board to do more to create revenue for the state, adding that he would have voted in favor of developing the Otter Creek coal resources. The lease of the coal was approved despite Bullock and Montana Superintendent of Schools Denise Juneau voting against it, with Bullock citing a price reduction in the lease as the reason for his vote.
“I would have voted for Otter Creek …, ” Shockley said. “I think it would be a good thing for the state and a good thing for the United States. ”
Attorney general candidate Jim Shockley
• U. S. Marine Corps, 1965-1966, 1969-1988, retired as a major
• Earned Bachelor of Arts, University of Montana, 1969; Juris Doctorate, UM, 1976
• Private practice lawyer in Victor since 1989
• Elected Montana House of Representatives, 1998, 2000, 2002
• Elected Montana Senate, 2004, 2008
• Committee assignments 2011 Legislature: Ethics; Fish and Game; Judiciary, vice chair; Rules; State Administration, chair