Judge Hileman Remembers As A Dedicated Professional
For those who only met Whitefish Municipal Court Judge William Hileman in the last years of his life, they likely did so in a state of distress, while hastily trying to clear up a speeding ticket or misdemeanor ticket, and therefore paid little attention to the man in the black robe.
Every now and then, however, they would have discerned a twinkle in his eyes or the sparkle of a smile as he sent them on their way with a heartfelt “good luck to you.”
“He really wanted everyone to be successful,” Dan Hileman said of his older brother William “Bill” Eugene Hileman, who died suddenly on October 18 after a tragic fall. He was 69 years old.
A graduate of Flathead High School and a longtime lawyer with a private practice in Whitefish, Bill Hileman spent the last four years of his career in public service, imposing fines as a municipal court judge, an elected post he he assumed in 2017, much to the surprise of his friends and family.
âWhen Bill told me he was introducing himself, I have to say I was, like many who knew him, very surprised,â Dan said. âBut he loved every second. I don’t think this happens by accident. There was something inside Bill that made him want to be a municipal judge. He was done practicing law, but he didn’t want to just stay home and watch soap operas. And it was an opportunity to continue to help the community.
Although largely ignored by forensic theorists, city courts are essential to the U.S. criminal justice system and are essential to a city’s ability to police, maintain public safety, and increase revenues. The workload is not only immense, it can be tedious and repetitive, as well as ungrateful.
Justice Hileman didn’t care, seeing it as an opportunity to have some influence on the daily lives of his fellow Whitefish.
“‘Overqualified’ is a good way to describe the advice Bill received from some of his peers and colleagues before his decision to run for municipal judge,” said Terry Trieweiler, who before serving on the Montana Supreme Court for a dozen years old, shared a practice with Hileman. âOne interesting thing that sets Bill apart from other lawyers is that when he graduated from law school, he got into business practice. He focused almost exclusively on transactional law. But unlike many people who are entering these fields, he never lost his enthusiasm for the principles of law. He was very intelligent, first or second in his class, but he also had great respect for the profession. But rather than seeing that reverence reduced over time, he always kept his idealism. So for him, it was an opportunity to satisfy these interests in the fundamental principles of law that he did not necessarily have the time to realize when developing his practice. He was so excited about it. It was as if he was going back to law school.
At the time of his death, Justice Hileman was running unopposed for a second four-year term, his name appearing alone on the mail-in ballots that circulated to voters ahead of the Nov. 2 election.
Because the city currently relies on the support of judges sitting in neighboring jurisdictions to carry out the day-to-day responsibilities of the city court judge, Whitefish City manager Dana Smith said city council was moving forward with the process of appointment of Hileman’s successor. The city has started posting advertisements for the appointed post, with applications due on November 10. Whitefish City Council will then appoint the acting position until December 31, 2023.
By law in Montana, the office of municipal judge must be elected in a city’s general election, which is held in odd-numbered years. As a result, Smith said she plans to hold an election in November 2023 with a four-year term starting January 1, 2024.
“Whitefish Municipal Court Judge Hileman will be remembered as a respected member of the Whitefish community and for his dedication to public service,” Smith wrote in a statement. âHe served with integrity and determination, but also shared his joy at the fun facts, humor and photography with his team and colleagues. The Town of Whitefish extends its sincere condolences to family, friends and colleagues. “
Hileman is survived by his wife, Susan Lacosta, and their twin daughters Hayley and Holly, whose arrival sparked a transformative change for the lawyer who valued work as much as he played.
âHayley and Holly were everything to him,â said Dan Hileman. âThe day these girls were born was the day the real Bill Hileman appeared. And I was very proud of him when I saw this transformation from a young professional and a town man to a father and father. They were his life.
Born in Conrad on May 24, 1952, he moved to Kalispell as a young boy and went on to graduate from Flathead High School. He attended the University of Montana at Missoula, where he completed his JD at the University of Montana Law School.
According to the obituary provided by his family, Hileman was a dedicated high school, college and law school musician, playing drums and singing in a band called Oaken Lyon. After moving to Whitefish, he and his friends formed a different group called the “Average Brothers Band”.
Five years his junior, Dan Hileman often followed in his brother’s footsteps in his youth, attending law school on Bill’s heels. He recalls being surprised when he arrived in Missoula for undergraduate studies to find his older brother leading a lifestyle more befitting a rock and roll icon than a budding lawyer.
âMy brother was very smart, and I say this knowing it will sound biased, but it’s true. He was very bright and he always got good grades, and more than that he had an understanding of a legal issue from start to finish, âDan said. âBut when I got to Missoula, these guys were definitely tipping the scales on the fun dial. I saw him having so much fun that I thought, âBoy, law school is really the way to go. “
After graduating from law school and starting his own practice in Flathead Valley, Dan recalls joining Bill in a civil case they filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, a federal jurisdiction that was brand new territory. for the younger brother. When the Hileman brothers arrived for the initial hearing, they appeared before a notoriously harsh judge and found themselves overwhelmed by the defense team.
“Bill assured me he was going to show me the ropes of federal court, but when we walked into the courtroom there was this cranky judge and eight defense attorneys, and I had no idea of ââwhat I was doing, âDan said. “But Bill just winked at me, and before he can even start speaking, the judge starts to wipe us out.” He talks about the gaps in our advocacy and all these other issues and what we have to say for ourselves. So Bill, very calmly, said, âMy brother Dan is going to handle that part of the argument. And he sat down again. I just had my head cut off.
âPeople talk about my brother like he has a halo above his head, but the perspective of a little brother is slightly different,â Dan said. âHe liked to pull tricks on people. But he had such a big heart, it made everyone love him.