The Art of Advocacy
Montana’s Natasha Prinzing Jones brings compassion and tenacity to civil litigation defense
Published in 2012 Mountain States Rising Stars magazine
By Betsy Graca on June 18, 2012
Natasha Prinzing Jones of Boone Karlberg credits her colleagues and mentors for the success of her legal career, which involved getting real trial experience right away. “I was given opportunities that new attorneys didn’t receive until they were five years into their practice,” she says, “and I was doing these things when I was a first-year associate. I was very lucky to have that type of mentoring.”
She tried her very first case with partner Randy Cox, who allowed Jones, then a first-year associate, to take depositions and cross-examine one of the plaintiffs in a case involving a chlorine gas spill in Alberton, Mont.
“Being in trial is very intimidating. But it’s also addictive. It is thrilling. … If you can get beyond the fear of it, the thrill of it becomes something that you want to seek out again,” Jones says. “Having those early opportunities allowed me to gain confidence at an early stage, to give me the feeling that I could do this work and succeed at it, and pursue it. Then that just builds on every case that I had after that.”
Jones is one of those attorneys who never thought of a career in anything but the law. “I was always interested in being a lawyer,” says Jones. “The art of advocacy and the presentation and the trial work is what drew me to the law.”
Her interest started in middle school. “We had a debate and we were called upon to argue both sides of the Brady Bill,” she says. “I remember at that point, where I felt like I could effectively argue either side of that debate, thinking that this is what I wanted to do.”
Today, Jones practices civil litigation defense, employment law and other complex matters. “The idea of being wrongly blamed, or wrongly sued, or unfairly sued, is a concept that just strikes a chord in me, philosophically,” Jones says of her defense work. “And so that is an area that I’m drawn to, to try to rectify some of those situations where someone may be trying to improperly lay blame at or on the wrong person or entity.”
In one of her more recent cases, Jones, along with firm partner Bill Crowley, represented the city of Missoula in an excessive force case. A young man had been arrested for driving under the influence, and while he was held in the detention center, he resisted a police officer—the physical struggle caused both men to fall to the floor, resulting in a skull fracture for the plaintiff.
The man sued, claiming he suffered permanent brain damage, but during the discovery process, he died while in the bathtub—either by suicide or seizure. (He had engaged in the use of drugs and alcohol, and had not taken his antiseziure medication.) His family continued the case; Jones and Cox represented the city. A five-day trial resulted in a defense verdict.
“It was certainly very sad for the family of that young man, but it was his choices and his lifestyle that led to his injuries, which ultimately caused his death,” says Jones. “The law enforcement officer in that case was Andy Roy; he was an excellent law enforcement officer with a good history and the jury agreed that he didn’t do anything wrong to cause this young man’s injuries. Protecting that law enforcement officer’s practices and his history was very rewarding.”
Jones has stepped away from the firm briefly on rare occasions—once to follow Boone Karlberg partner Sam Haddon to be his clerk when was appointed to the federal bench, and also when she cut back her hours to start a family (she has two boys, ages 7 and 10). But she always returns.
“I think at bigger firms you can get lost in the shuffle,” she says. “Here, we have a very tight group of lawyers who work very well together, from top to bottom.”
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