Wendy Holton, Attorney at Law

Wendy Holton, Top-Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer

  • Overview
  • Biography
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Licenses
  • Organizations
  • Appointments
  • Honors & Awards
  • Speaking

Being accused of any crime is a stressful and potentially life changing event. For over three decades, I’ve worked in the criminal justice system with the goal of achieving the best outcome possible for each of my clients.

My practice is limited to criminal defense in state and federal court at both the trial and appellate level. I evaluate each case for possible defenses and, where necessary, work closely with investigators and other experts. I have tried more than 50 jury trials, including major felonies, in federal and state courts throughout Montana and have handled numerous appellate matters in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Montana Supreme Court.

Wendy received her J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 1984 and was a Prettyman Fellow at Georgetown University where she received her L.L.M. in Criminal Law in 1988. After completing a clerkship with the Honorable Gordon R. Bennett, she hung out her shingle in 1989. Her practice is limited to criminal defense in state and federal court at both the trial and appellate level. She has tried more than 50 jury trials, including major felonies, in federal and state courts throughout Montana and has litigated numerous appeals in the Montana Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where she has argued more than 30 times.

Wendy currently serves on the CJA Panel Selection Committee for Montana.   She served as President of the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers from 2010‑2011 and, by appointment of the Montana Supreme Court, on the Montana Criminal Jury Instructions Commission (1988‑2012), and the Montana Evidence Commission (2001‑2012). She served on the Montana Public Defender Commission from 2005‑2008, and the Public Defender Task Force (2015-2016).     She was a member of the Conference Executive Committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference from 2006‑2009, the Ninth Circuit Advisory Rules Committee from 2004‑2007, a lawyer representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference from 2003‑2006, and President of the Montana Chapter of the Federal Bar Association in 2004‑2005. She is a frequent presenter at continuing legal education programs.

Wendy is AV rated, and has been selected for inclusion in the Mountain States Super Lawyers since 2013. She was honored for service to CJA panel with the 2016 John Adams Award, by the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers with the Lawyer of the Year award in 2015, by the Montana Innocence Project with its 2013 Defender of Justice Award, and by the Montana Justice Foundation as a Champion of Justice in 2014.

Georgetown University Law Center, E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow – LLM, (Advocacy), 1988

University of Montana – JD, with Honors, 1984

Montana State University – BS (Accounting), with Highest Honors, 1979

Helena High School – Graduate 1975, 3.93 GPA

Private Law Practice – 1989 to present.

  • Practice focuses on criminal jury trials, appeals, and post-conviction proceedings in both the federal and state courts, and professional licensing issues before state administrative tribunals.
  • AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.
  • More than 50 jury trials as sole or lead counsel in federal and state courts throughout Montana, including major felonies.
  • Numerous appeals to the Montana Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals including more than 30 oral arguments.
  • Criminal Justice Act conflict panel.

Law Clerk – Hon. Gordon R. Bennett, First Judicial District, Lewis and Clark County, Helena, Montana, November 1986 – December 1988.

  • Researched and wrote numerous proposed opinions covering a wide variety of civil and criminal legal matters.

Advocacy Fellow – Prettyman Legal Internship Program, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., August 1984 – July 1986.

  • One of five fellows chosen nationally to serve in Georgetown's Criminal Justice Clinic. The first year consisted of intensive training in criminal law, procedure, evidence, and trial practice as well as practical experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney representing indigent defendants. The second year I supervised ten third-year law students including teaching a two-week orientation and subsequent weekly classes covering Maryland criminal law and procedure, directing moot court sessions, coordinating placement of students in three State Attorney's offices for fall semester, and supervising students defending indigent defendants during spring semester. I also handled my own caseload, coauthored a district court trial manual, and completed required course work.

Legal Intern – Missoula County Attorney's Office, Missoula, Montana, February 1983- May 1984.

  • Prosecuted misdemeanors (several jury trials), researched and wrote legal briefs/memoranda, and handled consumer, landlord/tenant, and wage/hour disputes.

Research Assistant – Montana Criminal Law Information Research Center, University of Montana Law School, Missoula, Montana, October 1982 – May 1984.

  • Researched and wrote legal memoranda for publicly paid members of Montana's criminal justice system.

Instructor of Accounting – Eastern Montana College, Billings, Montana, September 1981 – July 1982.

  • Taught accounting and business law during a one year sabbatical from law school. Proposed, received funding for, developed the curriculum for, and taught a new senior level class, Business Law for Accountants, that subsequently became a requirement in the accounting curriculum. Taught 48 credit hours in four quarters.

State Bar of Montana (1984)

United States District Court for the District of Montana (1987)

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (1990)

United States Supreme Court (1990)

Certified Public Accountant – Montana (inactive status)

State Bar of Montana

Federal Bar Association – President Montana Chapter, 2004 – 2005

Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – President, 2010 – 2011

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

National College for DUI Defense

Public Defender Task Force to study the operations of the Office of the State Public Defender, 2015 – 2016, appointed by Governor Steve Bullock

Ninth Circuit Attorney Admission Fund Advisory Committee, 2015 – present, appointed by Chief Ninth Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas

CJA Panel Selection Committee for the District of Montana, 2014 – present, appointed by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen

Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference – Conference Executive Committee, 2006 – 2009 Montana Public Defender Commission, 2005 – 2008, appointed by Governor Brian Schweitzer

Advisory Committee on Rules of Practice and Internal Operating Procedures for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2004 – 2007

Lawyer Representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, 2003 – 2006, appointed by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy

Montana Criminal Jury Instruction Commission, 1988 – 2012, appointed by the Montana Supreme Court

Montana Commission on Evidence, 2001 – 2012, appointed by the Montana Supreme Court

Substitute Justice of the Peace, Jefferson County, Montana, 2002 – present

John Adams Award (Service to the CJA panel) (2016)

Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year (2015)

Montana Justice Foundation – Champion of Justice (2014)

Montana Innocence Project – Defender of Justice Award (2013)

Martindale-Hubbell – AV Rating

Mountain States Super Lawyers (2013 – present)

National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Montana Lawyers

Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Federal Defenders of Montana, Annual Conference, March 2015 – DUIFSFSTHGN: Alphabet Soup – Defending the Drinking Driver

State Bar of Montana, June 2014 – New Lawyer Workshop

Montana State Public Defenders, October 2014 – Cross-Examination of the Expert in a DUI Case; Cross-Examination of the Cop in a DUI Case

U.S. Attorney’s Office/Montana Attorney General’s Office, 2014 Tribal Court Trial Advocacy Program, May 2014 – Evidence and Evidentiary Foundations

Montana State Public Defenders, October 2013 – Jury Instructions

Montana State Public Defenders, August 2012, Defending DUI Cases in Montana – Voir Dire

Montana Bar Association, May 2012, DUI Cases: From Stop to Appeal – The Defense Perspective

Montana Bar Association, October 2009 – Rookie Camp

Montana Judicial Institute, February 2008 – Anatomy of a Criminal Case

Montana State Public Defenders, July 2007 – The Art and Science of DUI Defense in Montana

Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, March 2007 – How to Keep Your State Court Client Out of Federal Court

Montana State Public Defenders, February 2007 – What State Defenders Need to Know About Federal Criminal Law

Montana Bar Association, September 2005 – Rookie Camp

Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice Twentieth Annual Seminar, February 2005 – Ethics

Montana Bar Association Annual Meeting, September 2004 – Moderator, Federal Sentencing Guidelines Panel

Montana County Attorney’s Association Summer Training Conference, July 2004 – Panel Discussion – Admissibility of the Preliminary Breath Test

Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice Nineteenth Annual Seminar, February 2004 – Ethics 101 for the DUI Practitioner

United States District Court, Montana Chapter Federal Bar Association, and the Federal Practice Section of the Montana State Bar, Federal Practice Program, September 2003 – Criminal Panel, Preparing and Conducting Criminal Litigation in Federal Court

State Bar of Montana CLE Institute, June 2002 – Capital Crimes Defense CLE, Appellate Practice, The Montana Perspective

State Bar of Montana CLE Institute, March 1997 – Criminal Defense CLE, Finding the Truth Through the Use of Pretrial Motions and Jury Instructions

Montana Law Enforcement Academy – Presentations on courtroom demeanor and moot court exercises for law enforcement officer trainees.

Law Day – Presentations at area high schools in recognition of Law Day

Being accused of any crime is a stressful and potentially life changing event. For over three decades, I’ve worked in the criminal justice system with the goal of achieving the best outcome possible for each of my clients.

My practice is limited to criminal defense in state and federal court at both the trial and appellate level. I evaluate each case for possible defenses and, where necessary, work closely with investigators and other experts. I have tried more than 50 jury trials, including major felonies, in federal and state courts throughout Montana and have handled numerous appellate matters in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Montana Supreme Court.

Wendy received her J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 1984 and was a Prettyman Fellow at Georgetown University where she received her L.L.M. in Criminal Law in 1988. After completing a clerkship with the Honorable Gordon R. Bennett, she hung out her shingle in 1989. Her practice is limited to criminal defense in state and federal court at both the trial and appellate level. She has tried more than 50 jury trials, including major felonies, in federal and state courts throughout Montana and has litigated numerous appeals in the Montana Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where she has argued more than 30 times.

Wendy currently serves on the CJA Panel Selection Committee for Montana.   She served as President of the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers from 2010‑2011 and, by appointment of the Montana Supreme Court, on the Montana Criminal Jury Instructions Commission (1988‑2012), and the Montana Evidence Commission (2001‑2012). She served on the Montana Public Defender Commission from 2005‑2008, and the Public Defender Task Force (2015-2016).     She was a member of the Conference Executive Committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference from 2006‑2009, the Ninth Circuit Advisory Rules Committee from 2004‑2007, a lawyer representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference from 2003‑2006, and President of the Montana Chapter of the Federal Bar Association in 2004‑2005. She is a frequent presenter at continuing legal education programs.

Wendy is AV rated, and has been selected for inclusion in the Mountain States Super Lawyers since 2013. She was honored for service to CJA panel with the 2016 John Adams Award, by the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers with the Lawyer of the Year award in 2015, by the Montana Innocence Project with its 2013 Defender of Justice Award, and by the Montana Justice Foundation as a Champion of Justice in 2014.

Georgetown University Law Center, E. Barrett Prettyman Fellow – LLM, (Advocacy), 1988

University of Montana – JD, with Honors, 1984

Montana State University – BS (Accounting), with Highest Honors, 1979

Helena High School – Graduate 1975, 3.93 GPA

Private Law Practice – 1989 to present.

  • Practice focuses on criminal jury trials, appeals, and post-conviction proceedings in both the federal and state courts, and professional licensing issues before state administrative tribunals.
  • AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.
  • More than 50 jury trials as sole or lead counsel in federal and state courts throughout Montana, including major felonies.
  • Numerous appeals to the Montana Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals including more than 30 oral arguments.
  • Criminal Justice Act conflict panel.

Law Clerk – Hon. Gordon R. Bennett, First Judicial District, Lewis and Clark County, Helena, Montana, November 1986 – December 1988.

  • Researched and wrote numerous proposed opinions covering a wide variety of civil and criminal legal matters.

Advocacy Fellow – Prettyman Legal Internship Program, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., August 1984 – July 1986.

  • One of five fellows chosen nationally to serve in Georgetown's Criminal Justice Clinic. The first year consisted of intensive training in criminal law, procedure, evidence, and trial practice as well as practical experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney representing indigent defendants. The second year I supervised ten third-year law students including teaching a two-week orientation and subsequent weekly classes covering Maryland criminal law and procedure, directing moot court sessions, coordinating placement of students in three State Attorney's offices for fall semester, and supervising students defending indigent defendants during spring semester. I also handled my own caseload, coauthored a district court trial manual, and completed required course work.

Legal Intern – Missoula County Attorney's Office, Missoula, Montana, February 1983- May 1984.

  • Prosecuted misdemeanors (several jury trials), researched and wrote legal briefs/memoranda, and handled consumer, landlord/tenant, and wage/hour disputes.

Research Assistant – Montana Criminal Law Information Research Center, University of Montana Law School, Missoula, Montana, October 1982 – May 1984.

  • Researched and wrote legal memoranda for publicly paid members of Montana's criminal justice system.

Instructor of Accounting – Eastern Montana College, Billings, Montana, September 1981 – July 1982.

  • Taught accounting and business law during a one year sabbatical from law school. Proposed, received funding for, developed the curriculum for, and taught a new senior level class, Business Law for Accountants, that subsequently became a requirement in the accounting curriculum. Taught 48 credit hours in four quarters.

State Bar of Montana (1984)

United States District Court for the District of Montana (1987)

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (1990)

United States Supreme Court (1990)

Certified Public Accountant – Montana (inactive status)

State Bar of Montana

Federal Bar Association – President Montana Chapter, 2004 – 2005

Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – President, 2010 – 2011

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

National College for DUI Defense

Public Defender Task Force to study the operations of the Office of the State Public Defender, 2015 – 2016, appointed by Governor Steve Bullock

Ninth Circuit Attorney Admission Fund Advisory Committee, 2015 – present, appointed by Chief Ninth Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas

CJA Panel Selection Committee for the District of Montana, 2014 – present, appointed by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen

Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference – Conference Executive Committee, 2006 – 2009 Montana Public Defender Commission, 2005 – 2008, appointed by Governor Brian Schweitzer

Advisory Committee on Rules of Practice and Internal Operating Procedures for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2004 – 2007

Lawyer Representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, 2003 – 2006, appointed by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy

Montana Criminal Jury Instruction Commission, 1988 – 2012, appointed by the Montana Supreme Court

Montana Commission on Evidence, 2001 – 2012, appointed by the Montana Supreme Court

Substitute Justice of the Peace, Jefferson County, Montana, 2002 – present

John Adams Award (Service to the CJA panel) (2016)

Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – Lawyer of the Year (2015)

Montana Justice Foundation – Champion of Justice (2014)

Montana Innocence Project – Defender of Justice Award (2013)

Martindale-Hubbell – AV Rating

Mountain States Super Lawyers (2013 – present)

National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Montana Lawyers

Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Federal Defenders of Montana, Annual Conference, March 2015 – DUIFSFSTHGN: Alphabet Soup – Defending the Drinking Driver

State Bar of Montana, June 2014 – New Lawyer Workshop

Montana State Public Defenders, October 2014 – Cross-Examination of the Expert in a DUI Case; Cross-Examination of the Cop in a DUI Case

U.S. Attorney’s Office/Montana Attorney General’s Office, 2014 Tribal Court Trial Advocacy Program, May 2014 – Evidence and Evidentiary Foundations

Montana State Public Defenders, October 2013 – Jury Instructions

Montana State Public Defenders, August 2012, Defending DUI Cases in Montana – Voir Dire

Montana Bar Association, May 2012, DUI Cases: From Stop to Appeal – The Defense Perspective

Montana Bar Association, October 2009 – Rookie Camp

Montana Judicial Institute, February 2008 – Anatomy of a Criminal Case

Montana State Public Defenders, July 2007 – The Art and Science of DUI Defense in Montana

Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, March 2007 – How to Keep Your State Court Client Out of Federal Court

Montana State Public Defenders, February 2007 – What State Defenders Need to Know About Federal Criminal Law

Montana Bar Association, September 2005 – Rookie Camp

Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice Twentieth Annual Seminar, February 2005 – Ethics

Montana Bar Association Annual Meeting, September 2004 – Moderator, Federal Sentencing Guidelines Panel

Montana County Attorney’s Association Summer Training Conference, July 2004 – Panel Discussion – Admissibility of the Preliminary Breath Test

Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice Nineteenth Annual Seminar, February 2004 – Ethics 101 for the DUI Practitioner

United States District Court, Montana Chapter Federal Bar Association, and the Federal Practice Section of the Montana State Bar, Federal Practice Program, September 2003 – Criminal Panel, Preparing and Conducting Criminal Litigation in Federal Court

State Bar of Montana CLE Institute, June 2002 – Capital Crimes Defense CLE, Appellate Practice, The Montana Perspective

State Bar of Montana CLE Institute, March 1997 – Criminal Defense CLE, Finding the Truth Through the Use of Pretrial Motions and Jury Instructions

Montana Law Enforcement Academy – Presentations on courtroom demeanor and moot court exercises for law enforcement officer trainees.

Law Day – Presentations at area high schools in recognition of Law Day

  • Overview
  • Biography
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Licenses
  • Organizations
  • Appointments
  • Honors & Awards
  • Speaking