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Wendy Holton

06 November, 2023
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2015 Timer Moses Award - Wendy Holton

06 November, 2023

Every year our group asks for nominations for the Timer Moses Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year, and past winners shown on this website comprise a distinguished and accomplished group.

Again in 2015, there were many good lawyers doing so much good work throughout Montana and the country.  But one person in particular exemplified our ideals of exceptional criminal defense work, commitment to clients, and commitment to us, her fellow criminal defense lawyers.

Wendy Holton has always had one of the most notable resumes and successful careers in the practice of criminal defense law in Montana.  She was one of the founding members and a lifetime member of the MTACDL, and has contributed to her profession and her colleagues in exemplary ways since she joined the front lines in private practice in 1989.

Receiving her J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law in 1984, Wendy 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. 

Wendy served as President of the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers from 2009-2011, and by appointment of the Montana Supreme Court, on the Montana Criminal Jury Instructions Commission (1988-2012), and the Montana Evidence Commission (2001-2012).   Wendy served on the Montana Public Defender Commission from 2005-2008, the Conference Executive Committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference from 2006-2009, the Ninth Circuit Advisory Rules Committee from 2004-2007, was a lawyer representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference from 2003-2006, and was President of the Montana Chapter of the Federal Bar Association in 2004-2005.

Wendy is AV rated, was selected for inclusion in Mountain States Super Lawyers in 2013 through 2015, and as one of the National Trial Lawyers top 100 Trial Lawyers in Montana since 2013.  She was honored 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.

But even by her own lofty standards, Wendy outdid herself in 2015.  Among her accomplishments:

  • Wendy agreed to apply for a position on the task force doing an interim study of OPD (HB627) and was appointed by the Governor.
  • She was instrumental in working with the Innocence Project at the Ninth Circuit, winning a victory on appeal regarding postconviction DNA testing (see United States v. Watson, No. 13-30084, referenced in the Ninth Circuit Weekly Blog here:
  • Again at the Ninth Circuit, Wendy garnered a significant win on unanimity instructions and plain error. It was the case of the week at the 9th Circuit Blog (see
  • Entered a Habeas petition that reversed a Federal felony conviction.

A warrior for her clients, Wendy is constantly educating herself to improve. Likewise, those of us who work with her can attest that she is more than willing to share knowledge or advice if asked.

Wendy Holton sets the standard for the practice of criminal defense in our state, and we are proud to select her as the recipient of the 2016 Timer Moses Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year award.

Editor’s note: Wendy is also the recipient of the 2016 John Adams Award bestowed by the Montana CJA Panel (see this link). The selection processes for the CJA award and the MTACDL award are totally separate. Neither the representatives from MTACDL nor the selection committee from the Federal Defenders of Montana realized she had won both awards until just before the Chico conference. Wendy is the ONLY person to receive both honors in the same year.

2016 Wendy Both Awards Full