Gianforte accepting applications for judicial vacancy
| May 4, 2021 10:00 AM
HELENA (AP) — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte is accepting applications and nominations for a District Court judge vacancy in Cascade County under a new law that eliminated the Judicial Nomination Commission and allows the governor to directly fill judicial vacancies between elections.
The position is open after the Senate declined to confirm former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's nominee, Michele Reinhart Levine. Levine had been in the post since November.
Gianforte, a Republican, is accepting applications from and nominations of lawyers in good standing who have the qualifications to hold the seat, the governor's office said Tuesday.
The application is available electronically at www.nominatejudges.mt.gov/Vacancies. Applications must be submitted electronically and via hard copy by June 1. The applications will be made available to the public.
From June 1 through June 30, the public will have the opportunity to provide letters of support or other comments on the applications at the same website. Applicants must receive at least three letters of support to be considered for appointment.
A new judge will be named in July. That person will be required to run for election in the 2022 election.
Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath officially notified the governor of the vacancy on April 30, noting that the calendar for that department in the 8th Judicial District had 125 cases set for trial between May and August.
Two former state lawmakers and a member of Montana's 1972 Constitutional Convention are among those challenging the constitutionality of the law allowing the governor to directly appoint replacement judges. The issue is before the Montana Supreme Court.
McGrath recused himself from the case because he had asked the governor to oppose the bill to eliminate the nomination commission.
The court last week nominated District Judge Matthew J. Wald of Columbus to take McGrath's place as justices consider the challenge to the law.