Read this week's JP Election Brief:
Top judicial races for election day


Judicial selection in Montana

From Judgepedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Montana
Seal of Montana.png
Montana Supreme Court
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
Montana District Courts
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Montana Justice Courts
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   4 years

Selection of state judges in Montana occurs largely through non-partisan elections, though certain limited jurisdiction courts deviate from that method.[1]

On September 17, 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the non-partisan judicial election system, finding it unconstitutional. Political parties are now legally able to support or oppose judicial candidates in Montana. The state has not yet decided whether to appeal the court's decision.[2]

Elected judges' terms begin on January 1 following their election.[3]

Supreme Court

See also: Non-partisan elections

The seven justices of the Montana Supreme Court are selected in non-partisan elections to eight-year terms. When their term expires, they must run for re-election (or retention if they are unopposed) if they wish to continue serving.[1]

Selection of the chief justice

The court's chief justice is chosen by popular vote during the regular campaign cycle. He or she serves in that capacity for a full eight-year term.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • a U.S. citizen;
  • a state resident for at least 2 years; and
  • licensed to practice law in the state for at least 5 years.[1]

Vacancies

In the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor is responsible for appointing a new judge from a list compiled by the Montana Judicial Nominating Commission. Once confirmed by the Montana Senate, the judge holds office until the next general election, when he will be able to run for re-election to complete the remainder of the unexpired term.[1][4]

District Courts

See also: Non-partisan elections

Like the supreme court justices, the 43 judges of the Montana District Courts are chosen in non-partisan elections. They serve six-year terms. Policies on re-election and the filling of interim vacancies are shared with the supreme court.[1]

Selection of the chief judge

The chief judge of each district court is chosen on the basis of seniority. Judges rotate this position every year.[1]

Qualifications

To serve on this court, a judge must be:

  • a U.S. citizen;
  • a state resident for at least 2 years;
  • a resident of the district represented; and
  • licensed to practice law in the state for at least 5 years.[1]

Limited jurisdiction courts

Montana's limited jurisdiction courts (the water court, workers' compensation court, city courts, municipal courts and justice courts) vary in their selection processes:[5]

Water Court Workers' Compensation Court City Courts Municipal Courts Justice Courts
Selection: Majority vote of a committee composed of district court judges Comm. select., Gov. appt. Non-partisan election or appointment Non-partisan election Non-partisan election
Term: 4 years[6] 6 years[7] 4 years[8] 4 years[9] 4 years[10]
Re-election method: Reappointment or redesignation Reappointment Re-election or reappointment Re-election Re-election
Qualifications: U.S. citizen; state resident for 2 years; admitted to practice law in Montana for 5 years U.S. citizen; state resident for 2 years; admitted to practice law in Montana for 5 years U.S. citizen; county resident for 1 year U.S. citizen; state resident for 2 years; county resident for 2 years; admitted to practice law in Montana for 3 years U.S. citizen; county resident for 1 year

History

Judicial selection in Montana has undergone several changes since the inception of the judiciary. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 1974: Beginning this year, when an incumbent judge is unopposed for re-election, voters are simply asked on the ballot whether the judge should be retained.
  • 1972: A judicial nomination commission is established to assist in filling interim vacancies.
  • 1972: Per constitutional amendment, tenure of supreme court justices is increased from six years to eight; tenure of district judges is increased from four years to six. The same article calls for the creation of a judicial nomination commission to assist in filling interim vacancies, established the following year.
  • 1935: The Montana Legislature again mandates non-partisan judicial elections.
  • 1911: The non-partisan election law is declared unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court in State v. O'Leary, 115 P. 204 (Mont. 1911).
  • 1909: The legislature passes a law mandating non-partisan judicial elections, prohibiting partisan filings by judicial candidates and requiring their nomination by citizen petition.
  • 1889: Supreme court judges are elected by popular vote to six-year terms; district court judges are elected by popular vote to four-year terms.[11]

Selection of federal judges

United States District Court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[12]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links

References

MontanaMontana Supreme CourtMontana District CourtsMontana Courts of Limited JurisdictionMontana Water CourtMontana Workers' Compensation CourtUnited States District Court for the District of MontanaUnited States bankruptcy court, District of MontanaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth CircuitMontana countiesMontana judicial newsMontana judicial electionsJudicial selection in MontanaMontanaTemplate.jpg