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Montana Governor Forms Advisory Council To Appoint Judge Under New Law

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has formed an advisory council to help fill a district court judge vacancy in Cascade County. This is the executive’s first opportunity to fill a vacancy directly under a law currently being challenged in court.

The council will help identify and review candidates to fill the Eighth Judicial District seat, which has been vacant since the GOP-led Montana Senate rejected former Gov. Steve Bullock’s appointee last month.

The council includes attorneys, a former judge and local community leaders.

Gianforte says he will name his appointee in July. To keep the position, they’ll have to run for election next year.

Previously, the state Judicial Nomination Commission vetted district court judge candidates for the executive. Gianforte recently signed into law a bill ending the commission and providing him more power to fill bench vacancies.

The Montana Supreme Court is considering the policy’s constitutionality, amid an ongoing dispute between Republican legislative leaders and the judicial branch.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America statehouse reporter.