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Bill Would Give Gov. More Power Over Judicial Appointments

The Montana Supreme Court seal
State of Montana Supreme Court
State of Montana Supreme Court

Montana lawmakers are considering a bill that would give the governor more power over judicial appointments.

Senate Bill 140 would give the governor the ability to directly appoint district court and Supreme Court judge vacancies until the next election by eliminating the Judicial Nominating Commission. 

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, who took office last month, requested the bill. Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras spoke in support during the bill’s hearing, saying that the nominating commission was established in the state Constitution before the internet existed to be a clearinghouse for judicial nominations.

"With today’s technology, there is no reason to limit the governor’s ability to engage directly with each applicant for a judicial vacancy."

Lawyer Bruce Spencer spoke in opposition of the bill on behalf of the Montana State Bar. 

"When the framers of the 1972 Constitution met, they intentionally removed the 1889 Montana Constitution’s allowance for unfettered direct appointment by a governor."

Spencer said the framers intended for the public to play a role in the process. 

Lawmakers have yet to take a vote on the bill. They’ll hear a second bill in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning aimed at changing the process for judicial appointments.
Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.