Senate committee votes to reject Levine’s confirmation as district court judge
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-4 not to confirm Michelle Levine as a judge for the 8th Judicial District in Cascade County.
Next the full Senate will consider her confirmation and if lawmakers don’t approve it, she’ll lose the seat and Gov. Greg Gianforte will be able to appoint someone to the seat.
Levine was among the names forwarded by the Judicial Nomination Commission last fall to then Gov. Steve Bullock and in November, Bullock appointed her to fill the seat vacated by Greg Pinski in October.
Levine, of Great Falls, is a partner at Linnell, Newhall, Martin and Schulke, P.C. and received her Juris Doctorate from The University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law after also receiving a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Montana.
Levine served on the Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment. Her application/resume is available here.
During a March hearing on her confirmation, many Great Falls residents, law enforcement officials and other district court judges spoke in favor of confirming Levine.
Lawmakers had questions about her partisanship since she had previously served as lawmaker as a Democrat, was an active supporter of Democratic candidates and was a lobbyist for environmental groups.
Sen. Tom McGillvray, committee vice chair, said he believes Levine is hard working, but “she has been a political activist.”
He said her background could being pressure to appease the groups she’s worked with previously.
“These kind of pressures could have significant influence” McGillvray said.
Republican lawmakers mentioned that she had contributed to Democratic candidates in the past.
Public records indicate the other three local judges, John Parker, Elizabeth Best and John Kutzman, have also contributed to Democratic candidates in the past.
Parker also served as a legislator in the Montana House of Representatives from 2002-2008 as a Democrat.
Sen. Bryce Bennett, of Great Falls, spoke in support of Levine.
“The court needs some stability,” he said. “I’m going to listen to the people in her community that said that they wanted her.”
Pinski resigned this summer to return to private practice.
Greg Pinski resigned his seat as a district court judge in Cascade County, effective Oct. 2. He was elected in 2012 and again in 2018 to another six-year term.
The person appointed by the governor is subject to Senate confirmation during the 2021 legislative session. The position is subject to election in 2022, and the successful candidate will serve for the remainder of Pinski’s term, which expires in January 2025.
Judicial Nomination Commission members are District Judge John C. Brown of Bozeman; Janice Bishop of Missoula; Karl Englund of Missoula; Elizabeth Halverson of Billings; Hal Harper of Helena; Lane Larson of Billings; and Nancy Zadick of Great Falls.