Gianforte accepting applications for district court judge vacancy
Gov. Greg Gianforte is accepting applications and nominations for the vacancy in the Eighth Judicial District in Cascade County.
The vacancy was created last month when the Montana Senate voted against confirmation of Michelle Levine, who had been appointed to the seat by then Gov. Steve Bullock last fall.
Levine had been appointed by Bullock from a list of nominees that had been interviewed and forwarded by the Judicial Nomination Commission to fill a vacancy created last year when Greg Pinski resigned his seat.
The governor is accepting applications and nominations for any lawyer in good standing who has the qualifications set forth by law for holding the position of district court judge. The application form is available electronically here and must be submitted electronically as well as in hard copy by June 1. Applications will be made available to the public.
From June 1-30, the public will be able to provide letters of support or other comments regarding the applicants here.
Applicants must receive at least three letters of support to be considered for appointment by the governor, who will name an appointee in July who will also be required to run for election in 2022.
Levine filed April 14 with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices to run for the judge seat in 2022.
The Senate Judiciary Committee had voted 7-4 on April 23 not to confirm Levine, largely on party lines with Republicans questioning Levine’s political history as a Democratic legislator, lobbyist and contributor to other Democratic candidates. The full Senate voted later that day not to confirm her to the bench.
During her confirmation hearing in March, a number of locals in law enforcement and those in positions related to the justice system spoke in favor of confirming Levine.
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.
In a Facebook post, Levine wrote, “for the past five months, it’s been an honor serving the people as a District Court Judge in the 8th Judicial District. Unfortunately, the Judiciary has been under attack this Legislative Session. As part of that attack, the Montana Senate voted down my judicial confirmation tonight. The Senate’s actions hurt all of the people with pending matters before the court. The Senate has now left over 1,000 cases in limbo without a judge when our overburdened system needs more judges. Our district handles 6,000 cases a year and now it will only have three judges for awhile. The process for picking new judges is in litigation. Once the judicial nomination process is fully litigated and sorted out, it could take months to pick a new judge.”
Levine served on the Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustment. Her application/resume is available here.
Pinski resigned his seat as a district court judge in Cascade County, effective Oct. 2, 2020. 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.
This year, the Legislature dissolved the commission and shifted the power to select judges solely to the governor.