Gianforte accepting public comment on judicial applications
Gov. Greg Gianforte is seeking public comment on applicants to the vacancy in the Eighth Judicial District in Cascade County.
Members of the public can provide letters of support or other comments regarding the applicants through 5 p.m. June 30.
The governor has received applications from the following attorneys whose applications may be found at nominatejudges.mt.gov:
- Rebekah J. French
- David Joseph Grubich
- Michele Reinhart Levine
- Tracy Labin Rhodes
- Matthew S. Robertson
Members of the public should submit letters or other comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by fax to 406-444-4151, or by mail to Attn: Hannah Slusser, Governor’s Office, P.O. Box 200801, Helena, MT 59620.
Letters or other comments submitted will be publicly available and posted here.
Applicants must receive at least three letters of support to be considered for appointment by the governor.
The governor’s appointee will be named in July must run for election in 2022.
The vacancy was created in April when the Montana Senate did not confirm Michelle Levine to the bench after former Gov. Steve Bullock appointed her to the seat last fall to fill the vacancy created by Greg Pinski’s resignation.
In May, Gianforte established a committee to help selected the new judge and he named Pinski to the committee.
Lawmakers this year also changed the process for filling judicial vacancies and eliminated the Judicial Nomination Commission, which previously reviewed candidates and made recommendations to the governor. Now the appointment power lies solely with the governor.
“Comprised of accomplished attorneys and long-time community leaders, the Eighth Judicial District Advisory Council will assist me in identifying exceptional candidates to serve as the district court judge in the Eighth Judicial District,” Gianforte said in a release. “I have charged the advisory council with casting a broad net to identify well-qualified candidates who are committed to the fair, consistent, and objective application of the law and who will interpret laws, not make them from the bench.”
Levine filed April 14 with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices to run for the judge seat in 2022.
The makeup of Gianforte’s advisory council is similar to what the law had previously required for the state’s Judicial Nomination Commission seven members, which included: four lay members who are neither judges nor attorneys, active or retired, who reside in different geographical areas of the state, and each of whom is representative of a different industry, business, or profession, whether actively engaged or retired, who are appointed by the governor; two attorneys actively engaged in the practice of law, who are appointed by the supreme court; and one district judge elected by the district judges under an elective procedure initiated and conducted by the supreme court and certified to election by the chief justice of the supreme court.
The members of the commission before it was eliminated during this legislative session were: 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.