HELENA — The Montana House has given initial approval to a measure that would increase the number of judges in Yellowstone and Missoula counties.
The House voted 99-1 Thursday to give Yellowstone County two new district judges and Missoula County one. The bill must pass a final vote before it goes to the Senate.
Republican Rep. Jeff Essmann of Billings says the aim is to ease the case backlog in those counties.
Last year, a special commission rejected a proposal to re-draw its 22 districts to more evenly distribute the work of 46 judges.
Instead, Essmann introduced his bill that originally would have added five new judges. That number was reduced to three.
The bill is contingent on lawmakers providing funding for the judges, their assistants and operating expenses.