HELENA – Gov. Greg Gianforte on Friday named an advisory council to help him identify candidates to fill a District Court vacancy in Cascade County under a new law that allows the governor to directly make the appointment.
The Montana Senate did not confirm former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s appointee, Michele Reinhart Levine, to fill a vacancy in the Eighth Judicial District, based in Great Falls.
Lawmakers also passed a bill eliminating the Judicial Nomination Commission, which vetted candidates for judicial vacancies and forwarded the names of three to five nominees to the governor, who would appoint one of the nominees.
Two former lawmakers and a member of the 1972 Constitutional Convention are among those challenging the law that allows the governor to directly fill judicial vacancies that occur between elections.
Members of the council appointed by Gianforte include former District Court Judge Greg Pinski, whose resignation in October led to Levine’s appointment; along with a retired police chief, attorneys, parole officer and business and education interests.
“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,” Gianforte, a Republican, said in a statement.
The governor is accepting applications from and nominations of any lawyer in good standing who meets the qualifications for holding the position of District Court judge. Applications must be submitted by June 1.
Public comment and letters of support for the applicants will be accepted during June.
The governor’s appointee, who will be named in July, will be required to run for election in the 2022 election.
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