Former State Auditor and Previous Federal Magistrate Running in Chief Justice Race

Neither current Chief Justice Mike McGrath, nor Justice Dirk Sandefur are seeking re-election

By Nicole Girten, Daily Montanan
Montana Supreme Court building in Helena. Beacon file photo

Both former state auditor John Morrison and former federal magistrate Jeremiah Lynch filed to run for Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice seat, according to the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices website.

Morrison said in a campaign video posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, he wanted to “make sure our courts remain open and impartial and fair for all Montanans.”

Morrison, a Helena attorney, served as state auditor for two consecutive terms in the early 2000s that featured a then-scandal after he had to recuse himself from a case as he had an extramarital affair prior to serving with one of the involved parties.

In 2006, Morrison lost in the Democratic primary against Jon Tester for U.S. Senate and weighed another statewide run in the 2020 cycle, according to reporting from Lee Enterprises at the time.

Lynch, with 30 years in federal courts under his belt, told Lee Enterprises he was running to “continue the stability that the court has had based on my experience.” Lynch was selected by a panel of fellow judges to become magistrate, as opposed to a presidential appointment, with his term starting in 2006 and ending in 2019.

Republicans in recent years have openly criticized the state Supreme Court as partisan, or “legislating from the bench” as former Supreme Court candidate James Brown said. Lynch told Lee Enterprises the attacks were “unwarranted” and came from people who wanted to “hijack the constitutional authority that people gave to the courts in Montana.”

In his campaign video, Morrison said he is the only candidate in the race “with significant experience in the Montana Supreme Court.” Morrison won cases in the state’s high court including a lawsuit over a legislative attempt to implement jungle primaries in 2014.

Neither current Chief Justice Mike McGrath, nor Justice Dirk Sandefur are seeking re-election, as reported by the Montana Free Press.

Candidates for Sandefur’s seat include district judges Dan Wilson and Katherine Bidegaray.

This story originally appeared in the The Daily Montanan, which can be found online at dailymontanan.com.

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