HELENA, Mont. (NMB) – In a 6-1 ruling, The Montana Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of Senate Bill 140, a recently enacted law that abolished the Judicial Nomination Commission, instead allowing the Governor to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court and in District Courts.
The majority opinion said it was “not the Court’s function to determine whether the Commission was a better process than SB 140 for making judicial appointments,” and argued that the Montana Constitution does not explicitly state the need for an independent commission.
Justice Laurie McKinnon dissented, and Justice Jim Rice concurred but wrote a separate opinion that condemned “extraordinary” and “extraconstitutional” actions taken by the Legislature and Department of Justice during the proceeding.
This Commission was responsible for screening applicants for vacancies on the Supreme Court and District Courts and forwarding nominees to the Governor for appointment to those vacancies.
SB 140 replaces the Commission with a process that allows the Governor to consider any applicant who received a letter of support from at least three adult Montana residents during the public comment period.
Information courtesy of the Montana Supreme Court