Two Billings residents have thrown their names in for the vacant associate justice position at the Montana Supreme Court.
Judge Ingrid Gustafson, of the 13th Judicial District, and Martha Sheehy, a private attorney, have applied. The vacancy was announced on Aug. 28 when Justice Mike Wheat announced his retirement. Wheat plans to leave the position Dec. 31.
A 30-day public comment period begins on Monday. Applicants who are granted an interview will be notified on Nov. 2 and interviews will be conducted in Helena on Nov. 13. The Judicial Nomination Commission must submit names of nominees to the governor by Nov. 26.
Gustafson has been a district court judge since January 2004, when she was appointed by then-Gov. Judy Martz. She was elected later that year, and re-elected in 2006 and 2012. Gustafson started Yellowstone County’s first felony drug court and was a member of the Commission on Sentencing, a multi-agency effort over the past two years to reform the state’s criminal justice system.
Sheehy is in solo practice at Sheehy Law Firm where she focuses on civil litigation, including insurance disputes, which represents 85 percent of her work. She also works in media law, primarily in open meeting and constitutional right-to-know issues and has done legal work for The Billings Gazette.
“I really like representing clients, including The Gazette,” Sheehy said. “It’s a privilege. So if I were lucky enough to get this position, I would miss practicing, no doubt about it.”
Gustafson did not return a request for comment submitted late Friday.
Others who have applied for the associate justice position are:
• Michael Black, director of litigation at the Montana Legal Services Association;
• Cynthia Ford, a University of Montana law professor and chief justice at the Fort Belknap Court of Appeals;
• James Hunt, a Helena attorney;
• Michael Lamb, a Helena attorney; and
• William McElyea, chief water judge for Montana.
The position is subject to election in 2018. The successful candidate will serve the remainder of Wheat’s term, which expires in January 2023. The annual salary for the position is $144,066.