When it came time to hang a robe on the shoulders of Don Harris for the first time as a judge, there wasn't one immediately available.
So District Judge Michael Moses unzipped his and lent it to Harris' wife, Cheryl Harris, who placed the judicial robe. With that, Harris had been sworn in as the newest judge in the 13th Judicial District of Montana.
Afterward, Harris shared a few thoughts about his judicial philosophy mixed with a bit of lightheartedness.
"I know all of you here are going to roll your eyes," he said, "because I've been a judge here for like about two minutes, three minutes."
Harris was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock on Oct. 31 to fill the seat vacated by Russell Fagg, who announced his retirement in June prior to his run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. His last day on the bench was Oct. 13.
Harris will have to run for election in 2018 to retain the seat. The position pays $132,567 a year.
The 13th Judicial District is the busiest district court in the state, and is understaffed by seven judges, according to a caseload study done by the District Court Council. Two new judges were approved by the Montana Legislature in response to growing caseloads. Those judges will run for election in November 2018 and be sworn in in January 2019.
Harris was a partner with Harris, Gannet & Varela PLLC. He received both his Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate degrees from the University of Montana and has practiced law in Yellowstone County since 1983.
The swearing-in ceremony took place in a crowded courtroom filled with attorneys, judges, friends and family. Moses presided over the event, which went on the court record, as the four other sitting district judges looked on.
When it came time to speak, Harris was brief. Others had lent praise early in the ceremony.
Billings attorney Randy Bishop said that when the district seeks more of its judges, it looks to people like Harris, who is a former colleague.
"People who have worked with and, significantly, against Mr. Harris repeatedly comment about his extraordinary intellect, his unfailingly patient and calm judicial demeanor, his humble yet compassionate courage," he said. "The fact that he is disciplined, organized and efficient."
Moses had competed against Harris when they were at competing Billings high schools. They later practiced law both against and alongside one another.
"The last and only thing we need to do now is administer the oath," Moses said. "And then he'll get to work."
As for Harris' remarks on judicial philosophy, he said that he relied on the Yellowstone County legal community throughout his career for advice and guidance.
So it goes, he said, in parenting and in law.
"I also believe it takes a community to uphold the rule of law," he said. "And we all have our part. And I look forward to working with all of the people who are engaged in this great and noble effort to uphold the rule of law."