HELENA — State Workers’ Compensation Judge Jim Shea of Helena applied Thursday for the vacant justice’s seat on the Montana Supreme Court.
Shea, 47, is seeking the seat vacated by former Justice Brian Morris, who resigned his Supreme Court seat last month to become a U.S. District Court judge.
He is the second attorney to apply for the Supreme Court justice’s job, joining Amy Poehling Eddy, a Kalispell lawyer, who did so earlier this week.
Shea and two Missoula lawyers — Beth Brennan and former state Sen. Jon Ellingson — said late last year they would seek appointment to the Morris seat when it became vacant.
Attorneys seeking the judgeship must apply with the Judicial Nomination Commission by Feb. 12. After taking public comment and interviewing the candidates, the commission will recommend the names of three to five of the applicants to Gov. Steve Bullock by April 9. Bullock must appoint the justice from that list by May 9.
A Butte native, Shea, 47, has served as the state’s workers’ compensation judge since 2005 when then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer appointed him to the job. Schweitzer reappointed him in 2011. The Senate confirmed both appointments.
Shea received an undergraduate degree in political science and a law degree, both from the University of Montana.
He worked as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Paul Hatfield in 1991-1992 and practiced criminal and civil law in Portland for four years while his wife, Kathy, attended graduate school. After their return to Montana, Shea practiced civil law in Missoula from 1996-2005 before his appointment as workers compensation judge.
In response to the application question asking why he wants to be a Supreme Court justice, Shea said:
“A fair and competent judiciary is critical to both the political and economic well-being of this state. Over the past eight-plus years, I have established a statewide reputation as just such a judge. Therefore, when a number of lawyers who practice in the Workers’ Compensation Court encouraged me to consider serving on the Supreme Court, it occurred to me that this was a chance to continue serving my state and to do my part to ensure that my daughters have the same opportunity that my wife and I had to return to (or hopefully remain in) Montana.”