Yellowstone County District Judge Russell Fagg is stepping down this fall and will consider a future political career.
Fagg will resign Oct. 13. He will start his own law firm, but the former Republican state legislator is also considering a return to politics.
His replacement will be appointed by the governor in the next few months, but will have to face election in November 2018.
Fagg, 56, said he will return to private practice and focus on mediation, a key cog of U.S. justice focused on resolving cases before they go to trial.
"I may also consider politics, as I am very concerned about the direction our country is going. One thing at a time though. I want to finish this job well, and thus the four month lead time," Fagg said in a press release Tuesday. "I will handle the 1,100 cases in front of me and leave this office in good shape for the new judge.”
Fagg told The Gazette he is alarmed by the federal government's failure to cut spending. He worries the nation's future will suffer as a result.
"To me, the biggest issue is the budget deficit that we continually run," Fagg said. "The way I look at it, 50 of the last 55 budgets have run deficits, accumulating to total debt of $20 trillion.”
You have free articles remaining.
A district judge for 22 years and a former Republican legislator, Fagg said last December he was interested in replacing former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke as Montana's only representative.
Fagg describes himself as center-right politically and eventually chose not to run. The timing wasn't a good fit. Zinke was appointed secretary of Interior on March 1 and an 85-day special election cycle immediately followed, with Republican Greg Gianforte winning the seat May 25.
Montana has two federal seats on the 2018 ballot. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, is seeking a third term. A few Republicans have expressed interest in running against Tester, but the presumed GOP frontrunner, Attorney General Tim Fox, announced last week that he won’t challenge Tester.
Montana’s U.S. House seat is the other federal office up in 2018. Gianforte has registered as a candidate, but is also considered vulnerable to a challenge because of his alleged election-eve assault on a reporter for The Guardian.
Fagg had also been rumored to be a potential U.S. attorney for Montana. The position has been open since President Donald Trump took office. Fagg said he isn’t interested in the job.
The judge said Tuesday this was a good time in his personal life for something new.
“This is a good time to consider a career change. My awesome wife Karen is supportive. And our amazing children, Harrison and Barclay, are off in college," Fagg said in a Tuesday press release.