Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday two District Court vacancies, one the retirement of a longstanding judge and the other a new bench funded by the state Legislature.
For the second time since the new judicial appointment process was installed by the Legislature earlier this year, the Governor's Office solicited applications and nominations to fill the vacancies, this time in Yellowstone and Gallatin counties.
Yellowstone County District Court Judge Gregory Todd announced his retirement earlier this month. The Billings Gazette reported Todd, the longest standing of the eight 13th Judicial District judges, will retire from the bench Dec. 31, 2021.
Gallatin County is the only urban judicial district without four District Court judges, while a study by the Montana Supreme Court administrator found the caseload there warrants 6.78 full-time judges. Gianforte floated the additional judge in his initial budget proposal at the outset of the legislative session; lawmakers first turned down funding the new bench but ultimately did.
These will be the second and third judicial appointments Gianforte makes, following his selection of David Grubich to fill a vacancy in the Cascade County District Court. The previous governor, Democrat Steve Bullock, also made three District Court appointments in his first year in office.
Gianforte assembled a local panel to vet applicants of the Cascade County District Court appointment process, and his office said a similar panel would be gathered for future selections. That 10-person advisory committee included four attorneys, as well as representatives from local law enforcement, commerce and education. It also included the judge who stepped down, thereby creating the vacancy.
The applicants must submit electronic and hard copies by Oct. 13 and will be made available to the public. The public comment period on the applicants will begin on Oct. 14 and end Nov. 13. Applicants must receive at least three letters of support to be considered a nominee.