The state’s Judicial Nomination Commission will interview seven candidates for the district judge seat formerly held by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters on Thursday in Billings.
The interviews and deliberations are open to the public.
The session will begin at 8 a.m. in the Montana Conference Room at the Best Western Plus Kelly Inn & Suites, 4915 Southgate Drive. The interviews will conclude by noon, with deliberations to begin at 1:30 p.m.
The panel will interview candidates Dennis M. Eakin, Lynn M. Grant, Michael G. Moses, Rodney E. Souza, William J. Speare, Jeffrey A. Turner and Edward E. Zink.
Two other applicants not selected for interviews were William J. O’Connor and Larry G. Schuster.
Lois Menzies, from the Office of Court Administrator, said the panel decided which candidates to interview based on public comment, writing samples and the applications.
All candidates are Billings attorneys. In addition, Moses, Souza, Speare and O’Connor have filed to run for election for the judge seat being vacated by retiring Judge G. Todd Baugh.
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The interviews are scheduled as follows: Eakin at 8 a.m.; Grant, 8:35 a.m.; Moses, 9:10 a.m.; Souza, 9:45 a.m.; Speare, 10:30 a.m.; Turner, 11:05 a.m.; and Zink, 11:40 a.m.
Eakin is an attorney with the Montana Legal Services Association; Grant is a partner with Cashmore & Grant; Moses is a partner with Moses and Lansing P.C.; and Souza is chief deputy in the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office.
Speare is a partner with Speare Law Firm; Turner is a partner with Towe, Ball, Mackey, Sommerfeld and Turner; and Zink is a senior deputy Yellowstone County attorney and a special assistant U.S. attorney.
The commission will decide at the end of Thursday’s deliberations on three to five nominees to forward to Gov. Steve Bullock for appointment. The panel’s deadline for forwarding names is Friday. The governor has until April 27 to make the appointment.
The new judge must run for election in 2016. The winner of that election will serve the remainder of Watters’ term, which expires January 2019. The position is a six-year term and pays a salary of $117,600.
The commission is composed of District Judge Richard Simonton of Glendive; Shirley Ball of Nashua; Mona Charles of Kalispell; Patrick Kelly of Miles City; Lane Larson of Billings; Ryan Rusche of Columbia Falls and Nancy Zadick of Great Falls.