Montana Judicial System and Court System: How Does it Work?
Like most other states, Montana is home to various categories of courts. In this blog, we’re going to explore this court. Let’s begin.
The Montana Supreme Court
First, we have the Montana Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the state. It is also the only appellate court, which means it presides over appeals that originate in the lower courts. The Supreme Court of Montana possesses original jurisdiction, which means it can accept other cases.
Montana District Courts
There are 22 judicial districts in Montana, and each district is home to a district court. The district courts preside over probate cases, felony cases, civil cases, naturalization proceedings, civil actions that result in findings against the state, various writs, and even some special actions.
Other than that, they may even hear certain appeals that come from the lower courts with limited jurisdiction.
Montana Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
The Montana Courts of Limited Jurisdiction are made up of 66 justice courts, five municipal courts, and 81 city courts.
Montana Water Court
The Montana Water Court presides over cases related to water rights.
The Montana Workers' Compensation Court
The Workers' Compensation Court settles matters concerning workers’ compensation.
Montana Federal Courts
Finally, we have two federal courts in Montana. They are the District of Montana Bankruptcy Court and the District of Montana Court. Appeals from these courts are forwarded to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Montana Judicial Selection
The selection of state judges in Montana is carried out via non-partisan election. However, some limited jurisdiction courts move away from that.
In the case of the Supreme Court, the seven justices are voted in via non-partisan election. Their terms extend up to 8 years. When they finish their term, they can stand for election again if they aim to serve the community.
1. The Chief Justice
Selection of the chief justice is done by a popular vote within the regular campaign cycle. The chief justice serves an 8-year term.
To serve as the chief justice, the judge must be an American citizen, a resident of the state for a minimum of 2 years, and licensed to practice law in the state for a minimum period of 5 years.
During a midterm vacancy, a replacement can be appointed by the Governor. A list of candidates is provided by the Montana Judicial Nominating Commission. The Montana Senate confirms the judge's appointment; after which, the newly appointed judge can hold office till the next election.
2. District Courts
Just as it is with the election of supreme court justices, the 43 judges for the district courts of Montana are elected via nonpartisan election. Each justice serves a 6-year term. To serve as a judge in the district courts, the candidate must be a US citizen, a resident of the state for at least two years, a resident of the relevant district, and licensed to practice law in the state for a minimum of 5 years.
3. Limited Jurisdiction Courts
The limited jurisdiction courts tend to vary in their processes. For instance, the water court appoints judges via a committee vote. The committee is composed of district court judges. Water court judges serve a 4-year term.
For the worker’s compensation court, the judge serves a 6-year term and is chosen by a commission.
For the municipal and city courts, judges are selected via non-partisan elections. They both serve 4-year terms. The scenario is no different for the judges of the justice courts as well. They’re also elected via non-partisan election and serve a 4-year term.