Judicial elections, democratic appointment (e.g., senate confirmation), and the Missouri Plan (a/k/a "merit selection")

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Montana Supreme Court Selection

Montana Supreme Court Selection

Montana Supreme Court justices are elected in contestable races (two or more candidates from which voters choose).  However, Montana (like many states with judicial elections) uses an appointive system to fill mid-term vacancies on the court.  That interim appointment process is about to occur because the U.S. Senate recently confirmed Montana Supreme Court Justice Brian Morris to a federal judgeship. 

The interim appointment process to the Montana Supreme Court works as follows (summarized by The Missoulian): a Judicial Nomination Commission interviews applicants and recommends three to five finalists to the governor. The governor must pick from that list and then the new justice is subject to confirmation by the Montana Senate.  The Nominating Commission consists of four non-lawyers appointed by the governor, a judge, and two lawyers appointed by the Montana Supreme Court.

In sum, Montana's interim appointment process is an amalgam of the Missouri Plan (nominating commission with special power for the bar) and senate confirmation (following the democratic appointment model of the US Constitution). 

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