State Supreme Court Survey Shows Highest Approval Ratings Yet

Sep 30, 2016

A new survey indicates Montana’s Supreme Court is well-respected by those who use it the most. The 2016 Bench and Bar survey is essentially a performance review of Montana’s high court.

The anonymous, online survey has been conducted by the state supreme court every other year since 2008. It’s sent to almost 1,000 Montana legal professionals who work with the court in various capacities, including District Court judges, appellate attorneys and law school faculty.

This year’s response rate was almost 50 percent.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents have a positive perception of the court, according to Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath. 

“I’m proud of the results," McGrath says. "It’s the highest rating we’ve had in the five surveys we’ve done. They’ve gradually gotten better each time.”

McGrath also says he’s particularly proud that, “97 percent of (responding) District Court judges indicated that the Montana Supreme Court’s decisions are based on facts and the applicable law. We make our decisions on an independent basis and they’re fair and impartial."

76 percent of responding attorneys shared that opinion.

In 2008, fewer than 38 percent of respondents felt the court completed its overall workload in a timely manner. That number was 93 percent this year.

McGrath says they’re knuckling down and issuing decisions on average within 100 days.

Prior to 2008, it could sometimes take the court up to two years to issue an opinion.