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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Judicial Candidates Have Confirmation Hearings

Court news

Three judicial candidates had their initial confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The candidates are to fill vacancies on the Montana Supreme Court, state District Court in Yellowstone County, and on the Workers’ Compensation Court.

Two of the vacancies are the result of sitting judges being appointed to the federal bench.

After Justice Brian Morris resigned to become a U.S. District Court judge, Governor Steve Bullock tapped then-Work Comp Court Judge Jim Shea to fill that vacancy on the Montana Supreme Court. Shea was sworn in last June.

He told the Senate Judiciary Committee he’s cognizant of the need to apply the law dispassionately.

"And even-handedly as I can," Shea said. "And that’s what I aspired to do at the Work Comp court and on the Supreme Court. And I think its important particularly as an appellate judge to recognize that these are real people, real businesses, that there are real impacts to the decisions we make. That can’t necessarily influence what the ultimate outcome is but we’re human just like anyone else and I don’t think we want anything less. We don’t want a court of robots."

If Shea wins full Senate confirmation he would have to run to retain the seat in 2016.

To fill Shea’s vacancy on the Work Comp court, the governor last August appointed attorney David Sandler.

The Billings native told the Senate Judiciary Committee his major accomplishment during his four months on the job was to tackle the backlog created by the vacant seat.

"In that time we have tried six cases and issued well over 70 orders in many other cases," according to Sandler.

Sandler says he strives to provide predictability with his decisions.

The final confirmation in Senate Resolution 15 is for state District Judge Mike Moses. The Billings attorney was appointed to fill the vacancy in Yellowstone County after Judge Susan Waters was tapped to fill a vacancy in U.S. District Court.

Moses took the bench last May after being sworn in. He said then and repeated before the Senate Judiciary Committee his passions are his family and the law.
"This system of justice, the one that I have a great passion for, works. And as a judge it has been a great honor and a great privilege to serve the citizens of the 13th judicial district over the course of the last nine months."

If confirmed by the Senate, Moses would face election in 2016 to retain the seat. The Senate Judiciary Committee did not immediately vote on these appointments.

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