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Montana Judicial Branch Asks For Additional Resources

Montana District Court caseloads.
Montana Legislative Fiscal Division

On Wednesday, Montana’s Judicial Branch recommended adding more judges to understaffed county courts. 

The proposal brought before the Judicial Redistricting Commission asks for five new judges, at a cost of just over $2 million.

In February, a study released by the District Court Council reported an additional 21 judges are needed to meet current case workload demands. But, the judiciary interim committee chairman said they would be laughed out of the legislature if they asked for those kinds of resources.

Instead, Wednesday’s recommendation asked for a handful of judges in the state’s most burdened counties.

Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin.

“So what we are looking at is two judges in the thirteenth judicial district, which is Yellowstone Country. The second one is one in the fourth Judicial District, which is Missoula, Mineral Counties. And then one judge each in the eighth, Cascade County, and the eleventh, which is Flathead County, and those would be elected to take office January of 2019.”

McLaughlin says one of the Yellowstone County judges and the additional judge for Missoula and Mineral Counties would be appointed by January 2018.

The plan also calls for one additional standing master in Lewis and Clark, Broadwater Counties. Standing masters have less authority than a judge, but can take on some of a judge’s workload.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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