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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Sandefur Elected Montana's Next Supreme Court Justice

Dirk Sandefur.
Josh Burnham
Dirk Sandefur.

District Judge Dirk Sandefur defeated University of Montana adjunct law professor Kristen Juras this morning 55 to 44 in the race for an open seat on the Montana Supreme Court.

Sandefur and Juras were competing to replace retiring Justice Patricia Cotter, who is stepping down after two eight-year terms on the state's highest court.

Sandefur cited his experience as a district judge as qualifying him more than Juras to serve on the seven-member, nonpartisan high court. Juras says justices have diverse legal backgrounds, and she would bring knowledge of the legal issues faced by individuals, farmers and small business owners.

A group of Montana attorneys and the state's trial lawyers' association backed Sandefur. A pro-Juras group run by Republican operative Jake Eaton produced an ad attacking Sandefur's record as a district judge.

Two justices ran unopposed: Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice Jim Shea.

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