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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Justice, Judge Recuse Themselves In Case Over New Judicial Appointment Powers

State of Montana Supreme Court
State of Montana Supreme Court

A second judge has recused himself from a case before the Montana Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of a new law that gives the governor more discretion to appoint judges.

District Court Judge Kurt Krueger is recusing himself from the case after being appointed to fill in for Chief Justice Mike McGrath. McGrath previously stepped away from the case and told MTN News he recused himself because he met with Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte earlier this year to urge him against supporting Senate Bill 140.

The law eliminates a judicial nomination commission and provides the governor more power to appoint state district court and Supreme Court vacancies.

Krueger recused himself from the case one day after the state attorney general’s office filed in court a Montana Judges Association poll showing Krueger adamantly opposed SB 140.

University of Montana legal professor Anthony Johnstone said both recusals fall squarely within typical judicial standards.

“I think it’s pretty cut and dry. The canons of judicial ethics require a judge to disqualify himself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned," Johnston said.

Friday, Republican legislative leaders also stepped into the dispute, sending a letter to the state Supreme Court administrator requesting any communications between the court and judges regarding SB 140.

According to court filings, Speaker of the House Wylie Galt and Senate President Mark Blasdel said both chambers intend to introduce legislative resolutions to join the case in support of the law.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kevin is a UM Journalism graduate student and reporter for MTPR.
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