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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Montana Lawmakers Advance One Judge Nomination, Reject Another

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04/23/21, 6:40 p.m. This story has been updated to reflect the latest action on Judge Levine's nomination.

The Montana Senate has rejected one of Former-Gov. Steve Bullock’s district court judge appointees and advanced another. A third appointee is still awaiting consideration. 

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday voted to reject the appointment of Judge Michele Reinhart Levine, who’s been a judge in Cascade County since November, when Bullock, a Democrat, appointed her. Levine’s nomination was also rejected in the full Senate late Friday, meaning the appointment process for that bench will begin again.

Republicans objected to her judgeship because she served as a Democratic lawmaker.

“I do believe that she has strong inherent biases,” Republican Sen. Tom McGillvray said.

Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill last month, which is now facing a legal challenge, that gives him the power to directly appoint judges to fill judicial vacancies without the input of the Judicial Nomination Commission. He would be able to use this new power to appoint someone in Levine’s place.

The committee supported Gallatin County Judge Peter Ohman’s nomination, which will move onto the full Senate for consideration. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to vote on Lewis and Clark County Judge Chris Abbott’s nomination. When asked when the committee would vote, Republican Chair Sen. Keith Regier said "not today."

Shaylee is Montana Public Radio's Capitol reporter. She previously worked for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and covered the 2019 legislative session for the University of Montana's Legislative News Service.
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