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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Q&A: Dan Wilson, Candidate for Montana Supreme Court Seat #3

Dan Wilson
Dan Wilson

We are gathering information from all statewide candidates as a resource for the 2024 Primary Elections. Responses were limited to 200 words per question. Political attacks may have been removed, but otherwise, the responses are published unedited.

What is your full name as it will appear on ballots?   

Dan Wilson

What is your age?   


Where do you live?   

Kalispell, MT

What is your education background? 

  • B.A., Penn State, 1987
  • J.D., cum laude, University of Minnesota, 1993 

Please list your current and previous occupations. 

District Court Judge, Montana 11th Judicial District, 2017-present

Justice of the Peace, Flathead County, 2011-2016

Attorney practicing in Montana state and federal courts, 1993-2010

What motivated you to seek a seat on the Montana Supreme Court? 

My Montana roots stretch back generations, and I am devoted to the future and welfare of our state. As a Montana attorney and judge, I respect and take great pride in our Constitution. As an experienced judge, I am committed to safeguarding the role of the judiciary as a co-equal branch of government. Service on our Montana Supreme Court would allow me the opportunity to express my devotion to the judiciary as an institution and to preserving the rule of law in a manner that I believe all Montanans can respect.

 Please describe your judicial philosophy. 

My judicial philosophy is simple: interpret and apply the provisions of the United States and Montana Constitutions and all laws according to their original intent and plain meaning, and do not follow the views of special interests or personal views to determine the outcome of any case. Respect the rule of law, including the law of precedent, and do not legislate from the bench.

Please describe what you see as the role of the Montana Supreme Court. 

The proper role of the Montana Supreme Court is to decide, fully and fairly, all cases that come before it and to do so in a manner that interprets and applies the Montana Constitution and the Constitution of the United States and all other laws according to their original and intended meaning. Because the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of many of the issues it decides, the Court must strive to maintain and preserve stability in the interpretation and application of our Constitution and laws, including the law of precedent, which provides that the Supreme Court must respect its own, past decisions.

When should a supreme court justice recuse themselves from hearing a case?  

A justice should recuse and decline to participate in a case in these circumstances: when the justice is a party to the case or has a financial or other interest in the outcome of the case; when the justice is related to a party or attorney in the case; when the justice was previously an attorney or judge in the case; or when the justice is committed to a particular outcome in the case before fully considering the issues and legal arguments presented by the parties for a decision by the Court as a whole.

Do you think justices should run under a party label, as some lawmakers have suggested?  

My personal views should not influence the debate of this issue. The Montana Constitution states that justices are elected “as provided by law.” Currently, Montana law provides that justices and other judges are elected on a non-partisan basis. The law could be changed, either by the Legislature or by affirmative vote of the people. If the law is changed and provides for the partisan election of justices, a legal challenge may be brought against the new law and, in that event, the Supreme Court or other court may be called upon to determine the lawfulness of the change. As a judge and judicial candidate, it is not appropriate for me to take a stand on the issue.

In what ways, if any, can the Montana Supreme Court improve? 

How the Supreme Court operates can be difficult for people to understand because much of its work takes place outside of public view. Montanans could be better informed if the Court would hold more public hearings. Public hearings take place prior to the justices issuing a decision. Public hearings feature open discussion – often pointed – between the justices and the parties concerning the legal issues in a case. More importantly, public hearings demonstrate how the justices grapple with and ultimately resolve the complex and important issues they confront. Typically, the Court holds several public hearings each year, but both the Court and the public would benefit by the Supreme Court holding more public hearings in cases, particularly those involving issues of widespread public interest and concern.

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