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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Q&A: Katherine Bidegaray, Candidate for Montana Supreme Court Seat #3

Katherine Bidegaray
Candidate Q&A
Q&A: Bowen Greenwood, Republican Candidate for Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court
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.
Q&A: Roger Roots, Libertarian Candidate for Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court
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.
Q&A: Erin Farris-Olsen, Democratic Candidate for Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court
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.

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?

Katherine Bidegaray

What is your age?

63

Where do you live?

Sidney, MT

What is your education background?

I am a proud graduate of Montana’s public schools: one-room Mona School (grades 1-6); Culbertson Junior High and High School (grades 7-12); the University of Montana, earning Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Political Science and Philosophy; and the University of Montana School of Law, earning my Juris Doctor (JD).

Please list your current and previous occupations.

• Owner-Operator, Family Ranch (1989-present)

• Staff Attorney, Office of the Montana State Auditor (1985-1989)

• Attorney, Private Practice (1989-2003)

• District Judge, Montana District Court (2003-present)

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

With nearly two decades practicing law and over two decades serving Montanans as a district court judge, I have seen firsthand the judiciary’s pivotal role in protecting individuals’ rights and maintaining the rule of law. Putting in extra effort and hours to effect good outcomes was ingrained in me from my farming and ranching background, driving me to establish treatment courts, which have made a difference for Montana citizens and communities by saving taxpayer dollars and helping transform lives. Currently, our Montana Constitution and some of the unique rights it protects--privacy, education, and the preservation of Montana’s pristine landscapes--are facing significant threats, and many are intent on eroding these fundamental rights. The decisions of the Montana Supreme Court profoundly impact Montanans daily. I am seeking a seat on the Montana Supreme Court because we need justices with integrity and fortitude—not partisan lackies—to uphold our Constitution, to protect and defend our Montana values and rights, and to keep the judiciary fair and impartial. With 38 years of combined legal and judicial experience, I am fully prepared to meet that commitment.

Please describe your judicial philosophy.

My judicial philosophy centers on fairness, respect, and impartiality, devoid of political or personal bias. I adhere strictly to the 1972 Montana Constitution, the United States Constitution, and established legal precedents and statutes.I refrain from participating in partisan political fundraisers and events, maintaining a nonpartisan stance which is essential to judicial integrity.

2024 Election Breakdowns
2024 Election breakdown: Montana governor's race
The presumed frontrunners in the race are Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Gianforte, a former tech entrepreneur from Bozeman, and Democrat Ryan Busse, a political newcomer and former firearms industry executive from Kalispell.We’ve also got Libertarian Kaiser Lieb, who runs a comedy production company, Republican Rep. Tanner Smith, a legislator and construction business owner from Lakeside, and Democrat Jim Hunt, an attorney in Helena.
2024 Election breakdown: Western U.S. House race
Five names will appear on primary ballots - two Republicans, one Democrat and two Libertarians. Although one of the Libertarians has unofficially dropped out and is not campaigning.
2024 Election breakdown: Attorney General race
There are three candidates in all, two Republicans, Austin Knudsen and Logan Olsen, and one Democrat, Ben Alke. That’s setting up a Republican primary.

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

The Montana Supreme Court primarily functions as an appellate court, reviewing district court cases on appeal and applications for writs. Appellate review ensures that lower court decisions are fair and constitutional, providing a vital check in our judicial system. The Montana Supreme Court also guards and interprets the Montana Constitution.

When should a Supreme Court justice recuse themselves from hearing a case?

Recusal is necessary when a Justice faces a personal or professional conflict of interest with the case at hand, ensuring that our judicial process remains fair, impartial, and just.

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

I firmly believe Justices should not run under a party label. The neutrality and impartiality of the judiciary are paramount to the fairness Montanans are entitled to expect, as underscored by the separation of powers our Montana Constitution requires. Court decisions should be made based on the law and the facts, not on partisan ideology or politics. It is essential for Justices to avoid even the appearance of partisanship to maintain public trust and the integrity of our judicial system.

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

While the Montana Supreme Court is highly respected, earning a greater than 90% approval rating from attorneys and litigants, I believe my unique background in agriculture and rural Montana will offer a more in-depth perspective essential for comprehensive, balanced judicial decisions. If the Montana Supreme Court were to improve its statewide advertisement of the dates and times of the oral arguments it holds, each of which is livestreamed, more Montanans would have the opportunity to see the Court in action and thereby gain a better understanding of appellate review of lower court decisions. Additionally, enhancing access to justice remains a critical area for ongoing improvement.

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