Gov. Greg Gianforte is taking public comment on five applicants being considered for a vacant judgeship in Cascade County.
Gianforte is using for the first time a new power to appoint judges, granted to him by the 2021 Legislature, which he signed into law.
It gives the governor direct appointment power to vacancies and requires that public comment is taken on applicants.
The law, which also eliminated the Judicial Nomination Commission, is being challenged in court by opponents who say it’s unconstitutional and politicizes the process.
Gianforte created his own advisory council last month to help vet candidates.
Five applicants have applied for the Cascade County vacancy, including Michele Reinhart Levine, who was originally appointed to the position by former Gov. Steve Bullock, but failed to clear legislative confirmation.
Each applicant who applied to fill the role must receive at least three letters of support to be considered for the governor’s appointment to the bench.
Gianforte’s office announced Wednesday the public comment period will end June 30 at 5 p.m.
The Cascade County judgeship will be up for election in 2022.
Comments can be submitted via email to email@example.com, by fax to 406-444-4151, or by mail to Attn: Hannah Slusser, Governor’s Office, PO Box 200801, Helena, MT 59620.
Comments submitted will be publicly available and posted at nominatejudges.mt.gov.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the applicants vying for the open judgeship are not currently judges, but are lawyers.