Former Republican and Democratic civil servants, as well as the Montana League of Women Voters, filed the legal action in the Supreme Court in March, the day after Gianforte incorporated SB 140 into law. Greg Todd, president of the Montana Judges Association, a District Court judge in Yellowstone County, has opposed the bill throughout the legislative process, as did the Montana District Attorney’s Office.
The Senate also passed Senate Draft 402 on Wednesday, a safety net to be triggered if the Supreme Court finds SB 140 unconstitutional. The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Cary Smith, would reinstate the Judiciary Nominations Committee, but with 12 governor-appointed lay members instead of four. The bill would also give the commission back two lawyers and a seated district judge who have the same number as the original panel.
Confirmations from three district judges appointed by former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock last year have been blocked in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a body that typically reviews appointments before they are sent to the Senate for confirmation or rejection. Senate approvals for Judges Peter Ohman in the 18th District in Gallatin County, Chris Abbott in the 1st District in Lewis and Clark Counties, and Michele Levine in the 8th District in Cascade County were removed from the committee plan until SB 140 was entered into law signed. These resolutions were first heard by the committee two weeks ago. Senate Chairman Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, said Wednesday that he has not yet put the resolutions to the vote.