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State of Montana

History of Reform Efforts: Montana

Formal Changes Since Inception

1889
Supreme court judges elected by the people to six-year terms; district court judges elected by the people to four-year terms.

1909
Legislature enacted law requiring nonpartisan judicial elections. The law prohibited partisan filings by judicial candidates and required their nomination by citizen petition.

1911
Nonpartisan election law held unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court in State v. O'Leary, 115 P. 204 (Mont. 1911).

1935
Legislature enacted law requiring nonpartisan judicial elections.

1972
New judicial article increased term lengths of supreme court justices to eight years and terms of district court judges to six years. The new article also called for the creation of a judicial nomination commission to recommend candidates to fill interim vacancies. The commission was established in 1973.

1973
Beginning in 1974, when an incumbent judge is unopposed for reelection, voters are asked whether the judge should be retained.