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Montana Supreme Court Justice #2


Politics Raises The Stakes In Gustafson-Brown High Court Race

By KEELY LARSON Community News Service UM School of Journalism

Montana voters will decide two Supreme Court races this fall, and one is attracting an unusual share of partisan attention.

In that race, incumbent Justice Ingrid Gustafson, with 18 years of experience as a judge, faces challenger James Brown, current president of the Public Service Commission and former legal counsel to the Montana Republican Party.

Although Brown has never been a judge, GOP endorsements have ranged from Republicans Gov. Greg Gianforte and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines to a host of Republican state officials and lawmakers.

Supreme Court races are designated as nonpartisan, and the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judicial candidates themselves from “seeking, accepting and using endorsements” from politicians. But there’s nothing to prevent partisans from weighing in.

The backdrop of this race includes tension between the governor's office, the GOPcontrolled Legislature and the state’s Supreme Court. Republican lawmakers and GOP Attorney General Austin Knudsen have criticized the court for overturning several laws passed during the 2021 legislative session, including one to end sameday voter registration.

On his website, Brown called Gustafson a ...