Great news emerged late Tuesday when District Court Judge Jim Reynolds ruled a legislative referendum to elect Montana Supreme Court justices by district unconstitutional because it attempts to change how the justices are elected, but does not amend the Montana Constitution to change the residency requirements of becoming a justice.
Right now all Montana Supreme Court justices are elected statewide.
Reynolds ruled that while the initiative would require judicial candidates to live inside proposed regional districts, the state constitution only requires Montana residency for two years.
"There is no meaningful way to divide the concept of being elected from a district from the concept of residency within a district," Reynolds wrote.
He rejected a request from Republican legislators to remove the referendum requirement that candidates live within the districts and retain the ability of voters in those districts to select their own justice, saying that would too substantially change the referendum.
The referendum was scheduled to appear on the June primary ballot.
Beyond its unconstitutionality, the ACLU of Montana has opposed this referendum from the start because it diminishes the office of Supreme Court justice by politicizing the seat like seats in the state legislature and takes away Montanans right to vote on all but one justice.
Every justice on the Montana Supreme Court bench is elected to protect every Montanan's civil liberties, not just those within one district. And above all, they must enforce the law.