Montana Constitution Home
Section 1. Judicial power. The
judicial power of the state is vested in one supreme court, district
courts, justice courts, and such other courts as may be provided by
Section 2. Supreme court jurisdiction.
(1) The supreme court has appellate jurisdiction and may issue,
hear, and determine writs appropriate thereto. It has original
jurisdiction to issue, hear, and determine writs of habeas corpus
and such other writs as may be provided by law.
(2) It has general supervisory control over all other courts.
(3) It may make rules governing appellate procedure, practice and
procedure for all other courts, admission to the bar and the conduct
of its members. Rules of procedure shall be subject to disapproval
by the legislature in either of the two sessions following
(4) Supreme court process shall extend to all parts of the state.
Section 3. Supreme court organization.
(1) The supreme court consists of one chief justice and four
justices, but the legislature may increase the number of justices
from four to six. A majority shall join in and pronounce decisions,
which must be in writing.
(2) A district judge shall be substituted for the chief justice or a
justice in the event of disqualification or disability, and the
opinion of the district judge sitting with the supreme court shall
have the same effect as an opinion of a justice.
Section 4. District court jurisdiction.
(1) The district court has original jurisdiction in all criminal
cases amounting to felony and all civil matters and cases at law and
in equity. It may issue all writs appropriate to its jurisdiction.
It shall have the power of naturalization and such additional
jurisdiction as may be delegated by the laws of the United States or
the state of Montana. Its process shall extend to all parts of the
(2) The district court shall hear appeals from inferior courts as
trials anew unless otherwise provided by law. The legislature may
provide for direct review by the district court of decisions of
(3) Other courts may have jurisdiction of criminal cases not
amounting to felony and such jurisdiction concurrent with that of
the district court as may be provided by law.
Section 5. Justices of the peace. (1)
There shall be elected in each county at least one justice of the
peace with qualifications, training, and monthly compensation
provided by law. There shall be provided such facilities that they
may perform their duties in dignified surroundings.
(2) Justice courts shall have such original jurisdiction as may be
provided by law. They shall not have trial jurisdiction in any
criminal case designated a felony except as examining courts.
(3) The legislature may provide for additional justices of the peace
in each county.
Section 6. Judicial districts. (1)
The legislature shall divide the state into judicial districts and
provide for the number of judges in each district. Each district
shall be formed of compact territory and be bounded by county lines.
(2) The legislature may change the number and boundaries of judicial
districts and the number of judges in each district, but no change
in boundaries or the number of districts or judges therein shall
work a removal of any judge from office during the term for which he
was elected or appointed.
(3) The chief justice may, upon request of the district judge,
assign district judges and other judges for temporary service from
one district to another, and from one county to another.
Section 7. Terms and pay. (1) All
justices and judges shall be paid as provided by law, but salaries
shall not be diminished during terms of office.
(2) Terms of office shall be eight years for supreme court justices,
six years for district court judges, four years for justices of the
peace, and as provided by law for other judges.
Section 8. Selection. (1) Supreme
court justices and district court judges shall be elected by the
qualified electors as provided by law.
(2) For any vacancy in the office of supreme court justice or
district court judge, the governor shall appoint a replacement from
nominees selected in the manner provided by law. If the governor
fails to appoint within thirty days after receipt of nominees, the
chief justice or acting chief justice shall make the appointment
from the same nominees within thirty days of the governor's failure
to appoint. Appointments made under this subsection shall be subject
to confirmation by the senate, as provided by law. If the appointee
is not confirmed, the office shall be vacant and a replacement shall
be made under the procedures provided for in this section. The
appointee shall serve until the election for the office as provided
by law and until a successor is elected and qualified. The person
elected or retained at the election shall serve until the expiration
of the term for which his predecessor was elected. No appointee,
whether confirmed or unconfirmed, shall serve past the term of his
predecessor without standing for election.
(3) If an incumbent files for election and there is no election
contest for the office, the name of the incumbent shall nevertheless
be placed on the general election ballot to allow the voters of the
state or district to approve or reject him. If an incumbent is
rejected, the vacancy in the office for which the election was held
shall be filled as provided in subsection (2).
Section 9. Qualifications. (1) A
citizen of the United States who has resided in the state two years
immediately before taking office is eligible to the office of
supreme court justice or district court judge if admitted to the
practice of law in Montana for at least five years prior to the date
of appointment or election. Qualifications and methods of selection
of judges of other courts shall be provided by law.
(2) No supreme court justice or district court judge shall solicit
or receive compensation in any form whatever on account of his
office, except salary and actual necessary travel expense.
(3) Except as otherwise provided in this constitution, no supreme
court justice or district court judge shall practice law during his
term of office, engage in any other employment for which salary or
fee is paid, or hold office in a political party.
(4) Supreme court justices shall reside within the state. During his
term of office, a district court judge shall reside in the district
and a justice of the peace shall reside in the county in which he is
elected or appointed. The residency requirement for every other
judge must be provided by law.
Section 10. Forfeiture of judicial
position. Any holder of a judicial position forfeits that
position by either filing for an elective public office other than a
judicial position or absenting himself from the state for more than
60 consecutive days.
Section 11. Removal and discipline.
(1) The legislature shall create a judicial standards commission
consisting of five persons and provide for the appointment thereto
of two district judges, one attorney, and two citizens who are
neither judges nor attorneys.
(2) The commission shall investigate complaints, and make rules
implementing this section. It may subpoena witnesses and documents.
(3) Upon recommendation of the commission, the supreme court may:
(a) Retire any justice or judge for disability that seriously
interferes with the performance of his duties and is or may become
(b) Censure, suspend, or remove any justice or judge for willful
misconduct in office, willful and persistent failure to perform his
duties, violation of canons of judicial ethics adopted by the
supreme court of the state of Montana, or habitual intemperance.
(4) The proceedings of the commission are confidential except as
provided by statute.
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