Supreme Court

    Mike McGrath

    Mike McGrath

    Chief Justice Mike McGrath was raised in Butte, Montana. He earned a degree in business administration from the University of Montana in 1970 and graduated from  Gonzaga University School of Law in 1975. Following graduation from law school he worked as a Reginald Heber Smith Community lawyer fellow in Reno, Nevada, providing legal services to low-income clients.

    He served in the United States Air Force from 1970 until an honorable discharge in 1972.

    McGrath was a Montana Assistant Attorney General from 1977 to 1982 after which he was elected to five terms as Lewis and Clark County Attorney beginning in 1983. He served as Montana Attorney General from 2001 to 2009 where he oversaw a staff of more than 700 employees and focused on methamphetamine prevention and natural resource and land issues.

    Mike McGrath was elected to an eight-year term as Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court in November, 2008, and re-elected in 2016. He and his wife Joy have two sons, Pat and Chris, and three grandchildren.

    Chief Justice Mike McGrath

    Contact:

    Montana Supreme Court
    Justice Building
    215 N. Sanders
    P.O. Box 203001
    Helena, Montana 59620-3001

    406-444-5490

    Website

    District: Supreme Court

    Party: Non-partisan

    Term: 8 Years

    James Rice

    James Rice

    Justice Rice was born November 15, 1957, to U.S. Military parents stationed at Ramore Air Force Base, near Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada. He grew up in eastern Montana, graduating from Glasgow High School in 1975. Obtaining his pilot’s license at age 17, Justice Rice worked at aviation-related positions while he attended college, including work as a firefighter on a helitak quick response team for the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation. He graduated from Montana State University with a B.A. in Political Science in 1979, and from the University of Montana School of Law in 1982. He completed legal internships at the offices of the Missoula City Attorney and the Lewis and Clark County Attorney. For four years, Justice Rice worked as a public defender in Lewis and Clark County. He was elected to three terms in the Montana House of Representatives, and was selected as House Majority Whip in the 1993 session. From 1985 to 2001, he was a partner in the firm of Jackson & Rice of Helena, MT. On March 15, 2001, Justice Rice was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Montana Supreme Court after appointment by Gov. Judy Martz. Justice Rice and his wife, Norine, have three daughters.

    Justice Jim Rice

    Contact:

    Montana Supreme Court
    Justice Building
    215 N. Sanders
    P.O. Box 203001
    Helena, Montana 59620-3001

    406-444-5490

    Website

    District: Supreme Court Seat #1

    Party: Non-partisan

    Term: 8 Years

    Mike Wheat

    Mike Wheat

    Justice Wheat received his undergraduate degree (political science 1975) and his law degree (1978) from the University of Montana. After graduation, he worked as a Deputy County Attorney in Butte, Montana until 1981, at which time he moved to Bozeman, Montana and established a private law practice where he worked until 2009. Mike’s practice focused on civil trial and appellate advocacy.

    Mike was elected to the Montana State Senate in 2002 and served through the 2003 and 2005 legislative sessions. During that time, he served on the Judiciary Committee (Chairman, 2005), as well as Local Government, State Administration &Veteran Affairs, and Natural Resources Committees. He also served on the Environmental Quality Council. He is currently serving on the Uniform Law Commission.

    Mike is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam (1968-1969) and was awarded a Purple Heart. He is married to Debby (Craig), a Helena native, and has three sons and a daughter.

    Justice Wheat was appointed to the Montana Supreme Court by Governor Brian Schweitzer and took office on January 5, 2010.

    Justice Mike Wheat

    Contact:

    Montana Supreme Court
    Justice Building
    215 N. Sanders
    P.O. Box 203001
    Helena, Montana 59620-3001

    406-444-5490

    Website

    District: Supreme Court Seat #2

    Party: Non-partisan

    Term: 8 Years

    Dirk Sandefur

    Dirk Sandefur

    Justice Dirk Sandefur strongly believes in the importance of protecting Montana’s clean air, water, and public lands that are essential to the preservation of our unique environmental gifts and quality of life. He also understands the importance in the rule of law and a fair, impartial even playing field for all.

    Prior to his election to the Supreme Court, Sandefur served 13 years as a district judge for the 8th Judicial District Court in Great Falls. Prior to that, Sandefur served eight years as Cascade Deputy County Attorney, a public defender, as a police officer for the City of Havre, and in private practice.

    Justice Dirk Sandefur

    Contact:

    Montana Supreme Court
    Justice Building
    215 N. Sanders
    P.O. Box 203001
    Helena, Montana 59620-3001

    406-444-5490

    Website

    District: Supreme Court Seat #3

    Party: Non-partisan

    Term: 8 Years

    Beth Baker

    Beth Baker

    Justice Baker was raised in Spokane, Washington, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Washington in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication. In 1985, she graduated with high honors from the University of Montana School of Law.

    Following graduation from law school, Justice Baker served four years as a law clerk for the Hon. Charles C. Lovell, U.S. District Judge for the District of Montana. From 1989 through 2000, she worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the Montana Department of Justice, including four years as Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General and four years as Chief Deputy Attorney General. Justice Baker spent the next ten years in the private practice of law with the firm of Hughes, Kellner, Sullivan and Alke.

    Justice Baker served ten years on the State Bar of Montana’s Access to Justice Committee and currently serves as an ex officio director of the Montana Justice Foundation. Justice Baker now serves as the Montana Supreme Court’s representative on the Court’s Access to Justice Commission.

    Justice Baker was elected to the Montana Supreme Court on November 2, 2010, and was sworn into office January 3, 2011, to fill the position of retiring Justice W. William Leaphart.

    Justice Beth Baker

    Contact:

    Montana Supreme Court
    Justice Building
    215 N. Sanders
    P.O. Box 203001
    Helena, Montana 59620-3001

    406-444-5490

    Website

    District: Supreme Court Seat #4

    Party: Non-partisan

    Term: 8 Years

    Laurie McKinnon

    Laurie McKinnon

    In 2010, Justice McKinnon was awarded Judge of the Year by the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Montana for her work in cases involving abused and neglected children.  In 2011, she wrote and received a $350,000 federal grant from the Department of Justice for implementation of a drug treatment court within her jurisdiction.

    Justice McKinnon serves on the District Court Performance Measurement Advisory Committee to the Montana Supreme Court, the Judicial Education Committee, the Justice Initiatives Committee, and is a member of the District Drug Court Judges.  She is pursuing her Doctorate in Judicial Studies at the University of Nevada and the National Judicial College located in Reno, Nevada.

    On November 6, 2012, Justice Laurie McKinnon was elected to the Montana Supreme Court for an eight-year term, filling the position of retiring Justice James C. Nelson.  She and her husband Capt. Gary L. Pannabecker live north of Choteau with their four children.

    Justice Laurie McKinnon

    Contact:

    Montana Supreme Court
    Justice Building
    215 N. Sanders
    P.O. Box 203001
    Helena, Montana 59620-3001

    406-444-5490

    Website

    District: Supreme Court Seat #5

    Party: Non-partisan

    Term: 8 Years

    James Shea

    James Shea

    Justice James Jeremiah Shea was born and raised in Butte, Montana. After graduating from Butte Central Catholic High School, he attended the University of Montana, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1988 and his law degree in 1991. Following graduation from law school, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Paul G. Hatfield of the United States District Court in Great Falls, Montana. After completing his clerkship with Judge Hatfield, he moved to Portland, Oregon where he worked as a trial attorney with the Metropolitan Public Defender and then practiced civil law in the private sector.

    Justice Shea returned to Montana in 1996, and practiced in Missoula until 2005, when Governor Brian Schweitzer appointed him Judge of the Workers’ Compensation Court. He served as Workers’ Compensation Judge until 2014, when Governor Steve Bullock appointed him to the Montana Supreme Court. He was sworn in as an Associate Justice on June 2, 2014.

    Justice Shea and his wife Kathy have two daughters, Kate and Moira.

    Justice Jim Shea

    Contact:

    Montana Supreme Court
    Justice Building
    215 N. Sanders
    P.O. Box 203001
    Helena, Montana 59620-3001

    406-444-5490

    Website

    District: Supreme Court Seat #6

    Party: Non-partisan

    Term: 8 Years