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Gianforte appoints Grubich to fill Cascade County judge opening

The statue of Thomas Francis Meagher in front of the stairs of the Montana Capitol (Photo by Eric Seidle for the Daily Montanan).

HELENA (Daily Montanan) – Gov. Greg Gianforte has appointed the first judge using a new judicial selection process created by recently enacted legislation that abolished the Judicial Nominating Commission and gave the governor the wide latitude to fill judicial vacancies.

David Grubich has been chosen to fill the Eighth Judicial District vacancy. He was one of two finalists selected by a Gianforte-appointed advisory council and presented to the governor for final selection.

Before being appointed, Grubich was serving as the Eighth District’s standing master. The advisory council pointed to his job as standing master, hundreds of support letters, and his broad and lengthy experience for why it chose him as a finalist. He graduated from the University of Montana in 2007 and the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana in 2010.

“David Grubich is an accomplished attorney committed to the fair, consistent, and objective application of the law,” Gianforte said in a news release. “Given his experience and knowledge as Standing Master in the Eighth Judicial District and the overwhelming, positive public comment about David that I received, I’m confident he will make an exceptional judge and serve the people of Cascade County well.”

According to the governor’s office, Grubich will be sworn in “soon” and will be up for election in 2022.

The other finalist was Michele Reinhart Levine, who was in the role before the Montana Senate voted not to confirm her during the legislative session. She was the first person not to be approved for a judicial vacancy since the Judicial Nominating Commission was established in the early 1970s.

Gianforte’s office said in a news release that the Governor met with both Grubich and Levine before making his decision.

The new appointment process was put in place by Senate Bill 140 — undoing a decades-long process of appointing judges. Within 24 hours of being enacted, the law’s constitutionality was challenged before the State Supreme Court. Lawmakers who supported SB140 said they wanted the governor to have more influence over who was appointed to the state district courts, while opponents labeled it a partisan power grab. In June, the high court ruled in favor of the new process.