Questions of judicial ethics and fairness, along with the influences of campaign spending on the courts, dominated the discussion at a Montana Supreme Court election forum in Missoula on Monday night.  Only one seat on the ballot is contested, but all four candidates appeared at the University of Montana School of Law to speak to a few dozen people.

 

 

Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice Jim Shea are unopposed but appear on the ballot for retention votes.  Judge Dirk Sandefur and former professor of law Kristen Juras are competing for an 8-year term on the court.  Justice Shea opened the forum by calling for increased public interest in judicial elections.  In 2014, when two seats were contested, 40,000 Montanans who cast a ballot just skipped the Supreme Court races.  The spike in spending on judicial campaigns has heightened public concerns over whether justices who are elected are influenced by donors.