This post is for general information purposes.  Please reference the press release below concerning the expiration of term for the Chief Montana Water Court Judge:


Chief Justice Mike McGrath has notified the Judicial Nomination Commission that the term of office for the Hon. Russell McElyea, Chief Water Judge, expires July 31, 2017.

The Commission is now accepting applications from any lawyer in good standing who has the qualifications set forth by law for holding the position of Chief Water Judge.  The application form is available electronically at Applications must be submitted electronically as well as in hard copy. The deadline for submitting applications is 5:00 p.m., Thursday, May 4, 2017. The Commission will announce the names of the applicants thereafter.

The public is encouraged to contact Commission members regarding the applicants during the public comment period, which will begin Friday, May 5, 2017, and close Monday, June 5, 2017.

The Commission will forward the names of three to five nominees to the Chief Justice for appointment after reviewing the applications, receiving public comment, and interviewing the applicants if necessary.  The person appointed by the Chief Justice will serve a four-year term subject to Senate confirmation at the next special or regular legislative session. The annual salary for the position will be $132,567.

Judicial Nomination Commission members are District Judge Richard Simonton of Glendive; Janice Bishop of Missoula, Karl Englund of Missoula, Elizabeth Halverson of Billings; Hal Harper of Helena; Lane Larson of Billings; and Nancy Zadick of Great Falls.

Here is the public information currently on the state website.  Updates including the lists of applicants can be found at this link.


  1. Notice of vacancy from Chief Justice
  2. Nomination and appointment schedule
  3. News release soliciting applications
  4. Application form
  5. Applications and writing samples:

To date, the only application posted for this position was from William Russell McElyea, the current Chief Water Court Judge.

Here is the timeline of events related to filling the vacancy:

Event Date
Receipt of notice of vacancy from Chief Justice Monday, April 3, 2017
Public notice of vacancy and solicitation of applications – (Within 10 days of receipt of notice of vacancy – 3-1-1007 (1)(b), MCA Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Deadline for receipt of applications (Application period must be at least 30 days – 3-1-1007(1)(c), MCA) Thursday, May 4, 2017
Notice to public and start of public comment period Friday, May 5, 2017
Public comment period ends (Comment period must be at least 30 days – 3-1-1007(1)(d), MCA) Monday, June 5, 2017
JNC selects interviewees (conference call) Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Interviewees notified of interview date (At least 10 days before interview date —  JNC Rule 5.2) Wednesday, June 7, 2017
JNC conducts interviews in Bozeman (if necessary) Monday, June 26, 2017
Deadline for JNC to submit names to Chief Justice  (Within 90 days from receipt of notice of vacancy –  30101007(3), MCA Sunday, July 2, 2017
Chief Justice (Montana Supreme Court) makes appointment No deadline