Two seats on the Montana Supreme Court are up for election in 2022. The race for the first seat is between incumbent Justice Ingrid Gustafson and James Brown. The race for the second seat between incumbent Justice Jim Rice and Bill D’Alton is covered in another guide. The winner of each election will serve for an eight-year term
The state Supreme Court is nonpartisan; candidates do not run as Republican or Democrat. Although the races are nonpartisan, the Montana Supreme Court is regarded as closely divided, but slightly liberal. In terms of partisanship, Ballotpedia gave Justice Gustafson its “indeterminate” rating; she sometimes votes with the Court’s conservative members while other times votes with the more liberal justices. Jim Brown’s strong support from Montana Republicans suggests he would likely be a more conservative justice.
The Montana Supreme Court decides questions of state law that often have a significant impact on state policy and individual rights. Just this year, the Court issued decisions that paused enforcement of three state laws that restricted abortion access; reinstated election-day voter registration; and invalidated a revision to state gun laws that allowed concealed carry on college campuses.
To help you decide, we’ve assembled background about the candidates’ education and previous work experience, along with rulings they’ve made as sitting judges, public statements, and publicized endorsements, to indicate how they might rule on key issues in the future.
For more information on both candidates, see this Montana Free Press article about the primary race.
James Brown is currently President of the Montana Public Service Commission, and works in private practice. Brown attended the Seattle University School of Law before starting his career in private practice. Brown previously served as counsel for the Montana Republican Party and, more recently, the Trump Campaign in its attempt to block vote-by-mail in Montana during the 2020 election.
Ingrid Gustafson currently a justice on the Montana Supreme Court. She was appointed in 2017 by then-Governor Bullock. After graduating from the Law School at University of Montana, Gustafson worked as an attorney in private practice and later as a Yellowstone County district court judge.
Brown has garnered significant support from Republican officials. He is “endorsed by Governor Gianforte, Senator Daines, Congressman Rosendale, Attorney General Knudsen, the Montana Republican Party, and over 80 Republican legislators.”