Montana Judges adhere to the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct, which establishes standards for ethical conduct and provides guidance for maintaining the highest standards of judicial and personal conduct. The Code is based on principles inherent to both our state and United States legal systems. That is, of an independent, fair, and impartial and competent judiciary, composed of men and women of integrity who must respect and honor the judicial ofﬁce as a public trust and strive to maintain and enhance conﬁdence in the legal system.
The Supreme Court of Montana established the Judicial Standards Commission to regulate judicial conduct and discipline. The Commission works to protect the public from improper conduct or behavior of judges; preserve the integrity of the judicial process; maintain public confidence in the judiciary; create a greater awareness of proper judicial conduct on the part of the judiciary and the public; and provide for the expeditious and fair disposition of complaints of judicial misconduct.
Disqualification of Judges
Generally, the Disqualification of a Judge is required in proceedings to which he or she is a party or an interested party; when he or she is related to either party or any attorney or law firm involved in the matter; or when he or she has been an attorney or counsel in a lower proceeding now on appeal. See MCA 3-1-803 for more details.
Disqualification for Cause applies only to judges presiding in district courts, justice of the peace courts, municipal courts, small claims courts, and city courts. In such situations, a party to the proceeding files an affidavit alleging facts showing personal bias or prejudice of the presiding judge. For additional information on this disqualification process, refer to MCA 3-1-805.
Substitution of Judge
For both civil and criminal actions in Montana (with exceptions), each adverse party is entitled to one Substitution of a District Court Judge. This does not apply to any judge sitting as a water court judge, to a workers' compensation court judge, or to a judge supervising the distribution of water. To request substitution, the party must motion the court according to the applicable statutory requirements and rules of civil procedure.
Motion for substitution may not be filed in the following cases: a child abuse or neglect proceeding under Title 41, Chapter 3; a youth court action proceeding under Title 41, Chapter 5; or a mental health commitment proceeding under Title 53, Chapter 21, Part 1. In criminal cases, there is no right of substitution when the cause is remanded for sentencing.
See MCA 3-1-804 for additional information on Substitution of District Judges.