Lawrence VanDyke

Lawrence VanDyke

HELENA — A divided Montana Supreme Court overturned a lower-court ruling and put Lawrence VanDyke back on the November ballot as a candidate for the Montana Supreme Court.

As a result, VanDyke will be allowed to challenge Justice Mike Wheat in the general election.

In a 4-3 ruling, the court reversed District Judge Mike Menahan of Helena, who had ruled that VanDyke was ineligible for the ballot.

The Supreme Court majority concluded that VanDyke’s admission to the practice of law in 2005 satisfies the Montana Constitution’s requirement that a candidate for the Supreme Court be admitted to the practice of law for at least five years prior to the date of appointment or election, “notwithstanding his choice to take inactive status for some of those years.”

Justice Beth Baker wrote the majority opinion. Concurring were Justices Laurie McKinnon and Jim Rice and District Judge Daniel A. Boucher of Havre, who was filling in for Wheat.

Dissenting were Justices Patricia Cotter and District Judges Dirk M. Sandefur of Great Falls and Edward P. McLean of Missoula. They were filling in for Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice James Jeremiah Shea, respectively.

Chuck Johnson is chief of the Lee Newspapers State Bureau in Helena. He can be reached by email at chuck.johnson@lee.net or by phone at (406) 447-4066 or (800) 525-4920.

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