HELENA – Unsuccessful Montana Supreme Court candidate Lawrence VanDyke said he intends to remain an active member of the State Bar of Montana for the foreseeable future after he moves to Nevada to become that state’s solicitor general.
VanDyke said he expects to take the Nevada bar exam at some time after he moves there.
His status as a member of the Montana bar was an issue when four delegates to the 1972 Constitutional Convention filed a lawsuit last spring seeking to keep him off the ballot as a Supreme Court candidate. They contended VanDyke had not been admitted to the active practice of law in Montana for at least five years, as required.
District Judge Mike Menahan of Helena agreed, and in April ordered VanDyke off the November ballot.
VanDyke appealed the decision, and in July the Montana Supreme Court overturned Menahan’s decision in a 4-3 ruling.
The majority found that VanDyke’s admission to the practice of law in 2005 satisfied the Montana Constitution’s requirement that a Supreme Court candidate 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.”
After passing the Montana bar exam, VanDyke, a Harvard Law School graduate, had practiced law in Washington, D.C., and Texas. He worked for a large private law firm in Washington and Texas and then as an assistant solicitor general in Texas.
He returned to Montana in January 2013 after Attorney General Tim Fox hired him as the state’s solicitor general. VanDyke left the office in May 2014.
In the November general election, Justice Mike Wheat defeated VanDyke for the justice seat by a 59 percent to 41 percent.
Earlier this week, newly elected Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said he was appointing VanDyke to be solicitor general in that state.