Attorney Shane Vannatta was appointed this week by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock to the newly minted judge position in Missoula District Court, a seat on the bench created by the 2017 Legislature.
The appointment, made Tuesday, makes Vannatta Missoula's fifth District Court judge. A 2015 study found the Missoula District, which covers both Missoula and Mineral counties, was short two judges in light of its caseload.
Vannatta, a University of Montana graduate and attorney at Worden Thane P.C. of Missoula, said Thursday he is ready for the task ahead. He's donned the robe for the last 18 years as a sub-judge for Missoula County Justice Court, and has served as the president of the State Bar of Montana.
"It was through my service in Justice Court that I realized I can do this, and I have a wonderful aptitude for it," he told the Missoulian. "I believe the value of the court system is to provide a place for people to present problems, feel like they've been heard and get a decision then that they can believe in."
Practicing for nearly 30 years, Vannatta also brings expertise in labor and employment, corporate law, intellectual property and trademark law — categories for which he has been recognized by the Best Lawyers in America peer review publication since 2008.
At 50 years old, he will be the youngest judge in District Court. He comes from Bainville, an agricultural community in eastern Montana with a population of 208 in the last census.
Vannatta will be sworn in within 30 days of Tuesday's appointment, which will undergo a confirmation vote in the state Senate.