Montana Supreme Court

Unlike most state court systems and the federal judiciary, Montana does not have an intermediate appellate court. Consequently, the Supreme Court hears direct appeals from all of the District Courts across Montana, as well as from the Workers' Compensation Court and the Water Court. Because people have a right to an appeal and there is no intermediate appellate court for Montanans to go to, the Montana Supreme Court does not have discretion to turn down appeals; it must take them all and resolve them.

Chief Justice Mike McGrath

Chief Justice Mike McGrath was raised in Butte, Montana. He earned a degree in business administration from the University of Montana in 1970 and graduated from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1975. Following graduation from law school he worked as a Reginald Heber Smith Community lawyer fellow in Reno, Nevada, providing legal services to low-income clients.


Justice Patricia O`Brien Cotter

Justice Cotter graduated in 1972 with honors from Western Michigan University with a B.S. in Political Science and History, and graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1977. After practicing law in her native South Bend, Indiana, for six years, she and her husband Michael moved to Montana, and in early 1984 began practicing law with John Hoyt in Great Falls.


Justice Beth Baker

Justice Baker was raised in Spokane, Washington, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Washington in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication. In 1985, she graduated with high honors from the University of Montana School of Law.



Justice Laurie McKinnon

Justice Laurie McKinnon is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law and began practicing law in 1987, handling a wide variety of civil and criminal litigation. She spent ten years as a prosecutor in the Glacier and Teton County Attorney's Office and the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office in Maryland. From 2006 to 2012 she served as District Judge of the Ninth Judicial District Court.


Justice James A. Rice

Justice Rice was born November 15, 1957, to U.S. Military parents stationed at Ramore Air Force Base, near Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada. He grew up in eastern Montana, graduating from Glasgow High School in 1975. Obtaining his pilot's license at age 17, Justice Rice worked at aviation-related positions while he attended college.


Justice Mike Wheat

Justice Wheat received his undergraduate degree (political science 1975) and his law degree (1978) from the University of Montana. After graduation, he worked as a Deputy County Attorney in Butte, Montana until 1981, at which time he moved to Bozeman, Montana and established a private law practice where he worked until 2009. Mike’s practice focused on civil trial and appellate advocacy.