Anthony Johnstone
Credit: University of Montana

University of Montana law professor and Montana Constitution expert Anthony Johnstone has been nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as a judge for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the White House said Friday.

Johnstone is currently the Helen and David Mason Professor of Law at the University of Montana’s Blewett School of Law, and he published a book on the Montana state Constitution this year. His past experience also includes serving as an attorney in the Montana Department of Justice and clerking for 9th Circuit judge Sidney Thomas.

Johnstone graduated from law school at the University of Chicago in 1999 and holds an undergraduate degree from Yale University.

Federal judges are appointed by the president and are subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Federal judgeships are typically lifetime appointments.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, welcomed news of the nomination in a release, saying he hoped to see Johnstone confirmed by the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support.

“Anthony Johnstone’s distinguished career as a lawyer and public servant make him well-qualified to serve in this critical role,” Tester said. “He has a proven track record of standing up for our constitution and applying the law without any personal bias — a quality that is desperately needed at a time when far too many people try to politicize our courts.”

Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, said in a statement that he is concerned about federal judges appointed by Democratic presidents supporting “far-Left” policies.

“​​I will scrutinize the nominee very carefully, and I hope to see Senator Tester break from his past record in supporting far-Left judges for Montana and stand with me in ensuring any judge appointed to the 9th Circuit will uphold our Montana values,” Daines said.

Johnstone didn’t return an email inviting comment on his nomination Friday.

The 9th Circuit hears federal court cases appealed out of a nine-state region in the western U.S., serving as an intermediary between state-level federal district courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The circuit is authorized to have 29 non-senior-status judges.

This story was updated on Sept. 2, 2022, to include comment from Sen. Steve Daines.

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Eric came to journalism in a roundabout way after studying engineering at Montana State University in Bozeman (credit, or blame, for his career direction rests with the campus's student newspaper, the Exponent). He has worked as a professional journalist in Montana since 2013, with stints at the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and Solutions Journalism Network before joining the Montana Free Press newsroom in Helena full time in 2019.