Breuner named new district judge |

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte has appointed Belgrade City Court Judge Andrew Breuner to preside over the new Gallatin County Eighteenth Judicial District Court.

Breuner, who has been a Belgrade city judge since 2015, was one of four candidates who applied for the job earlier this fall. The 2021 legislature approved the new position in response to rising caseloads in the rapidly growing county.

Breuner’s last day in Belgrade will be December 31; he expects to be sworn in as a district judge on January 3.

Breuner told the Belgrade News on Wednesday that he believed his experience on the bench in Belgrade contributed to the governor’s decision.

“A real peculiarity was that I was a sitting judge for almost seven years,” he said. “You put that on top of the fact that I was a licensed attorney, and I think I brought a wealth of experience to the application process.”

He added that Gianforte also knows him well due to their past working relationship on the Petra Academy board.

“I know what his expectations are, his standards of professionalism,” Breuner said. “He knows what my skills are, he knows my personality, he knows what my values ​​are.”

In a press release, Gianforte said, “Andrew Breuner is a talented attorney who will make an exceptional judge in the Eighteenth Judicial District. He is committed to fair, consistent, and objective enforcement of the law, and I am confident he will serve Gallatin County well by interpreting the laws, not making them from the bench.

Before becoming a judge in Belgrade, Breuner worked for 15 years as a lawyer, “so I know the district systems well, not just locally but across the state,” he said.

Breuner said the appointment was “bittersweet” because “as excited as I am and eager to work at Bozeman…I have real affection for Belgrade.”

“To be honest with you, I’m going to miss coming to work here terribly,” he said.

In an email Wednesday morning to court and city staff, Breuner wrote, “Thanks to you I have looked forward to coming to work every day for the past six and a half years. You have made my work so meaningful and, frankly, fun. I am truly blessed by all of you and will miss this place immensely.

Under Breuner’s leadership, the Belgrade court became a municipal court of record last July, meaning the court now keeps detailed records of all its proceedings. Breuner said Wednesday that he expects the next big change for the municipal court will be a transition to municipal court status, consistent with most major cities in Montana — and he expects that to happen. happen as soon as possible.

Before that, the city will have to find a new municipal judge, a transition that Breuner says will be fairly seamless.

“I am completely confident that we have the resources we need to operate the court for as long as it takes (to hire a replacement),” he said. “By the end of January, I expect Belgrade to be ready to select someone.”

City manager Neil Cardwell said council will begin planning for a new judge when it meets Monday.

“I’m excited for him and this opportunity,” Cardwell said. “It couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Breuner applied in 2020 to succeed retired District Judge Holly Brown, a position eventually filled by Peter Ohman. At the time, Breuner told the Belgrade News that he wanted to pursue this opportunity in the district court because of the increased variety and complexity of the cases he would be handling there.

Other candidates for the new district judge seat were Audrey Schultz Cromwell, managing partner of Cromwell Law and judge pro tempore at Bozeman City Court and Gallatin County Court; Martin Lambert, Gallatin County District Attorney; and Benjamin Refling, who works for the state’s public defender’s office.

The direct appointment of the governor differs from the way district court judges have been selected over the past 50 years. Previously, candidates for the office of district court judge were selected by the Judges Nominating Commission consisting of two attorneys, four persons who are neither judges nor attorneys, and one district court judge, with the approval Governor’s final. A new law passed by the 2021 legislature gave the governor the power to fill vacant or new seats himself. The law was challenged in the Montana Supreme Court, which ruled in June that it was constitutional.

To keep his new seat, Breuner will have to run for office next fall.

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