Big Sky Roundup

Chief Justice gets top award from Gonzaga Law School

By: - June 14, 2021 1:20 pm

Chief Justice Mike McGrath (left) accepts the Law Medal from Gonzaga University, his alma mater, which is the law school’s highest honor. McGrath was presented with the award during commencement ceremonies in 2021 (Courtesy Gonzaga University).

Chief Justice Mike McGrath is the recipient of a 2021 Gonzaga Law Medal, the highest recognition given by the Gonzaga School of Law.

The Gonzaga Law Medal is bestowed annually by the School of Law during Spring Commencement. The award is given to deserving individuals who have distinguished themselves in the service of justice through the practice of law, as a member of the judiciary, in public/private employment, or in legal teaching. The Gonzaga Law Medal was created in 1962 in commemoration of the Golden Anniversary of the founding of the School of Law. The Honorable Archibald Cox, Solicitor General of the United States, was the first recipient of the Gonzaga Law Medal.

Chief Justice McGrath is the second Montanan to receive the award. United States District Court Judge William Jameson was the last Montanan honored in 1970.

Chief Justice Mike McGrath was raised in Butte.  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.

He served in the United States Air Force from 1970 until an honorable discharge in 1972.

He was a Montana Assistant Attorney General from 1977 to 1982. He was elected to five terms as Lewis and Clark County Attorney beginning in 1983.  He was elected to two terms as Montana Attorney General.  As Attorney General he served from 2000 to 2008, oversaw a staff of more than 700 employees and focused on methamphetamine prevention and natural resource and land issues.

McGrath was elected to an eight-year term as Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court in November, 2008, and took office January 5, 2009. He ran unopposed for a second eight-year term in 2016. He and his wife Joy have two sons, Pat and Chris, and five grandchildren.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming.