Big Sky Roundup

Morrison backs out of Supreme Court chief justice race, endorses Lynch

By: - November 7, 2023 3:56 pm
Former state auditor John Morrison, who briefly ran for Supreme Court chief justice in 2023.

Former state auditor John Morrison, who briefly ran for Supreme Court chief justice in 2023. (Photo via John Morrison campaign)

Former state auditor John Morrison announced Tuesday he was bowing out of the race to be Montana’s next Supreme Court Chief Justice and endorsing the only other candidate in the race so far, former federal magistrate Jeremiah “Jerry” Lynch.

“I do not want to waste resources or create divisions that could undermine our shared commitment to uphold Constitutional freedoms, court access and the Rule of Law in this critical time,” Morrison said in a statement posted to his website. “I am afraid that continuing this campaign in the months ahead could potentially do that.”

Morrison announced his bid for the seat last month, saying he wanted to “make sure our courts remain open and impartial and fair for all Montanans.”

In his announcement that he was leaving the race, Morrison said he recently made an appearance with Lynch “and was impressed with his energy and ability to calmly, but firmly, articulate” similar values of protecting the Montana Constitution and ensuring openness and fairness in the state’s court system.

“I got into this race to fight those who want to tear the Constitution and the Courts away from the people,” Morrison said. “Campaigns like this represent a huge sacrifice for candidates and their families. Cathy and I were willing to make that sacrifice because we believed that I was the best candidate to lead that fight. I now am confident that Judge Lynch has the momentum and profile to defend our Constitution and Courts and win this election.”

Morrison also thanked his supporters and donors, promised them refunds, and urged them to contribute to Lynch’s campaign. Lynch already had $100,000 in cash on hand by the end of September before Morrison entered the race, according to campaign finance reports.

Morrison said he will continue to practice as a lawyer “to protect the independence and integrity of our Courts and Constitution and to seek justice for the people of our state and country.”

Lynch is a former federal magistrate judge who held that role from 2006 to 2019. He has so far run on a platform similar to Morrison’s of protecting the constitution and court system and has previously practiced in front of the state Supreme Court.

Lynch is now the only candidate currently running to replace Chief Justice Mike McGrath, who announced he would not seek re-election. Justice Dirk Sandefur is also not seeking re-election; district judges Dan Wilson and Katherine Bidegaray are running for his seat.

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Blair Miller
Blair Miller

Blair Miller is a reporter based in Helena who primarily covers government, climate and courts. He's been a journalist for more than 12 years, previously based in Denver, Albuquerque and mid-Missouri.