Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - University of Montana Professor Anthony Johnstone at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law was appointed on Monday, May 1 to serve as circuit judge for the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

KGVO News spoke to UM Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz about the honor on Tuesday.

UM Law Professor Johnstone to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

“We're very, very excited that one of our own, Professor Anthony Johnstone was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to sit on the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That is the level of court that sits right below the U.S. Supreme Court, and this is a very rare opportunity to have a Montanan and have somebody who's been so embedded at the University of Montana, to take such an influential and important position within our federal government.”

Kuntz said the appointment is vital to the region because Judge Johnstone will bring his knowledge and experience to a number of issues important to Montana and the western United States.

Johnstone will Bring Montana Experience to Issues like Water Rights

“That's one of the reasons why the University of Montana Alexander Blewitt III School of Law is so unique is that a lot of the conflicts and the resolutions that are needed through the courts out of Montana are just so much different, especially in the states that make up the Ninth Circuit, like heavily populated states on the West Coast,” he said. “That’s why it's a big deal for Montana to have representation on this court, as we have had historically, and we're excited that the appointment went to Anthony Johnstone, somebody who's well-versed in the laws that are unique to Montana, such as water rights, Native American relations, and other factors that the Alexander Blewitt III School of Law specializes in.”

The appointment of Judge Johnstone continues a long and proud tradition over the years of judges, not just from Montana, but from the UM Law School.

“Judge Johnstone is the fourth judge with University of Montana ties to get a seat on the Court of Appeals,” he said. “He follows Walter Pope, Jim Browning, and Sidney Thomas. And so this continues a long line of people who have a direct connection to the University of Montana, Alexander blue at the third school of law to represent on the ninth circuit. And it's something we're incredibly thrilled about. And it also provides our students with a unique opportunity going forward. It's not worked out yet, but it's our understanding that there still could be some opportunities for Judge Johnstone to work with UM students in the years ahead, which obviously gives our students such an advantage over their peers at other universities.”

Johnstone may Set Up Chambers here at UM in Missoula

In fact, Kuntz said Judge Johnstone is expected to set up his chambers very soon right here in Missoula at the law school.

“He begins immediately, so I imagine he'll start hearing cases here in the very near term,” he said. “It's our hope that he's able to set up his judge chambers here in Missoula, which allows him to keep local ties and makes it easier for our students to clerk with him in the future and get that real-life experience that a lot of our law school graduates seek through judge clerkships. So we expect that he will remain part of the UM family and we're excited that he's going to launch this journey and hopefully do so largely from Missoula.”

Dean of the law school Elaine Gagliardi provided this statement:

'Our small law school has sent five of its professors or alumni to a circuit court and soon-to-be Judge Johnstone's predecessors were the chief judges of the Ninth Circuit. Judge Pope, Judge Jim Browning, and most recently Judge Sidney Thomas. We also had one of our alumni who served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.'

There were some voices of dissent regarding Judge Johnstone’s appointment, including this statement from Montana Senator Steve Daines:

The Ninth Circuit has substantial influence over Montana and our way of life. It is critical that Montana’s lone seat on this court is held by someone that better reflects Montana values, not someone who will be a rubber stamp for President Biden’s far-left agenda. Mr. Johnstone’s record proves that rather than upholding the rule of law and protecting Montana values, he supports President Biden’s wide-open southern border and undercutting Montanans’ Second Amendment rights.

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