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News & Press: Montana Supreme Court

Justice Wheat to retire at end of year

Thursday, July 27, 2017  
Posted by: Joe Menden
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Montana Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat has announced his plans to retire at the end of this year.

Justice Wheat, 69, said that it's time for him to start a new chapter in his life. He submitted a letter on Tuesday informing Chief Justice Mike McGrath of his plans.

“It’s been my privilege and honor to represent the state of Montana, and more specifically the professional bar in Montana,” Justice Wheat said. “I’ve been a member of the bar since 1978. I’ve got many friends in the bar, and they’ll continue to be my friends.”

Wheat was appointed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer in 2010 to replace retired Justice John Warner.

He was re-elected in 2014, beating Lawrence VanDyke in the most expensive judicial race in state history. Estimates put the total spending at $1.6 million in that race.

He has five years remaining in his eight-year term.

Justice Wheat said his retirement is in no way health-related. In fact, it’s just the opposite – he is in great health, and he wants to spend some time with his wife, Debby, also retired, while they both still enjoy a good quality of life.

“I’m turning 70 (in December),” he said. “It’s time for us to spend a little time together.

He also said he isn’t going anywhere – he will stay in Montana, and he plans on keeping his bar membership active.

“I’m just going to take some time off and re-evaluate where I’m going from here.”

Justice Wheat graduated from the University of Montana with a political science degree in 1975, and earned his law degree from the University of Montana in 1978.

After graduation, he worked as a Deputy County Attorney in Butte until 1981. He moved to Bozeman, where he established a private law practice, where he worked for nearly 30 years until joining the court in 2010. His practice focused on civil trial and appellate advocacy.

His replacement will be filled through the judicial nomination process. Gov. Steve Bullock will appoint a replacement from a group of candidates to be nominated by the Montana Judicial Nomination Commission. The application process had not opened as of Monday morning.