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News & Press: Montana Supreme Court

McKinnon not running for re-election to Supreme Court

Tuesday, June 4, 2019  
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Montana Supreme Court Justice Laurie McKinnon has announced that she will not run for re-election when her term expires in 2020.

Justice McKinnon’s husband, dentist Gary L. Pannabecker, recently took a job at a clinic near Winston Salem, N.C., but she said the decision not to run again was hers. She said there is no job security in being an elected member of the Supreme Court – a process she says it has become harder and harder to “put yourself out there” for as it has become more politicized in recent years.

“It’s so important that it be nonpartisan,” Justice McKinnon said. “It can be hard on people like me who are not political. I got cast into that light. You just have to do your job and be nonpartisan and hopefully people will see that.”

Justice McKinnon was elected to an eight-year term on the Supreme Court in 2012. Before joining the court she was elected Ninth Judicial District judge, which covers Glacier, Pondera, Teton, and Toole Counties, where she served from 2007-2012. In 2010 she was named Judge of the Year by the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Montana. In 2011 she wrote and received a $350,000 federal grant from the Department of Justice for implementation of a drug treatment court in the district.

Before becoming a judge, she spent 10 years as a prosecutor in Montana, first in the Glacier County Attorney’s Office and later in the Teton County Attorney’s Office. She was a prosecutor in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office in Maryland. She has also worked as a private criminal defense attorney in Maryland before moving to Montana in 1996.

A 1986 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law, Justice McKinnon said she will continue to practice after she leaves the court, although she doesn’t know in what capacity. She added that even though she is leaving the state, she would like to continue practicing Montana law.

“I don’t want to lose my connection to Montana,” she said. “I would love that opportunity.”