Montana Supreme Court picks redistricting panel chair

HELENA – The Montana Supreme Court Tuesday chose former state Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns as the fifth member and chair of the panel that will draw new legislative districts in Montana and, possibly, a new congressional district for the state.

Supreme Court justices, who met in a public session in Helena, discussed several possible appointments before deciding on Stearns, who was commissioner of higher education for nine years and interim president of the University of Montana from late 2016 to early January 2018.

Stearns will be the nonpartisan chair of the five-member Districting and Apportionment Commission, which redraws boundaries for all 150 legislative districts in Montana, to correspond with population changes in the 2020 Census. Those boundaries will take effect for the 2024 election and remain in place for a decade.