Peter Ohman Swearing In Sandy Ernhardt

Gallatin County’s newest district court judge, Peter Ohman, swears in new Gallatin County Clerk of District Court Sandy Erhardt on Dec. 30 at the Gallatin County Courthouse.

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The Montana Senate confirmed 18th Judicial District Court Judge Peter Ohman on Monday afternoon by a unanimous vote on the Senate floor.

All 50 senators voted to pass Senate Resolution 47, sponsored by Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, and confirm Ohman, who was appointed in September 2020 by then-Gov. Steve Bullock. Ohman’s appointment was voted on in the Senate Judiciary last week, where he also received a unanimous vote.

“I am honored by the unanimous, bipartisan support of the Montana Senate, and look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Gallatin County as District Court Judge,” said Ohman in a statement to the Chronicle shortly after the vote.

Ohman will serve the remainder of former District Court Judge Holly Brown’s term, which ends in 2025. He’s one of three district court judges in the 18th Judicial District, though a fourth judge for the district is included in the state budget.

“He was the head of the Office of Public Defenders a few years ago, he did a good job there, he had a very good hearing,” Regier said.

“He’s working hard to understand water law. He’s actually getting out and going along irrigation canals, creeks, rivers, everything so he understands it better and he does a good job.”

Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, also voiced support for Ohman’s confirmation on the Senate floor prior to the vote. Sands brought up Ohman’s “hands-on approach” with people in the court system suffering from mental health issues, including his work with the Virgil Project, an organization formed in the early 2010s to help people with mental illnesses get treatment and bring themselves out of the criminal justice system.

“Those are the qualities that Mr. Ohman brings to this position that I think really command our support for his confirmation as a judge,” Sands said.

Ohman is one of three district court judges appointed by Bullock, though he is the only judge so far to have been confirmed by the Senate.

Immediately before the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to confirm Ohman on Friday, the committee split on party lines and ultimately voted down SR 50, the confirmation of Cascade County District Court Judge Michele Levine. Several Republican members of the committee said they didn’t believe Levine would be nonpartisan, citing her five-year stretch as a Democratic state representative for HD 97 in Missoula.

And SR 46, the resolution to confirm Bullock appointee Judge Christopher Abbot to the 1st Judicial District in Lewis and Clark County, has not yet had a vote on confirmation in the Senate Judiciary. The last action on SR 46 was a Senate Judiciary hearing with no vote on March 24.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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