State District Judge Ingrid Gustafson of Billings will be the newest justice on the Montana Supreme Court, appointed Thursday by Gov. Steve Bullock to fill a vacancy created by retiring Justice Mike Wheat.
Bullock announced his appointment Thursday afternoon, choosing Gustafson over two other finalists, Helena attorney Mike Lamb and state Water Court Judge Russell McElyea of Bozeman.
Gustafson will take her seat on the seven-member court in January and must run for re-election next year for the remaining four years of Wheat’s term.
Gustafson, first appointed to state bench by Gov. Judy Martz in 2004, will become the third woman on the court, joining justices Beth Baker and Laurie McKinnon.
Gustafson earned her law degree at the University of Montana and has an undergraduate degree from Montana State University.
After being appointed as a district judge for Yellowstone County in 2004, she won election to the post that year and was re-elected in 2006 and 2012.
Gustafson served last year on the state Commission on Sentencing, which designed extensive reforms to state sentencing laws, with an eye toward reducing the number of people incarcerated in Montana. The 2017 Legislature adopted many of the commission’s proposals.
She also started Yellowstone County’s first “drug court,” which attempts to work with and rehabilitate drug offenders, rather than just send them to prison.