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GOP senator wants to change justice qualifications

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 HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- A Republican state senator is proposing a constitutional
amendment to require prior experience for Montana Supreme Court justices.
   Fred Thomas of Stevensville is asking lawmakers to put the question to voters.
   It would require candidates to have experience as a District Court judge. But
 Thomas says he may expand the requirement to allow any judge or prosecutor, amid
 criticism the applicant pool would otherwise be too small.
   Thomas says he thinks the current system helps create a partisan court.
   But critics argued the proposal would not fix the perceived problem. They
pointed out the other offices needed for qualification often are riddled with
accusations of partisanship.
   Opponents say voters are best served by the current system that lets them evaluate
 the experience of attorneys who run for the high court.
   AP-WF-01-24-13 1912GMT

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