Montana ranks as the fourth largest state in America–behind Alaska, Texas, and California–but the least populated, with an average of six people occupying a square mile. It achieved statehood in 1889, becoming the 41st state. Among the Rocky Mountains states it is the lowest in altitude, at 3,400 feet, but ironically named after the Spanish word montaña meaning ‘mountainous region’ or ‘mountain’. Its most historic event is the battle between the U.S. Army and the Sioux tribe at Little Bighorn in 1876, famously known as ‘Custer’s Last Stand’. The United States’ first national park established is Yellowstone Park, which lies between northern Wyoming and southern Montana. Helena is the capital city of Montana.
The state of Montana has 56 counties, including two city-counties that are consolidated: Butte, consolidated with Silver Bow County, and Anaconda, consolidated with Deer Lodge County. In 1978, a portion of Yellowstone National Park that is located in Montana–but was not included in any county–was added to the County of Gallatin, while Park County got the rest of it. A total of eight counties in Montana are named using two words or more.
The highest court in the state is the Supreme Court of Montana. The court functions mostly as an appellate court that reviews the criminal and civil decisions of the lower trial courts. The Supreme Court is composed of six associate justices and one chief justice, who are elected to the post through popular and nonpartisan elections. The Justice Building is located in Helena, the capital city, and also the place where the Supreme Court is housed.
Upon being elected to the position, the justices have eight-year staggered terms which means that for every election time only two seats need to be filled. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote can be cast by voters to retain him or her when an incumbent judge runs unopposed.