Montana has four other specialty courts, Water Court, Workers’ Compensation Court, Drug Court, and Youth Court to help in these specific areas.
Montana’s Water Court was established in 1979 to settle water rights along with Indian and Federal reserve water claims. This court has exclusive jurisdiction over water rights and cases. The Supreme Court’s Chief Justice selects and appoints a Chief Water Judge and an Associate Water Judge from all the nominees chosen by the Judicial Nomination Commission. There is also a divisional water judge for each of the court’s major water divisions. These judges preside over cases where the right to natural water resources is in question.
Montana’s Workers’ Compensation Court has only one judge who presides over all issues regarding the Montana Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Disease Act. This court’s goal is to resolve workplace issues in a fair and efficient manner. The types of cases handled by the Workers’ Compensation Court are disputes between independent contractors and an employer, workers’ compensation claims, benefits, and failure to provide coverage. They also handle civil issues of theft of benefits and two-year return to work preferences. They hold trials in five cities.
Montana first established Drug Court in 1989 to take the backlog of drug-related cases off other courts. Instead of focusing solely on justice, these courts aim to reduce recidivism and provide treatment programs for substance abuse. They specialize in “adult criminal, DUI offenses, juvenile, veteran or civil child abuse and neglect cases involving persons who are alcohol or other drug dependent.” There are 31 Drug Courts in Montana.
Youth Court is spread across 22 judicial districts. Montana’s Judicial Branch website describes Youth Court as “The juvenile justice system is designed to keep youth out of the deep end of the criminal justice system. It also is effective in helping the District/Youth Courts from becoming over-burdened with relatively minor offenses that can be handled more swiftly by juvenile probation through the informal process. The informal process requires collaboration between the youth and their parent(s).”