The Montana Chamber of Commerce is trying to make Montana’s legal system friendlier to business, but according to Government Relations Director Bridger Mahlum, they have a long way to go. Right now, Montana ranks 34th out of the 50 states in the Chamber’s Legal Environment Index. According to Mahlum, the ranking was created after interviewing over 1,200 general counsels, senior attorneys and litigators.

“They asked these litigators ‘Does the impact of the litigation environment in your state, does that impact important business decisions?’ and 75 percent of respondents reported that a state’s litigation environment is ‘very likely’ to impact important business decisions and I think that, namely, one of the important decisions is whether or not to even be in that state in the first place.”

The chamber recently celebrate an 8 to 1 ruling by the U.S. Supreme court in Favor of BNSF Railway in which the Montana Supreme Court was overturned. Mahlum says this is evidence of an activist court that needs a course correction.

“Between this case that just came out and cases in the past such as the state’s attempt to exempt itself from Citizen’s United, shows that our State Supreme court has shown in some instances has a tendancy to be more activist that our business community would like to see, the business community is more interested in seeing predictability in a court.”

The Montana Chamber of Commerce was active in the recent State Legislative Session and was heavily backing a bill reforming judgment interests in civil and tort cases, which ended up passing. Mahlum hopes to help make Montana’s legal climate one of the top ten in the county over the next decade.

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