Montana’s new U.S. Attorney, Michael Cotter and his wife, Montana Supreme Court Justice Patricia Cotter, have been dubbed Montana’s “power couple” by The Great Falls Tribune, which published an article Monday featuring the couple.
Michael Cotter was confirmed as Montana’s U.S. Attorney last Dec. 24 and he was sworn in on Dec. 30. Patricia Cotter was first elected to the state Supreme Court in 2000 and was re-elected in 2008.
The couple met at the University of Notre Dame School of Law in 1975 and have since focused on building not only their families but both of their legal careers, according to the newspaper. They both started their legal careers working together in the law offices of John C. Hoyt in Great Falls, Mont., according to the newspaper.
When Michael decided to apply to become Montana’s top federal prosecutor, the couple discussed potential conflicts. “We talked about it before I submitted my name: whether in the past there had been any situations where a federal case came over to the Montana Supreme Court for consideration,” Cotter told the newspaper. “It has happened a few times before but not very often.”
Justice Cotter told the newspaper, “On occasion a federal court can certify to the Montana Supreme Court questions on state law,” adding, “It may happen three or four times a year, and typically the United States is not a party in those cases. I think we’ve had one case in my 10 years on the court in which the United States was a party. If that happened while Mike was a United States Attorney then I would recuse myself.”
Unlesss and until that happens, the new U.S. Attorney will be focused on prosecuting violent crimes, drug trafficking, international organized crime and terrorism, hate crimes, economic crimes, protecting children and crime in Indian country, according to The Tribune.
Michael, who had never before held public office, told the newspaper he considers himself apolitical and plans to maintain that neutrality in his new job. “Politics plays no role in being an attorney representing the government,” Cotter told The Tribune. “It’s the facts of the case and the law that is violated. The facts drive whether or not a crime has been committed.”
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who along with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) recommended Michael for the post, said his recommendation was based on Cotter’s extensive legal experience and commitment to public service, not politics. In a statement, Baucus said, “He has strong expertise, including trying cases in federal court, was well known in Montana legal circles and has extensive roots in the community, including volunteering with youth programs and his church. Mr. Cotter is also experienced in managing personnel both as a private practice attorney and as a 1st Lt. in the U.S. Army.”
Cotter was nominated for the post in September. Baucus’s live-in girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, had been a finalist for the position before she withdrew. She now holds a political appointment at the Justice Department. She became acting Deputy Administrator for Policy in the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention a few months after her withdrawal.