Once the Markus Kaarma trial ended, Missoula District Judge Ed McLean announced his retirement from the bench after serving for 26 years.

The process for replacing Judge McLean has been underway for the past two months, according to Chief Clerk of District Court, Shirley Faust.

"The process is actually set forth in statute," Faust said. "There is a commission called the Judicial Nomination Commission, and they took nominations for the position. The commission has sent four nominees to the governor for his consideration."

Faust outlines the qualifications for a district judge.

"Only attorneys are qualified to sit as a district judge, and they themselves have to submit their own application," she said.

The top four nominees were announced in early April as current Standing Master Brenda Desmond, and local attorneys Barbara Leslie Halligan, Shane Anthony Vannatta and Brian Smith, who was on the Markus Kaarma defense team. Faust said the governor will interview the finalists on May 5.

Dave Parker, spokesman for Governor Steve Bullock, told KGVO News that the governor takes the appointment of a district judge very seriously, and will take all the time necessary to  make his choice, however he did say that the selection should take less than one month.