HELENA, Mont. -

The Montana Judges Association is proposing to make it more difficult to substitute district judges in cases. The group seeks to change the rule that allows a litigant to replace a judge simply by filing a request.
The proposed changes include a $500 fee, signatures from the requesting attorneys' clients and no substitutions in certain proceedings. The Montana Supreme Court sent the proposal to public comment Tuesday.
The rule was enacted in 1903 after two Butte-Silver Bow judges repeatedly ruled for a surveyor named F. Augustus Heinze in mining claims cases amid bribery allegations.
The association says the rule has been abused, with 1,188 substitutions between 2011 and 2012. The issue flared in Missoula in November after public defenders who requested substitutions complained judges were sending cases outside the county.