HELENA, Mont. (CN) – Flags flew at half-staff Tuesday as Montanans mourned the death of Karla Gray, the state’s first female high court chief justice.
Gov. Steve Bullock called Gray a “dedicated public servant and determined champion for access to justice in Montana.
“As the first female chief justice in Montana history, she never set out to be a role model, but her work ethic, humor, humility, and sense of justice have served as an inspiration for countless young lawyers in the state,” Bullock wrote in a proclamation that ordered all flags in the state to be flown at half-staff Tuesday. “Montana is forever stronger and more just as a result of her life, her service, and her example.”
Gray, 69, died of cancer on Feb. 19.
She was first appointed to the Montana Supreme Court in 1991, following the resignation of Diane Barz. Gray became the first woman elected to the court in 1992, was re-elected in 1998 and became the first woman elected chief justice in 2000.
Gray retired in 2008, but continued to be involved in Montana’s legal system.
“She was one of a kind, and this is definitely a deep loss for Montana and the justice system,” said Montana Supreme Court Justice Beth Baker, a longtime friend of Gray. “She was recognized nationally for her leadership in access to justice for everyone; the Montana State Bar gives an annual award in her name for that to a judge who demonstrates dedication to improving access to courts.”