Meet Laurie McKinnon

Fair. Experienced. Committed.

laurie mckinnon supreme court justice
  • Laurie McKinnon

    Justice of the Montana Supreme Court

  • While Laurie was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the Big Sky state of Montana will always be her home. After first arriving in Montana in 1995, she quickly developed an admiration and love for the openness and wildness of this beautiful state as well as its down-to-earth people. Laurie’s proudest accomplishments are her 32 years of marriage to husband, Dr. Gary L. Pannabecker and their four children: Rachel, Chet, Wyatt, and Dylan. In her free time, Laurie indulges in Montana’s outdoors riding horses, hiking, camping, fishing, cross-country skiing and playing with her dogs. She also enjoys traveling, playing the piano, and spending time with her family.

Justice of the Montana Supreme Court

In 2012, Laurie was elected Justice of the Montana Supreme Court. She has worked tirelessly as a justice to make fair decisions consistent with our constitution and the rule of law. But she also believes that courts should serve and answer the needs of its people. To that end, Laurie has worked to establish a state-wide mediation program, using the help of local attorneys, to mediate family law disputes and parenting plans for low-income families. Laurie believes the judiciary and courts should find better ways to address the needs of its users by looking at new and innovative programs and coming up with better ways of resolving disputes.

Montana District Judge

In 2007 Laurie was elected as a general jurisdiction trial judge for the Ninth Judicial District of Montana. In this role, she established the Ninth Judicial District Chemical Dependency Treatment Court as the district’s first problem solving court for drug and alcohol offenders. She helped create the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program to serve as guardians ad litem for children in child abuse and neglect cases. She also established the Self-Help Law Program to improve access to justice for low-income clients.

Early Career

Laurie learned the Montana justice system serving as both a Special County Attorney for Glacier County and the Deputy County Attorney for Teton County. During that time she prosecuted felony and misdemeanor crimes, served as legal advisor for county officials and agencies, represented the county in involuntary commitment proceedings of the mentally ill, guardianships of incapacitation persons, abuse and neglect of children, property and access disputes, open meeting laws – to name a few.

Awards & Recognition
  • In 2019, Laurie was awarded the Montana State Bar Karla M. Gray Equal Justice Award for her work with the Early Resolution and Mediation Program or E-RAMP.
  • In 2010, Laurie was named the Judge of the Year by the Court Appointment Special Advocates (CASA) of Montana for her work in cases involving abused and neglected children.
  • In 2009, she wrote and received a $350,000 grant from the Department of Justice for implementation of a drug and alcohol treatment court within the 9th Montana Judicial District.
Memberships
  • Executive Committee to the Appellate Judges Conference
  • Executive Committee to Appellate Judges Education Institute
  • ABA Advisor to the Uniform Law Commission’s Study on Fines and Fees
  • Judicial Education Committee of the Montana Judges Association
  • National Association of Women Judges
Education
  • A proponent of lifelong learning, Laurie received her undergraduate degree from Goucher College and a law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She also received a Master’s degree in Judicial Studies from the University of Nevada and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Judicial Studies from the University of Nevada.
  • Laurie is actively involved in educating appellate judges across the nation. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Appellate Judges Conference, the Appellate Judges Education Institute, and is an American Bar Association Advisor to the Uniform Law Commission. Laurie also serves on the Education Committee for the Montana Judges Association.