Paul G. Hatfield

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Paul Gerhart Hatfield
Paul G. Hatfield.jpg
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Montana
In office
May 10, 1979 – February 9, 1996
Appointed by Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Russell Evans Smith
Succeeded by Donald W. Molloy
United States Senator
from Montana
In office
January 22, 1978 – December 14, 1978
Appointed by Thomas Lee Judge
Preceded by Lee Metcalf
Succeeded by Max Baucus
Personal details
Born (1928-04-29)April 29, 1928
Great Falls, Montana
Died July 3, 2000(2000-07-03) (aged 72)
Great Falls, Montana
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Alma mater College of Great Falls
University of Montana
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1951–1953

Paul Gerhart Hatfield, (April 29, 1928 – July 3, 2000) was an American politician and a member of the Democratic Party. He served briefly as United States Senator from Montana in 1978, and was later a United States federal judge.

Early life[edit]

Born in Great Falls, Montana, he attended the College of Great Falls (now University of Great Falls) and served in the United States Army, Signal Corps, 181st Signal Depot Company, from 1951 to 1953. He received an LL.B. from University of Montana Law School, Missoula, Montana in 1955, and was admitted to the Montana bar that same year, commencing his practice in Great Falls.


He was chief deputy county attorney for Cascade County from 1959 to 1960 and served as judge of the Eighth Judicial District from 1961 to 1976. He was elected Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court in the 1976 general election, defeating long-time Associate Justice Wesley Castles with a vote of 199,536 (67.5%) to 95,947 (32.5%), taking office in January 1977. He served until he was appointed to the US Senate on January 22, 1978.

On January 22, 1978, Montana Governor Thomas Lee Judge appointed Hatfield to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Lee Metcalf for the term ending January 3, 1979. He served from January 22, 1978, until his resignation December 14, 1978. He was defeated for renomination in the Democratic primary in June 1978 by Congressman Max Baucus with Baucus getting 87,085 votes (65.3%) to Hatfield's 25,789 (19.3%). There were two other minor candidates in the race. After that nominating defeat, Hatfield remained in the Senate until his own resignation when the election of his successor, Baucus, was officially certified after the general election in November 1978.

Max Baucus praised his former primary opponent for being "one of the most decent and thoughtful people I've had the privilege of knowing."[1]

After he left the US Senate, on March 15, 1979, Hatfield was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Montana vacated by Russell E. Smith. Hatfield was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 9, 1979, and received his commission the following day. He served as chief judge from 1990 to 1996, assuming senior status on February 9, 1996, and continuing to serve until the end of his life. Hatfield was a resident of Great Falls, Montana from 1979 until his death on July 3, 2000.[2] He is buried in Riverside Memorial Park in Spokane, Washington.[3]

Hatfield was highly regarded as a courageous U.S. Senator[citation needed] whose primary election defeat in 1978 is widely regarded as a consequence of his unpopular, but principled and decisive vote in favor of the 1977 Panama Canal Treaty and as the most outstanding jurist in Montana history. He died in Great Falls, Montana. The Paul G. Hatfield Courthouse in Helena, Montana is named in his honor.


External links[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
Lee Metcalf
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Montana
Served alongside: John Melcher
Succeeded by
Max Baucus
Legal offices
Preceded by
Russell Evans Smith
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Montana
Succeeded by
Donald W. Molloy