Gavel Grab: Ex-Justice Warns: Don’t Put Montana Judges on ‘Auction Block’

By Peter Hardin, Gavel Grab

“Montana’s judiciary must not be forced onto the auction block,” retired state Supreme Court Justice James Nelson writes in an outspoken Montana Standard op-ed. Signing the opinion with him were retired Justices Terry Trieweiler, Jim Regnier, Bill Leaphart, Bill Hunt and John (Skeff) Sheehy.

Tracing special interest and partisan spending in recent supreme court elections held in other states, and the pouring of “dark money” into judicial elections in the wake of Citizens United, Justice Nelson says the same trends could affect Montana judicial elections and have a frightening impact.

“No Montanan wants to litigate in a court where the fix is in because the judge or justice is beholden to those who spent him or her onto the bench,” he writes. “Montanans deserve fair, impartial, independent and non-partisan judges and justices elected by Montana voters—not political hacks, bought and paid for by out of state dark money. Our civil justice system is at stake.”

The op-ed is entitled, “Will Montana judges be for sale?” It cites Justice at Stake and two partner organizations for reporting that the sums raised and spent by judicial candidates will be dwarfed by outside spending.

A Great Falls Tribune article, meanwhile, looks ahead to nonpartisan elections for two seats on the Montana Supreme Court in November and promises a series of articles about the four candidates’ records.

The original article can be viewed here.