Montana’s Constitution is very clear. A candidate for the Montana Attorney General office must have five-years of experience practicing law within the state. After a lawsuit was filed in the state’s Supreme Court by the Montana Republican Party, Raph Graybill has defended himself not by arguing that he meets those standards but insisting that the state GOP improperly bypassed district court in their complaint.
In short, it’s not a good sign for Graybill, who thought he could ascend to the office of the highest law enforcement officer in Montana without fulfilling the qualifications of the law.
Republicans have been underlining, highlighting, and pointing at Montana’s very clear legal standards on the requirements for the Attorney General’s office laid out in the state constitution since at least February, but the Commissioner of Political Practices (who works at the behest of Governor Bullock, a staunchly partisan Democrat) inexplicably dismissed their complaints and gave the greenlight to Graybill to run despite not having practiced law in the state for five years.
For once, it seems that the corruption of the CoPP may catch up to Democrats if the Supreme Court rules that the constitution in fact matters.
The Constitution reads in Art. VI, § 4(4), “Any person with the foregoing qualifications is eligible to the office of attorney general if an attorney in good standing admitted to practice law in Montana who has engaged in
the active practice thereof for at least five years before the election.”
Graybill’s argument and that of state Democrats is that the constitution does say the Attorney General must be licensed to practice law in Montana, but does not say for how long; it does say he must have practiced law for five years, but not necessarily all of it in Montana.
However, Graybill’s argument ignores the word “thereof” in the Constitution, referring to their legal practice in Montana. If a simple English dictionary is used by the Montana Supreme court, the meaning of the clause should be simple enough. The term is an adverb, referring to that phrase which preceded it. In other words, candidates for Attorney General must hold a current law license in Montana and have had it for five years.
Oddly enough, in article published at an extreme leftwing publication in Missoula, Graybill is quoted as saying he desires to serve as “Montana’s lawyer.” His opponent, Austin Knudsen, has rightly pointed out that the office of Attorney General is one of a law-enforcement officer, whose task is to both uphold and enforce Montana’s legal code and not that of an ambulance-chasing trial attorney who wants to spend the state’s vital resources in frivolous lawsuits against the U.S. government or conservative organizations.
Knudsen has experience not only as the speaker of the Montana House of Representatives, but also as an attorney serving as the Roosevelt County Prosecuting Attorney and has pledged to make law-enforcement his top priority. He has also distanced himself from Graybill, who has pledged to use the resources as “Montana’s attorney” to fight for various environmental causes.
The question should be asked by Montana’s voters, no matter the outcome of the court’s decision; if Raph Graybill would try to run for office irrespective of Montana’s laws, would he really seek to enforce them as the Attorney General?