Despite Montana’s constitution requiring a candidate for Attorney General practice law in Montana for more at least five years, the Montana Supreme Court has unanimously decided to let Democrat candidate, Raph Graybill, remain on the ballot. The controversy surrounds the clause found in Art. VI, § 4(4) of the Montana Constitution, which says, “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.”
The term “thereof” is a reference to requirement just mentioned, meaning that one has to have practiced law in Montana for five years. Graybill has not fulfilled this requirement. However, the highest Montana court ruled the GOP should have made a complaint, meaning that if Graybill wins the election in November he will be the first Attorney General to not fulfill this requirement since the Constitution was ratified.
The court ruled that the possibility of a constitutionally unqualified attorney general did not rise to the level of being “urgent,” and cast blame on the GOP for not complaing sooner. They wrote in their opinion, “Urgency or emergency factors do not spring from a party’s own unexplained dilatory action.”
Keep in mind, the GOP filed the complaint before the deadline of August 20 to certify names on the ballot. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court wanted them to have done it even sooner. The court appeared to give no explicit opinion in regard to the meritless nature of Graybill’s dubious qualifications. Now, it appears next to impossible for the GOP to give their complaint to a lower court, with time permitted for it to rise again to the Supreme Court for them to actually handle the merits of their constitutional arguments.
The GOP did try to warn Jeff Mangan, the Commissioner of Political Practices, of Graybill’s lack of qualifications since at least February, but Mangan – who works for Governor Bullock – ruled against them, claiming that Graybill, “engaged in the practice of law for five years,” overlooking the actual wording of the constitution that requires it be within the state.
Austin Knudsen, the only constitutionally qualified candidate in this race, said in response, “[The Democratic Party] and their trial lawyer cronies have invested millions of dollars in Supreme Court campaigns just so they’ll do their bidding in cases like this. It is a real shame to see the Supreme Court more interested in pleasing their campaign benefactors than upholding the Constitution.”
Montana’s Supreme Court ranks among the most liberal in the United States, widely out of step with the conservative people of the Big Sky State.