According to sources in Great Falls, Judge Michelle Levine – a Governor Bullock (D) appointee – has demanded a citizen (through a court employee) who showed up for jury duty to go home, because the citizen’s conscience would not allow her to wear a mask. Reportedly, a court employee also threatened the woman to await arrest by the court bailiff.
Judge Levine (pictured left), wasted no time threatening the woman with arrest. Court bailiffs are provided by the Cascade County Sheriff’s Department. A similar issue arose in August of last year, after a Missoula Judge – John Larson – was serving in the court as a substitute for Judge Greg Pinski. A citizen named Philip Dupaul was thrown in jail by the judge for refusing to wear a mask, even amidst a COVID-19 outbreak in the jail.
Cascade County Sheriff Slaughter was not immediately informed of the judge’s actions, but issued a sharp rebuke to the judge and apologized to the wrongfully-arrested citizen. Slaughter said at the time…
“This order by the Judge then forced my Deputy (the Bailiff) to have to arrest Phillip and place him in the Cascade County Detention Center. I’m extremely frustrated and disappointed in how this situation was handled by Judge Larson. He did not consult with me regarding his decision. This whole mask order is contentious, to say the least. We as the Government should not be incarcerating and oppressing our citizens during this crisis over a mask order.
Since then, Montana has a new governor who has repealed the statewide mask mandate, and the Montana legislature is pushing through several measures designed to deter municipal or county governments from passing mask ordinances more strict than the rest of the state.
Montana Daily Gazette spoke to the woman who is being threatened with arrest for being pro-face, who recalled her story.
Sharlo Lilly, a retired school teacher and Montessori School owner, received notice that she was being summoned for jury duty. Lilly was excited to do her civic duty, and called an automated hotline on Friday evening, as requested in her summons. The automated recording was vague, and merely directed her to appear at the county fairgrounds at 8AM and bring a mask or one would be provided.
In the fairgrounds parking lot outside the arena, a collection of nearly twenty vehicles of potential jurors appeared and were confused as to where they were supposed to go. The directions left on the voice recording led the potential jurors to two lines, one for vaccination and one for COVID-19 testing. The citizens thought that there must be miscommunication, but it turns out that the directions were accurate. In order to serve in jury duty, the potential jurors were ordered to go through the COVID lines at the fairgrounds. There, Lilly discovered that she would be permitted to fill out a COVID-19 questionaire rather than receive a test or vaccination. A nurse at the facility accused Lilly of trying to use the mask issue as an excuse to get out of jury duty, impugning her personal testimony. But for those who know Lilly, they know where she stands on masks and it was no invention to escape jury duty.
After being run through the COVID lines like cattle, potential jurors were instructed to go the courthouse. There, approximately 50 potential jurors were forced to stand, socially distanced, in the courthouse rotunda with their paperwork. Lilly explained to a courthouse employee that she would not wear a mask because it was against her deeply held beliefs. There are also other reasons Lilly refused, but those reasons will not be examined here, per Lilly’s request.
Immediately, the court employee ordered Lilly to leave – twice – saying, “Get out now.” At the same time, the court employee told Lilly that she would be charged with contempt of court for leaving, presenting a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t Catch 22. She was not permitted to stay without a mask and was ordered to leave, while simultaneously being threatened with arrest for leaving.
Courageously, Lilly spoke aloud to the threatening court employee and her fellow jurors, explaining that she was aware of her God-given rights and explaining that “we are a Republic of the People, by the People, and for the People.”
Upon her citation of the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States, the court employee threatned to call the bailiff to arrest her.
Montana Daily Gazette reached out to Sheriff Slaughter, expecting Slaughter to be sympathetic to the potential juror and uphold his previous words. Slaughter had not heard of the incident but unfortunately confirmed that he would be forced to place the woman in jail if the judge ordered, lest he is held in contempt of court.
If you would like to contact Sheriff Slaughter to ask him to do his job and uphold the Constitution, you can call the Cascade County Sheriff Department at (406) 454-6820.