One might ask the question to the Montana Supreme Court, “Who do you think you are?” If not presume rhetorical, we should all be afraid of their answer. Seeing themselves as above the law, outside the bounds of checks and balances, this cackling band of corrupt partisans have steadfastly refused to open themselves up to any transparency, acting like a bunch of unruly three-years olds given how frequently they throw fits and rage at the prospect of having to function as servants of the people.
The latest skirmish between the state legislature and dishonorable Supreme Court comes after the Lieutenant General in the state Department of Justice, Kristin Hansen, filed a request yesterday that the court “enter the field of negotiation and accommodation for the good of Montana” after the top-court issued a ruling in July torching the Legislature and demanding that they return every email they obtained through the subpoenas.
By fiat they prohibited the “disseminating, publishing, re-producing, or disclosing in any manner, internally or otherwise, any documents produced pursuant to the subject subpoenas” and demanded the Legislature “immediately return any materials produced pursuant to the subject subpoenas, or any copies or reproductions thereof” to the court administrator, ultimately concluding in their ruling:
We know why they care so much. The emails in question contained information that was highly embarrassing to the court, which the Montana Daily Gazette has written about a length her, here, here, and here. They got caught with their pants down, with their hands in the cookie jar, with a flashlight sneaking out the window to go meet some fellow Democrat paramour, or any other folksy way of saying that they got busted doing VERY BAD THINGS.
Hansen for her part seems unwilling to budge, making several arguments in her filing that declare doing so is impossible and that the court’s July ruling demanding the emails back violates the very principles of the constitution.
This hardline from Hansen also prompted Rep. Sue Vinton, the Republican Vice-Chair of the Select Committee, to dispute the court order, saying:
“The Montana Supreme Court issued flatly unconstitutional orders that violate legislative branch authority, attorney-client privilege, and First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of the press…the Montana Supreme Court made numerous factual, legal and unconstitutional errors in its ruling and the court needs to reconsider this matter. The Legislature continues to propose negotiation with our sister branch of government”
While the court’s bogus and self-serving order was geared towards the Legislature, it did not mention media reports or press coverage. This is good, as we’re going to shout from the rooftops what a bunch of fools of numbskulllian proportions they’re being and double down on our part in getting this information out to the people.
EMAIL BATCH 1
To see these emails yourself, click here.
Most interesting from Batch 1 is a poll of justices and district judges on HB342, a bill sponsored by Matt Regier (R-HD4), which would make races for Supreme Court Justice partisan elections. Of the 22 judges who responded to that poll, 22 opposed the legislation. It is very, very important to the judges to appear non-biased and non-partisan.
However, as you will see from these emails, the judges are not unbiased and they are very, very partisan.
The batch also contains an email from Lorrie Cole, the judicial assistant to Chief Justice Mike McGrath, who notified Supreme Court administrator Beth McLaughlin, that Judge Kreuger – who replaced Chief Justice McGrath on the court after he recused himself for bias – that John Dennison informed them that an email exists which demonstrates that Kreuger also was biased against SB140. Dennison is the chief political reporter for MTN News. The email – sent April 1 – notified McLaughlin of Kreuger’s bias.
EMAIL BATCH 2
To see these emails yourself, click here.
It’s in the second batch the court’ss antipathy, hatred, and arrogance toward the legislative branch of government is shown most fully. Consider, for example, Beth McLaughlin calling a bill sponsored by Sen. Theresa Manzella “stupid from the start” and maligning the Attorney General.
Mussleshell County Judge Randall Spaulding suggested, on account of Manzell’as bill, that legislators should only go to work once every ten years, be given only ten bills to propose, and be paid ten dollars per day.
The emails show Chief Justice Mike McGrath engaged in active lobbying efforts against bills that he is constitutionally bound to remain impartial about until hearing in his official capacity (see below).
Trying to “pick off some votes” and interfere in the legislative process is a big no-no for justices, who are to remain impartial. Again, McGrath engages in lobbying against bills that one day he will put on his robe, call himself neutral, and rule upon.
The bill that McGrath wanted to oppose (above) is HB685 (then, LC3213), which was sponsored by Rep. Brad Tschida (R-HD97). The bill, promoted by the Montana State Council on Judicial Accountability, would revise the Judicial Standards Commission which is theoretically supposed to hold judges accountable. Unfortunately, judges sit upon the commission and toss roughly 98% of the complaints brought against their peers. The bill was defeated in its second reading in the Montana House, but had it passed, largely would have cleaned up corruption in the judiciary.
As though it were a perfect case-in-point, McGrath – above – can been seen using judicial corruption to defeat a bill designed at stopping judicial corruption.
In fact, McGrath’s bias couldn’t be clearer in the released emails (see below).
Oddly, it seems like the Supreme Court is using a lobbying firm, Northbound Public Affairs. An email from the firm’s founder, Rebecca Meyers, reveals that she was working on behalf of the court to scuttle the judicial accountability bill.
Meyers is indeed registered as a lobbyist with the state (see below).
Meyers appears to be representing the Montana Magistrates Association from filings with the Secretary of State.
Notice the talking points the court passed around to each other to lobby against SB318, which would hold them accountable for bad rulings.
EMAIL BATCH 3
To see these emails yourself, click here.
Notice that Beth McLaughlin states the biggest problem with HB685 would be allowing Citizens to review the judicial conduct of judges (see below).
McLaughlin and the court, of course, prefer that foxes guard the henhouse, and desire the judiciary to police itself because the average, ordinary citizen plebes cannot handle the task of holding the judiciary accountable.
Kelly Mantooth, the Justice of the Peace in Lewistown, communicating with McLaughlin and their lobbyist, Rebecca Meyers, gave a playbook for opposing the bill.
Bruce Spencer, a government relations attorney who acts as a lobbyist for the court, spoke rather openly about caucusing with Democrats and “providing them cover.”
Mike Menihan is a district judge in Helena who has already been reprimanded for sending politically charged emails back in 2019. His hand was slapped (barely) by the Judicial Standards Committee for using public resources to send politically partisan emails, but as is typical, he was only ordered to apologize for “an improper use of public resources” and “damaging the perception of his impartiality.”
Coming out strongly against accountability, using public resources to send politically charged emails, Menihan is found in Batch #3 to oppose the accountability bill. Notice that Menihan acknowledges the impropriety of judges lobbying against partisan bills, right before telling the court to keep doing it. He literally was “punished” for doing this just two years ago.
Notice that McLaughlin said that they need to “start working” HB685, and encouraged injecting themselves into the legislative process through Rep. Barry Usher.
Montana Daily Gazette is under the impression that Usher maintains personal and professional integrity and solidly fits into the “conservative camp.” However, it is troubling that after Usher postponed a bill being heard in committee due to an amendment that the bar association’s attorney-lobbyist Bruce Spencer said “We owe Usher a solid on this.”
The term, “owe a solid,” means that you will pay someone back or do them a favor.
Clearly, the expression is inappropriate when used between the judiciary and legislators. Please note that this impugns the court, speaking in terms of favors and kickbacks, rather than Usher (we do not have correspondence from Usher indicating he was complicit in this scheme, and we reached out to Usher, who was not permitted to speak to the press. However, upon review of the facts, it appears that Usher merely pushed back a hearing to become more informed on the amendment and wasn’t colluding with the court).
Meanwhile, at the same time the court and its allies were arguing that legislators should be paid $10 per day for per diem, they were also suggesting that judges should be paid overtime “combat pay” for having to appear before the legislature. This nugget is provided by Yellowstone County District Judge, Gregory Todd.
Below, you’ll see Attorney Bruce Spencer again admitting to caucusing with Democrats in what is clearly inappropriate collusion with the Legislative Branch.
Email Batch #4 is largely redundant.
TIP: When you review these emails, start at the bottom of the PDF and work your way up.
The emails from the Supreme Court demonstrate a palpable antipathy toward Montanans and their elected representatives. The very notion of checks-and-balances offends the Montana Supreme Court, and their air of bourgeois contempt for the people’s leaders is evident. They speak of “citizens” holding judges accountable as though it were the end of Democracy, as though Democracy was entrusted exclusively to six judges in a state of a million people.
Some of the bills opposed by the Supreme Court seek to shine a light on their partisanship. While the court wants to remain officially non-partisan (the only way men and women of their leftward bent can be routinely elected in Montana), their email correspondence demonstrates that they are very, very partisan indeed. Gameplanning overtly to “caucus” with the Democrats to oppose legislation that would hold the judiciary accountable demonstrates their partisanship and collusion to circumvent accountability.
Meanwhile, it is evident that the justices were by and large biased against the very bills they were to rule on without partiality but refused to recuse themselves unless forced by the Attorney General. And furthermore, the email dump reveals that it seems altogether common and ordinary for the court to oppose or support legislation on partisan grounds.