There is little doubt that the weak link in the chain of Montana’s conservative politics is its judicial branch. The University of Montana simply does not produce many conservative attorneys and serves as a liberal drone factory attached to the liberal borg of judicial activism. This dearth of conservative attorneys has even affected the Attorney General’s office, understaffed and facing twice the battles as usual. Although Bill 140 (signed March 17, 2021) now allows the Governor to make recess appointments without the nomination process of a liberal nominating board, it is only a partial solution to our judicial problems in the Big Sky State. Governor Bullock and Schweitzer before him have been making such appointments – who seem better fit to serve California than Montana – for years, and the power of incumbency usually wins. From the Supreme Court to District judges, it’s imperative conservatives vote no on retaining incumbents who attained their way to the bench and now serve as incumbents. A ‘no’ vote allows them to be appointed to the courts by our Republican governor, Greg Gianforte.
However, it is no recess appointment that’s currently going down in arguably Montana’s most important – and most liberal -court. Ingrid Gustafson, who was appointed in 2017 and serving since that time, is currently being challenged by Mike McMahon, a Lewis and Clark District Court Judge.
This is the danger: Ingrid Gustafson is so liberal she makes Ketanji Brown Jackson look like Clarence Thomas by appearance. Ergo, McMahon, LARPing as the conservative option, has had many conservatives hitch their wagon to him as the choice and change to replace Gustafson.
Montana Daily Gazette reached out to a source close to the situation and said, “What gives? Why aren’t some conservatives getting behind McMahon? Isn’t he the conservative in this race?”
On the grounds of anonymity, the knowledgeable source responded, “Yes. McMahon appears so. But he’s also a lying two-faced piece of trash.”
Ouch. Is it true? Could it be that a liberal – from Lewis & Clark County no less – posit himself a conservative just to take the bench, but would rule no better than Ingrid Gustafson?
From the research conducted by MDG, it would appear the source is correct. McMahon has certainly positioned himself as the alternative conservative in the race. For example, an online opinion blog, the Montana Standard says of him, “McMahon, 57, describes his judicial philosophy as being a ‘strict constructionist,’ one who eyes the exact language of the law when deciding a motion or case.
If true, this is exactly the kind of judge we want on the Supreme Court, one who would not be prone to judicial activism. But can McMahon be trusted? According to sources, absolutely not. McMahon’s track record is one that cannot be trusted, and whatever new-found appreciation for “strict constructionism” seems absent from his past job performance in Lewis & Clark County. When Greg Trude was coming or going from a KMart parking lot when a negligent discharge killed Dr. Eugene “Buzz” Waldron. Clearly, it was an accident.
However, a Planned Parenthood “doctor” lay dead, and McMahon threw the book at Trude for what most reasonable people would not consider a crime, but of negligence. Trude, who ironically spent time as a firearm safety instructor, was friendly acquaintances with the baby-butcherer and meant no malice. Nonetheless, he was given a 20-year (life) sentence, something that drew outrage from most who considered it excessive. McMahon appears to have given special protective status to abortion doctors. Clearly, being a member of the NRA did Trude no favors with Judge McMahon. The Montana Right to Life even challenged the legality of the sentence, considering McMahon and Trude were friends and there appeared to be no ideological motive for the unfortunate incident.
On December 1, 2021, McMahon knocked down the newly passed bill that passed ‘campus carry.’ Despite being a so-called “Strict Constructionist,” the judge immediately struck the bill despite its very clear language and was immediately sued by Attorney General Austin Knudsen. One wonders what “strict constructionist” means to McMahon.
A bevy of other illegal and left-leaning decisions have been passed – or attempted – by McMahon. McMahon has been busy suing Attorney General Austin Knudsen and conservative attorneys like Matthew Monforton ever since, sometimes with questionable ethics. Simply put, to quote the knowledgeable source most familiar with McMahon, when it comes to being a strict constructionist (abiding by the law as it was written with authorial intent) he does appear to be “a lying two-faced piece of trash.”
But compared to Gustafson, who’s to challenge him from the right?
The answer is James Brown.
Brown, by MDG research, appears to be “the real deal.”
We will print his press release – found here – in full.
RELEASE: DILLON NATIVE JAMES BROWN ANNOUNCES RUN FOR MONTANA SUPREME COURT – VOWS TO RESTORE FAITH IN THE RULE OF LAW [DILLON, Montana] – James Brown released the following statement today announcing his run for Montana Supreme Court Justice #2:
“I’ve been humbled by the wide support from Montanans who have asked me to run for and to represent our shared Montana values on the Supreme Court.As a fourth-generation Montanan whose family homesteaded in Beaverhead County in the 1880s and as a private practice attorney for the last 17 years, I represented and defended the interests of Montana’s farmers, ranchers, and small businesses—and I’ll take those same Montana values to the Supreme Court as your next justice. I’m running to preserve our rule of law, follow the Constitution, bring accountability back to the judicial branch, and to protect our Montana way of life.As a member of the Montana Supreme Court, I will work to bring consistency to the Court, to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, to avoid legislating from the bench, and to be an impartial judge.
As I have strived to do every day of my legal career, should I be elected to serve, I will protect and defend the freedoms, liberties, and livelihoods of every Montanan. At a time when confidence in the judiciary is being shaken, I will work to restore faith in the rule of law.If elected, I will bring to the Court the recent experience of representing clients in Court proceedings, operating a small business, and in running a state agency with a roughly $5 million budget and 31 employees.”Brown is a fourth-generation Montanan from Beaverhead County and a private practice attorney who owns and operates his own law firm in Dillon and Helena. Brown currently serves as Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC). In this capacity, Brown has been credited with restoring balance and credibility to the Commission.Brown is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys camping, fishing, hiking in the backcountry, and mountain climbing. Brown summited Montana’s highest point, Granite Peak.
Brown’s family has a long history in Beaverhead County. Brown’s great grandfather homesteaded in the Grasshopper Valley in Southwest Montana in the 19th Century, moving to Montana in 1882. Brown’s grandfather built and developed the Elkhorn Hot Springs lodge and plunge near Polaris, Montana in the early 1920s. Brown’s father served in the Navy during WWII and with the CIA for decades during the Cold War. Brown grew up in Dillon, attended Beaverhead County High School, and graduated in 1994 with a double major in History and Political Science from the University of Montana – Missoula. Brown has a Master’s in Tax Law from the University of Washington. He clerked for the then Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court. He has been recognized professionally for his work in defending the constitutional rights of Montanans from government overreach and regulation. As part of his legal practice, Brown has represented a variety of clients – ranging from agriculture producers, to state employees, to single mothers, to multiple use of public lands groups.
Among his extensive legal cases, Brown’s legal work has resulted in the restoration of public road access to a road in Lewis and Clark County, the striking down of multiple state statutes that violated the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the protection of domestic sheep grazing practices in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.In his role as Chairman of the Montana PSC, Brown serves the same role as judges by deciding on legal matters and cases that come before the PSC for decision. When asked about his greatest professional achievements, Brown pointed to his work in obtaining funding to build a new wool lab at Montana State University and in working with the U.S. Department of Interior to secure funding for two grizzly bear specialists to help manage grizzly bear-livestock conflicts in Montana. Brown is a member of the Leadership Montana program, the Montana Wool Growers Association, the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Historical Society, the University of Montana Alumni Association, the Montana Bar Association, and the Beaverhead County Chamber of Commerce. Brown serves as a board member on the Montana Council on Economic Education. Brown has practiced before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Federal District Court of Montana, the Montana Supreme Court, and in various state district courts around Montana – from Lincoln County to Daniels County. He has represented a variety of clients on matters ranging from family law to complex environmental law and regulation. More than anything Brown is proud to be a Montanan and to call the Treasure State home.
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