Newly uncovered emails revealing troubling, unethical conduct by members of the Montana judiciary have sent shockwaves across the political landscape.
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Read firsthand how members of the judicial branch improperly attempted to influence the legislative process, coordinate questionable activities with lawyers and lobbyists, ridicule the legislature, engage in unethical and unprofessional behavior and do it all on the tax-payer dime. Below we provided a synopsis of several email conversations as well as links to the emails themselves.
We will continue to update this section as more documents become available to the public.
This is an email poll sent by Supreme Court Administration Beth McLaughlin to all District Judges, Supreme Court Justices and lobbyist Ed Bartlett soliciting their stance on SB 140 which would alter the way Judges are appointed due to a vacancy. Many Judges opine on their opposition to the bill including Judge Kurt Kruger who stated his “adamantly” opposition. In March a lawsuit was filed after SB 140 was signed in to law by Gov. Gianforte. Chief Justice McGrath recused himself from the case because he had actively lobbied Gianforte against signing the bill. McGrath chose Judge Kruger as his replacement on the case, despite already knowing that Judge Kruger was “adamantly” opposed to the bill. Judge Kruger recused himself from the case only after his email was revealed to the publicDownload File
This is an email conservation that starts between Supreme Court Administration Beth McLaughlin, Judge Randy Spaulding, Judge Michael Menehan, and Chief Justice Mike McGrath regarding HB 685 by Rep. Brad Tschida that would revise the Judicial Standards Commission. Later more individuals are added to the email chain, including: Lobbyists Jessie Luther, Bruce Spenser, Ed Bartlett, Greg Dorrington and various District Court Judges. The general tone of the conversation is derisive towards the bill and the legislature. Ms. McLaughlin uses emojis to highlight her sarcastic comments as she refers to the bill as “goofy”, “unconstitutional”, and a “doozy”. She goes on to offer that she wants to establish a board of citizens to remove legislators for bad behavior and accuses Rep. Barry Usher of trying to “sneak in the bill” to his committee.
Judge Mike Menehan refers to the bill as “ridiculous” and states that he is “not getting much work done because I’m spending so much time at the legislature.” Judge Greg Todd wonders if he is eligible for “overtime or combat pay” for legislative appearances. Chief Justice Mike McGrath refers to the bill as a “inquisition, plain and simple.”
Ms. McLaughlin goes on to send another email poll to various judges soliciting their position on the bill and offers to sign up judges that wish to testify against the bill via ZoomDownload File
This is an email poll sent by Supreme Court Administration Beth McLaughlin to all District Judges, Supreme Court Justices and lobbyist Ed Bartlett soliciting their stance on HB342 introduced by Rep. Matt Regier that would make judicial candidates run as partisan candidates. More than 20 Judges expressed opposition to the bill. Ms. McLaughlin states she is sending the poll at the best of Judge Greg Todd, who chair’s the Montana Judges Association. This raises ethical concerns about Judges creating bias on an issue that could come before the court, as well as, Ms. McLaughlin conducting the business for the MJA on tax-payer time.Download File
The is conversation clearly shows Supreme Court Administration Beth McLaughlin quarterbacking the lobbying efforts for the confirmation of 3 judicial nominates. Included on the emails are lobbyist Ed Bartlett, Judges Michele Levine, Chris Abbot and Peter Ohman. This raises questions as to why Ms. McLaughlin, a tax-payer funded employee, is allowed to orchestrate business of the Montana Judges Association on tax-payer time.Download File
This is a conversation between Supreme Court Administration Beth McLaughlin and Lorrie Cole, Judicial Assistant to Chief Justice McGrath, stating that attorneys Cliff Edwards and Jim Goetz were trying to reach the Chief Justice McGrath to discuss the SB 140 case. This raises serious ethical concerns about ex-parte communications given that Mr. Edwards and Mr. Goetz represent the plaintiffs in the SB 140 case.Download File
This is a conversation between Supreme Court Administration Beth McLaughlin and Lorrie Cole, Judicial Assistant to Chief Justice McGrath, stating that Mike Dennison of MTN was seeking comment on the Judge Kruger email and possible recusal motion.Download File
This is an email from Supreme Court Administration Beth McLaughlin to Chief Justice Mike McGrath, Judge Greg Todd, Judge Michael Menehan, Judge Randy Spaulding, lobbyist Bruce Spencer and lobbyist Ed Bartlett describing SB 402 by introduced by Senator Carey Smith as “insane”.Download File