The posted 2019 Biennial Report is
from the Montana Judicial Standards Commission which is responsible for oversight of all Montana judges. This
report was presented to our 2019 legislature. The data in the report is a clear display of why the
state of Montana must engage in meaningful judicial oversight reform. Failed judicial self discipline needs to be replaced with a citizens oversight commission.
Other than this report, all records of each case are inaccessible and fails transparency. Only the commission members and employees (2) have access
to the records.
In essence, records and documents to judicial misconduct and ethical violations are hidden from public disclosure. As you can plainly and distinctly see from this report, over a 2 year period there were 106 formal grievances filed with the JSC. Of these 106 grievances, 104 were DISMISSED and the other 2 judges in question were merely sent a "letter of admonition"! This represents a 98% dismissal rate, and is effectually a 100% dismissal with 2 of them merely being "sent a letter" by the commission. This is unacceptable to the citizens of the state of Montana who deserve and expect full accountability in our judiciary where misconduct, violations and facilitation is on the rise. Our Judicial Standards Commission is comprised of only 5 people: 2 District Court judges (chair), attorney, and 2 citizens. The vast majority of the dismissals come from only 3 members attending a commission meeting and voting. You can now understand why there is no accountability and some judges act and behave with impunity.
One of the documents posted here is Article VII, Part VII, Section 11 of our Montana Constitution. It specifically states the legislature shall create a judicial standards commission. It says nothing about the Supreme court creating it or overseeing it.
We stand on the position that the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution rests judicial oversight with the state legislative (we the people) branch, NOT the judicial branch. Our current commission was created by, and is administered by, the Montana supreme court. We have our judiciary overseeing the judiciary which is encouraging violations of judicial canon of ethics and the usurpation of laws and codes due to lack of accountability. This lack of accountability has permeated down into other agencies of government.
One glaring example is case number 18-027 in Cascade County. In 2016, district court judge Elizabeth Best heard a civil case brought by a complaint filed in court by plaintiff. Preceding to and during this civil hearing the defendant committed multiple counts of perjury, false swearing and filing a false report against plaintiff causing criminal speculation against the plaintiff. A police detective (a friend of defendant) committed perjury and distorted facts to help/collude with the defendant. As a result the plaintiff was removed from a board of directors as president and the defendant assumed the presidency (her goal). This misconduct and fraud upon the court created undue animus and bias in the judge against the plaintiff. Soonafter, the judge signed a criminal warrant against the plaintiff and eventually sat on the bench overseeing the criminal trial, refusing to recuse herself due to the clear and obvious bias. This judge was required and mandated by law and judicial canon of ethics to recuse herself. This judge, immediately prior to the criminal trial, stated on record and directly to the defendant that "the only issue is what you did". Several other comments on record by this judge clearly demonstrated her gross bias against the defendant, yet she refused to recuse herself. This innocent "plaintiff turned criminal defendant" was convicted and spent 7 months in jail due to bias and facilitation by this district court judge. Wrongful (false) convictions hurt many people, not just a defendant. This judge CLEARLY VIOLATED ETHICS. The current oversight commission, the Judicial Standards Commission, did NOTHING!!
Here are the Montana judicial canon of ethics for your reference.
Rule 1.2 A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
COMMENT: to compromise the independence, Integrity, and impartiality of a judge UNDERMINES PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN THE JUDICIARY.
Rule 2.12 Disqualification. (A) A judge shall disqualify (recuse) himself or herself in ANY proceeding in which the judges impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to the following circumstances: (1) The judge has a personal bias or prejudice concern‐ ing a party or a party's lawyer, or personal knowledge of facts that are in dispute in the proceeding. (5) The judge: (d) previously presided as a judge over the matter in another court.
COMMENT 1: Under this rule, a judge is disqualified whenever the judges impartiality might reasonably be questioned.....even if the judge believes there is no basis for disqualification.
COMMENT 2: A judges obligation not to hear or decide matters in which disqualification IS REQUIRED applies regardless of whether a motion is filed or not. (Self recusal is mandated).
COMMENT 3 & 5: The judge must make reasonable efforts to transfer the matter to another judge as soon as practicable...even if the judge believes there is no basis for disqualification. Rule 2.3 A judge who manifests bias or prejudice in any proceeding impairs the fairness of the hearing and brings the judiciary into disrepute.
Montana Code Annotated 2019
RULE 1(b) of the rules and amendments of the Judicial Standards Commission clearly states: Purpose. The purpose of the Judicial Standards Commission and these rules is to protect the public from improper conduct or behaviour of judges; preserve the integrity of the judicial process; maintain public confidence in the judiciary; create a greater awareness of proper judicial conduct on the part of the judiciary and the public; and provide for the expeditious and fair disposition of complaints of judicial misconduct.
Our current oversight commission has grossly failed the citizens of the state of Montana. The citizens deserve to be protected from an ever increasing tyrannical court system that operates with impunity due to complete lack of accountability.