The former Lake County justice of the peace resigned last month after he became the subject of sexual harassment complaints. But that hasn’t stopped Edwin Jonas, a radical conservative with ethical baggage of his own, from jumping into the race.
Justices of the peace make life-changing decisions for others in court. They handle things like DUIs, search warrants, poaching, probation and parole violations, misdemeanor crimes–even initial felony filings.
Yet the post requires little in terms of qualifications. You don’t need any legal training or even a high school diploma to run. The only qualifications required by law in order to run for the job, says a Lake County Commissioner are that you “be at least 18 years old, and breathing. And, I think you have to have been a resident of the county for a certain amount of time.”
Candidates aren’t even required to have a squeaky-clean background.
Enter Edwin Jonas. Jonas was a New Jersey lawyer–until a court suspended his licence to practice law for, “engaging in conduct in connection with the practice of law that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Montanans may remember Jonas as one of the world class candidates GOP leadership nominated to be Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices. Intelligent Discontent reported on Jonas’s nomination here.
Although Republican leaders may think this is the perfect guy to be passing judgement on Montanans, I doubt the good people of Lake County will agree. Especially after the last guy left under a cloud.
Not only does Jonas have ethics problems in his past, he also has some wacky beliefs. Seems this guy is a member of a select group of wingnuts who signed a wacky anti-government pledge.
Jonas, along with Derek Skees, Tim Ravndal, and Neil Livingstone pledged to, “defend state sovereignty” and to ”oppose, or modify to eliminate, or negate, every Federal law, regulation, or bureaucracy” deemed not wingnutty enough. (Probably the Civil Rights Act is on the list.) As James Conner at the Flathead Memo reports, after reading this pledge “you might, in a contemplative moment, hear the faint click of boots as self-appointed militiamen march through darkened streets by torchlight.”
The voters of Lake County will have to decide whether someone with these beliefs should hold any government office–little alone a judicial one. The outgoing Justice told the Missoulian that he resigned because, “Judges are – and should be – held to very high standards of conduct, both in their professional and personal affairs.” On this issue anyway, he’s right.