There’s an old axiom among lawyers:
When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When neither the facts or law are on your side, pound on the table.
While that, in itself, shows a favor for tactics over integrity, recent events seem to indicate certain persons would degrade this ethic even further. Some background:
The 2010 Montana primary elections. In an effort to seize political power, 14 Republican office seekers abandoned their principles (or, perhaps, embraced them) and accepted illegal campaign contributions from the Montana incarnation of Virginia-based group of union-busting cranks. Operating under the beguiling banner of ‘Right to Work’, they even faked hand-written “wife letters” to convince targeted voters it was in fact they, the Montana working class constituents, whose interests lay at the heart of an agenda more accurately described as ‘Right to Fire.’
They would’ve gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those darn crackheads. In one of the best political stories of the past several years, all the damning evidence even a half-cocked Sherlock would need showed up in a Colorado meth house likely frequented by the badly broken tweakers who tossed the car of Christian LeFer; facilitator of the campaign contribution packages, and political corruption’s answer to Snidely Whiplash.
It was all laid bare. So blatant was the corruption, that it will serve as one section of the foundational arguments supporting limits on campaign contributions when United States District Judge Charles Lovell re-considers his previous, and recently overturned ruling against such caps. So nicely wrapped was the package, that Representative Mike Miller settled his charges for $4,000, and agreed not to run for office for 4 years. Candidate Wes Prouse was found civilly liable, and Senator Scott Sales also paid a fine of $500. At some level, nearly all of the involved candidates have either stood, or been held to account; with one notable exception.
Bozeman lawyer, State Representative, and wannabe House of Cards character Art Wittich has adamantly, angrily, and steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. Ever. About anything. Including this. He will carry that perfect record into a civil trial beginning March 28.
If this post were simply about a citizen exercising his right to a trial, the reader might fairly challenge my earlier allegation of degraded ethics. However, that reference rests on the shoulders of Wittich’s efforts to undermine not the evidence Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl has against him, but the means by which it may be presented.
In resolving every outstanding case in his office, Commissioner Motl had, and has, enlisted Missoula policy consultant C.B. Pearson as an expert witness in printing and mailing costs. This clearly terrifies Wittich, who first represented fellow Republican lawmaker Dan Skattum in a frivolous attempt to impugn Pearson’s credibility. Wittich’s action was tossed out of court.
In mid February, Gallatin County Republican Precinct Chairs Don and Peggy Hart took a second run at Pearson, and filed allegations with Motl’s office. They are accusing Pearson of lobbying violations; just in time to label him “under investigation” as he is called to provide expert testimony against Wittich.
To be honest, I’ve never personally intimidated, or tampered with a witness before; nor have I, for that matter, had the need. However, it seems there are a few ways one could try it. This would be on that list. Far be it from me to lob accusations…especially toward the chronically litigious…but it may be time to update the axiom:
When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When neither the facts or law are on your side, pound on the witness.