Former Supreme Court Justice: Juras Violating the Code of Judicial Conduct

Jim NelsonJim Nelson, Montana Supreme Court Justice, (Ret.)

By Jim Nelson, 

Montana Supreme Court Justice (Ret.)

Montana Supreme Court candidate Kristen Juras has accused Candidate Dirk Sandefur of violating Montana’s Code of Judicial Conduct.  Since I helped write it, I know bit about this Code.  It covers not only sitting judges and justices, but also candidates for judicial office.

Candidate Juras has accused Judge Sandefur of violating a subsection of Rule 4.1 regarding campaign activities.  What she fails to disclose, however, is that she, herself, is violating another subsection of the same Rule.

Specifically, Judge Sandefur has been targeted with T.V. spots and mailers accusing him of improperly sentencing criminals and being soft on crime. These media attacks are produced solely to misinform and inflame voters with false and misleading statements and innuendo.  These “Willy Horton” ads are sponsored by out-of-state dark money jackals who want to buy a justice on to the Supreme Court.

Now, part of Rule 4.1 provides that: “ . . . when an independent third party has made false attacks on a candidate’s opponent, the candidate should disavow the attacks, and request the third party to cease and desist.”

That means that Candidate Juras is required to disavow the false attacks on Judge Sandefur and to request her third party dark money supporters to cease and desist. If she has done so, it has not been reported.

At a minimum, in the interest of intellectual honesty, one should not accuse her opponent of violating the Code of Ethics, when she is violating it herself.


10 Comments on "Former Supreme Court Justice: Juras Violating the Code of Judicial Conduct"

  1. What is former Justice Nelson’s view on Judge Sandefur’s adherence to the judicial code of conduct in these cases detailed in the Tribune article below? Would Judge Nelson please explain why Judge Sandefur took the law into his own hands by letting these sexual predators of the hook by refusing to adhere to the sentencing guidelines in these cases? Sandefur’s recent violation the judicial code of conduct, along with his failure to sentence these sexual predators to the judicial sentencing guidelines suggests Judge Sandefur feels he is above the law.

    • GUEST POST: Cascade Co. Attorney Sets Record Straight After “Ludicrous” Innuendo, Lies in Supreme Court Race

      John W. Parker is the Cascade County Attorney. He previously served as Chairman of the Law and Justice Interim Committee in the Montana Legislature.

      I have spent my entire legal career as a prosecutor. Judge Dirk Sandefur presided over many of my most significant cases. He possesses a brilliant legal mind and a work ethic no one can match. Now unscrupulous political operatives backed by dark money are attacking him using half-truths and lies. I wholeheartedly endorse Judge Sandefur for the Montana Supreme Court and I will set the record straight. Judge Sandefur has rock-solid credentials on criminal justice issues.

      Judge Sandefur imposes tough sanctions on criminals who truly deserve them. A man killed his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter and Judge Sandefur sentenced him to 100 years in prison. Another man brutally raped and beat a young Native American woman. Judge Sandefur told him how dehumanizing his actions were and imposed 100 years. For a domestic violence arson in a multiunit apartment building, Judge Sandefur imposed 70 years.
      More at the link:

  2. Sid, you are playing Monday morning quarterback based on a sound bite. You don’t know the rules and you didn’t even watch the game.

    (1) Child rapists often escape the fullest possible punishment because the prosecution makes a plea deal that will spare the child any more trauma.

    (2) Juries often acquit an accused child rapist because the only direct evidence of the crime is the testimony of the child, and juries do not tend to believe children.

    (3) Prosecutors sometimes negotiate a plea deal on a reduced charge that makes the judge want to vomit, but the alternative is to damage the child and their family in hopes of a win at trial.

    The ad flyer accused Sandefur of being soft on rapists when the prosecutor made the deal. Sandefur’s mention of “a lack of evidence” means he was dissatisfied that the evidence in front of him did not allow for a more severe penalty. A judge must base decisions on evidence. If the prosecutor did not present the evidence, the judge is not allowed to substitute his own opinion, no matter how heinous the crime.

    Those soft on crime ads are emotional button pushers taken completely out of context and used late in the race to prevent a fair opportunity to respond.

    • HI Mark,
      Here, you have the opportunity to respond. While I am watching both sides of the game, perhaps I do not know all the rules, but I am not so sure you do either based on your explanation. The important question is does Judge Sandefur follow the established legal guidelines when it comes to sentencing sexual predators? Why the repeated leniency in his sentencing of them, and Judge McKeon likewise? These judges’ sentences repeatedly do not achieve the minimum sentencing guidelines. What is your legal justification for their decisions in these cases? Where is the precedent these judges follow come from, which rules? Your explanation above, while appreciated, does not fully or reasonably explain Sandefur’s sexual predator leniency, nor McKeon’s.
      The article linked below outlines some of his rulings. Could you please deconstruct this article for us?
      It appears that Sandefur time and again is lenient to sexual predators. It appears the prosecutors did appropriately present the evidence.
      Here is one of the Tribune articles.
      Furthermore, why is Sandefur touting his endorsement by Judge McKeon, another lenient judge who favors sex offenders, rapists, and pornogrpahers? This is of concern to voters as well as victims of sexual predators these Judges appear to let off the hook.
      What judicial precedent are Judges Sandefur and McKeon following to leniently sentence sexual predators while avoiding the sentencing guidelines, and why are you folks supporting this trend, please? Do trial lawyers who represent sexual predators feel they need to curry favor with judges such as these by supporting and condoning their lenient sentencing behaviors?
      As mentioned in this blog, I am Kristen’s older brother. Our father, Raymond Gustafson was the elected Democrat from Pondera County in the Montana House of Representatives, so this is not a party issue with me, but a non-partisan judicial issue. Regards, Sid

  3. Let’s get current. Justice Rice and Judge Fagg today came out and endorsed Adjunct Professor Juras for the Supreme Court of Montana. To do so would of course, tip the Associate Justice balance from 4-2, to 3-3. And transition Juras from her experience with Private Law(Ag Law, Business Organization. Estate settlement and secession. Property Law. Property Water Law) to the broader, deeper field of Public Law.

    I find that today Montana Judicial authority figures are claiming, contrary to evidence, that Kristen Juras has experience appropriate to serve on our Montana Supreme Court.

    How much of the workload of a Justice of the Mt. Supreme Court deals with Public Law? That’s just a dumb question looking for an honest answer.

    As an old plugger, I find that Juras has in fact only marginal experience in Montana Public Law. Has apparently only slight experience with Montana Riparian Property Law experience compared with her out of State Water Law experience, where Riparian Water Law is not recognized as basic structure of Law.

    And now that Justice Rice has come out for Rice telling us of the importance of Water Law in Montana, I finally glimpsed the out of State money equals much more than speach momentum that allies with the same monies that have been brazenly trying to pack our Montana Supreme Court for the last two Election cycles.

    And ally with those wanting a Montana Justice to rule on religious Cases.

    Is there such a thing as Public Law Water Law in Montana?
    Some intersect between Private Water Law, and Public use Law, where the comparative experience of Judge Sandefur, might be compared with that of Adjunct Professor Juras?

    that’s kind of a dumb question from my tunnel vision at Montana riparian Law. Into places like this link for just one example.

  4. Supreme Court Justices should be appointed to their terms, as Justices on SCOTUS are. If you want some sort of citizen overview, then put your efforts into impeachment, following the procedures of the state constitution.

  5. “That means that Candidate Juras is required to disavow the false attacks on Judge Sandefur and to request her third party dark money supporters to cease and desist. If she has done so, it has not been reported.”
    Thankyou very much past Justice of the Montana Supreme Court for those words and Guest Post that moves the field to: Juras is possibly doing the violating. Violating the Code of Campaign Conduct for Candidates for the Supreme Court.
    To my old mind, following that Code makes for a on the level playing field between Candidates for open bench seats to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court.

    Of course my guess is that a huge amount of money and organization has planned and actioned to force Juras to violate Judicial Code of Montana.

    Now we the people have a very small time window to ask Candidate Juras to request the dark money supporters to cease and Desist!

    And ask print, online and TV media in Montana to consider asking Kristen Juras to:
    (1.) Tell the truth about the last minute Willy Horton type bad ads being absolutely inaccurate.
    (2.) Request the dark money people to cease and to desist.

  6. There’s quite a contrast between the candidates, Juras appears to be the worst possible pick for the MT Supreme Court, while Sandefur appears to be the very best possible pick. It’s easy to see that in both these candidates, an easy choice.

  7. Sid G:

    Since you did not disclose that Kristen Juras is your younger sister, so I’ll point that out for folks who are unaware.

    I’ll also disclose that I am an attorney with a bit of experience litigating campaign regulation issues and I agree with Justice Nelson. Your sister should denounce these inaccurate attacks by third parties and should also refrain from silly complaints that Dirk Sandefur should not use video depicting himself as a judge. Dirk Sandefur is in fact a judge, is also a well-respected judge who has acted without even a hint of bias, and he has demonstrated outstanding judicial traits during his time on the bench.

    Judge Sandefur deserves and will receive my vote.

Comments are closed.