by Erik B. Thueson, Attorney at Law, Helena, MT
and a list of attorneys from several communities across Montana (see below)
As lawyers who represent people throughout Montana, we would like to share our thoughts with everyone about the upcoming election for a seat on our Supreme Court. This is one of the most important votes we will cast. Our state courts ultimately make something like 90% of the decisions that affect everything from access to our lands and waters for recreation to the safety of our families and communities. It is therefore essential we choose the right person.
Knowing who is the better candidate, however. is difficult. Outside special interests are flooding our airways and printed media with false information about the better candidate so we are tricked into choosing a person more likely to serve their interests rather than our own.
Given this, we suggest that the safest way to avoid being tricked is to consider the information known by judges and others familiar with the actual records of the candidates.
Most judges are recommending Judge Dirk Sandefur. They tell us he has established a superb record over the past quarter century as a police officer, a prosecutor and for the past decade and a half, a judge. His record proves he will work for us.
From our observations, most Montana attorneys, too, are recommending Judge Sandefur. Many of us have practiced before him. He is fair and reasonable to everyone.
The other candidate is Kristen Juras. Not much is known about her and there are several red flags, which should be considered.
Ms. Juras is a relative unknown, because she has primarily been a law school professor, rather than a practicing attorney. We do know, however, that she has written articles advocating that public access to Montana waterways be restricted. Thus, Montanans who enjoy fishing and floating have reason for concern. We also know she has been reprimanded by Governor Schweitzer and the Law School Dean for representing a large out-of-state corporation, which wanted to shift its multi-million dollar tax burden to individual Montanans. See e.g., http://missoulian.com/news/local/schweitzer-says-university-of-montana-law-professor-s-tax-study/article_bb42e300-fed7-11e1-a71b-001a4bcf887a.html
The biggest red flag, however, is that secret donors from outside Montana are supporting Ms. Juris by spreading false and malicious information about Judge Sandefur. Obviously, they believe Ms. Juras will better represent their interests over ours.
Montana judges are aware of this. Twenty-four judges recently published a joint letter stating:
“Many Montana District Court Judges and Justices of the Supreme Court are deeply concerned by the dark money attacks on a present candidate for the Montana Supreme Court, and its potential impact on the integrity and independence of the Montana Judiciary.”
The judges talk about the malicious false attacks Juras’s dark money supporters are making against Judge Sandefur. You can read their letter at http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/letter-attack-ads-and-judicial-candidates/pdf_b81d09a3-5f62-5894-abe9-d7553a03c592.html.
Likewise, prominent lawyers from across Montana have published a similar warning entitled, “Montana ABOTA defends district court judge against unfair attacks by dark money group.” Again, the “dark money” groups are Ms. Juras’s secret supporters. Read it at http://mtcowgirl.com/2016/10/10/guest-post-montana-abota-defends-district-court-judge-against-unfair-attacks-by-dark-money-group/
Based on this information, we are urging our fellow Montanans to vote for Judge Sandefur. He has the proven record of protecting our rights and interests. Ms. Juras does not and there are big red flags warning us to be cautious.
Jim Nelson, Montana Supreme Court Justice, Ret.
Syd McKenna, Missoula, Mt.
Jory Ruggiero, Bozeman, Mt.
Ward Taleff, Taleff and Murphy, Great Falls, Mt.
Michael Sherwood, Missoula, Mt.
Mark Kovacich, Lewis, Slovak and Kovacich, Great Falls, Mt.
Tim McKittrick, Great Falls, Mt.
Jim Hunt, Helena, Mt.
Dennis Conner, Great Falls, Mt.
Keith Marr, Great Falls, Mt.
Pat Fox, Helena, Mt.
Monte Beck, Bozeman, Mt.
Gary Zadick, Great Falls, Mt.
John Heenan, Billings, Mt
Zander Blewett, Great Falls, Mt.
Drew Blewett, Great Falls, Mt.
Anders Blewett, Great Falls, Mt.
Hoyt and Blewett, Great Falls, Mt.