How Can a Sitting Judge Run for Political Office?

Need a magnifying glass for that fine print.

This is not a rhetorical question or the beginning of a joke.   I am genuinely wondering how on earth it is ethical for a sitting judge to be raising money and campaigning for political office.

In Montana, even our elected judges are non-partisan. Yeah you can usually figure out which party they lean towards, but we keep the D and the R off the ballot with good reason.

But Judge Russell Fagg of Billings seems to think he’s above that. It seems he thinks those robes entitle him to skirt the ethical concerns that are designed to befoul judges trying to use the bench as a soapbox for political office turned.

Judge Fagg thinks he might have found a loophole! He’ll form an exploratory committee.

I don’t really know what an exploratory committee is. It sounds like lawyerese for: not a political campaign wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

This is may be legally above board, but I tell you what: it smells like shit.

The idea of a man presiding over cases while simultaneously raising funds for political office smells from Whitefish to Wibaux.

What if you are as blue as they come, wearing your #Berniewouldvewon t-shirt? Are you not entitled to a fair trial?

If I am set to sit before Judge Fagg in 20 days for my embezzlement charge, what better way to make it go away than a fat donation to Mr. Fagg’s “exploratory committee?” I imagine 5k might tip the scales of justice in my favor.

Heck, what if Matt Rosendale gets busted for jaywalking in Billings and comes before Judge Fagg? You think he’s going to give his presumptive opponent a fair shot? I predict that would be the first ever capital case of jaywalking and Montana would be in the national headlines!

While the above examples are a bit tongue-in-cheek, it does raise a legitimate question: how can a Judge “exploring” a run for political office even pretend to maintain a semblance of ethical and impartial judgment?

But who am I to judge? I am a mere blogger in my parent’s basement; with cheetos stained sweatpants and Mountain Dew cans at my feet. Judge Fagg on the other hand, should know better.

P.s. IF the title of this post were the beginning of a joke it would go like this:

How can a sitting judge run for political office?

Well standing up would probably be a good start!

ZING

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17 Comments on "How Can a Sitting Judge Run for Political Office?"

  1. By TOM LUTEY tlutey@billingsgazette.com
    Jun 6, 2017

    Judge Russell Fagg

    FYI, for the exploding heads.

    District Judge Russell Fagg resigning to start his own law practice.

    Yellowstone County District Judge Russell Fagg is stepping down this fall and will consider a future political career.

    Fagg will resign Oct. 13. He will start his own law firm, but the former Republican state legislator is also considering a return to politics.

    http://billingsgazette.com/news/government-and-politics/district-judge-russell-fagg-resigning-to-start-his-own-law/article_5f9859c4-7f5d-5a77-a8ed-575965239fac.html

    • Judge Fagg should have waited until he retires (on Oct. 14) to form his exploratory committee. Doing so while on the bench may be unethical.

  2. Well Mt. Temperance, we have seen just how ethical repuglicans are. Just look to the orange haired one for guidance on the issue. Fagg has learned from the best of them.

    • Yes, Hillary & Bill, Debbie Wasserman, Loretta Lynch, and Donna Brazile have set a high bar for ethics. Lets see who has the most in jail after Robert Mueller’s investigation.

      • Trumpsky is going to achieve another unbeatable record by having more of his administration indicted, convicted, and incarcerated than even “I’m not a crook!” Nixon. Something else for him to boast about.

      • Don’t dislocate your shoulders reaching so far out for useless excuses there Bullet.

  3. Who could be surprised at the lack of ethics in Montana republicans? No matter which low life they choose to run, our job is to crush that person. Jon Tester showed where his heart is in the senate hearings today. I don’t always agree with him, but there is no question that he is honest and puts the interests of Montanans first. We need to keep him in office and get rid of scum like Gianforte and Daines. That is going to take a lot of work and if the democrat leadership wants to help they have a LOT of changing to do.

    • And Bullock set the bar very high with use of the state aircraft and deleting state property / records emails as AG. Is this a dem thing? Those in glass houses…. Dems and only counter argument is name calling. How many more seats will the Dem’s loose? Bye, bye, Tester and Bullock’s replacement and on and on. What does the Dem’s have for a platform besides whining and name calling. That will get a lot of votes. Obama and the Clintons have already cost you over a 1000 government seats. With the likes of Schumer, Perez, Pelosi, Kane, Warren, Hollywood and CNN you will lose more seats. You need to clean house and reinvent. The democrats – Making the Republican great again.

  4. I’m sure I’m not the only one tiring of the wattabout crew. As one of the new volunteers for the Democrats I will be pushing the party to return to it’s FDR roots and run on a $15 minimum wage, free education(notice I did not say college) and end the free-riding ReaganomicRepublicanRobberBarons domination and destruction of our country. It’s obvious the “conservatives” are willing to conspire with the enemies of our democratic republic to enrich themselves, even if it destroys everything America stands for. It’s time to strengthen estate taxes, not weaken them, and we need a top income tax rate of 100% of ALL income over $15 million per year for individuals and privately held corporations. Every single time we allow a small group of individuals to amass this much money it leads to disaster. Our founders knew this and that’s why they were almost all in favor of a 100% estate tax. Give your kids a stake while you’re alive and let them build their own empire! And finally we have got to get money out of politics-we need a Constitutional Amendment that says money is not speech and corporations are not people. When Texas executes Exxon-Mobile I will believe Exxon is a person.

  5. This blog has decidedly taken a nasty tone and is definitely not what it used to be. I no longer feel I want to repost on Facebook or send the link to my other friends. Take care, good bye.

    • Sorry you feel that way Lori and I appreciate the criticism. I genuinely see the questions asked above–albeit tongue-in-cheek–are legitimate questions to ask of someone simultaneously acting as a Judge and political candidate.

      Best,

      -MT

  6. Hey Bullett:
    Even IF those you have listed DO have ethical problems…(which, I’d bet that MOST U. S. Senators and Reps in Wash. DO these days, why the immature “they do too!” distraction response?!?!?)
    SURELY, you must know that MOST everyone sees through the defense called “switching” that you use to distract away from the actual point – Judge Fagg jumping the gun, and putting himself in an ethical conflict! Arguably, a sign of bad judgment in the ethical area – BEFORE HE EVEN STARTS his campaign!
    This defense is often used when the actual topic or person being addressed is accurate, and the responder has no real way to defend against the accusations does not admit mistakes-therefore, tends to not learn or change with experience! rigid, and black and white mammals they be!
    In essence, you yell; “squirrel!”
    DO you have any relevant defense for this action that I don’t see? I am open if you do!
    Is there a reason you don’t encourage people you support to take responsibility for their mistakes, as well as the impact, AND what they will do to prevent the mistake in the future?!
    Isn’t that more of a Montana value that we can agree to? To hold even those we support to this type standard?
    IF YOU CAN BE OPEN TO YOUR MISTAKE…WHICH I BELIEVE CLEARLY RISKS ENABLING THE JUDGE’S POOR JUDGMENT, I am confident that you will admit it.
    On the other hand, since I do not know you, I will not hold my breath. NOR will I waste my time responding to any response that repeats this same lame distraction (switching), or the similar admission of labeling or criticizing me. But feel free to surprise me! I will apologize for my lack of faith!
    Everyone can then see from your response evidence in either direction. IF you switch in your reply to me…that you not only have no argument but that “birds of a feather flock together”! You join the ranks of those, like the judge, with no integrity, do not learn from mistakes, but instead, attack others, or distract from the point!
    True old time Montanans are not only able to admit when they or someone they support are wrong…they encourage them to apologize and create a plan to change their behavior – not rationalize their behavior more, or focus on others who may have similar problems!

  7. “(1) If a person occupying the office of chief justice or associate justice of the supreme court or judge of a district court of the state of Montana becomes a candidate for election to any elective office under the laws of the state of Montana other than a judicial position, the person shall immediately, or in any event at or before the time when the person is required to file as a candidate for the office in any primary, special, or general election, resign from the office of chief justice, associate justice, or district court judge.” Mont. Code Ann. § 3-1-607(1). The deadline is the filing date.

  8. The writer acknowledges the fact that it is legal and is making the point that it’s unethical. Further, the best predictor of the future is the past. So the question is, if he is unethical now, how will he conduct himself if he is elected into office?

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