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!