Category Archives: Judicial

Let’s Not Retain Haynes

Voters in Ravalli County must vote whether or not to retain District Court Judge James Haynes for District 21.  Haynes does not deserve another term. 

Haynes is the hypocrite judge who made statewide headlines for refusing to allow a pregnant woman to get drug treatment and then penalizing her less than a week later for testing positive for drugs.

As Amy Canatta writes:

Prosecuting a woman for criminal endangerment for using drugs while pregnant is a violation of her right to equal treatment under the law. It singles pregnant women out, and treats them differently. A man and a pregnant woman, both arrested for using the same drug at the same time, would not be charged with the same crimes. Equal protection forbids this.

Not only is criminalizing the use of drugs while pregnant unconstitutional, it goes against the recommendations of health care professionals, who universally say that drug addicted women should be treated during pregnancy not criminalized. In fact, tapering off of illegal and prescription drugs – not going cold turkey – is often recommended to combat withdrawal symptoms that can hurt a woman and her pregnancy.

But Haynes here decided to prevent this  pregnant woman from going to drug treatment because it would interfere with his trial schedule.

As the Billings Gazette reported, here is what Haynes said in court:

“In this case, we have this woman who has managed to impregnate herself, plus she’s got these criminal charges. Her decision to have a child in the middle of all this is her decision,” Haynes said. “It’s not society’s responsibility to take up the cause for her decision. So the child to me is pretty immaterial at this point. She can decide how to care for her child. She can decide how to care for her health to ensure she has a healthy child, if she chooses to….I don’t know why I should have to scurry around, change my trial schedule.”

 

 

Wheat has Broad Range of Support for Supreme Court

As Billings attorney James Healow writes in the Billings Gazette this week:

Montana is a dark red state, teeming with hundreds of experienced attorneys armed with unassailable, rock-ribbed conservative credentials. If Justice Wheat were truly a runaway activist liberal tool of the trial lawyers, somebody who’s actually fit for the job certainly would have stepped up to the plate. Instead, we see those qualified conservative guys endorsing Wheat, for example, Ken Peterson, a Republican, Mormon, career insurance defense lawyer (and a great guy, by the way).

Former Republican State Senator Ken Peterson (R-Billings) has a letter to the editor himself in the Billings Gazette this week explaining why he’s endorsed Mike Wheat for Supreme Court.  Peterson also curtly fact checks the lies Wheat’s opponent is spreading about him:

He said Wheat sided with a Canadian power company on eminent domain. Actually, if you read the Supreme Court case you will see that the case deferred to the Legislature on that issue. The Legislature passed HB 198, which clarified that there was a right to eminent domain in that situation. I carried that bill and it was passed by a Republican majority legislature and allowed to become law by a Democrat governor. Also, Wheat never sued anyone as a state senator. He did through his broad varied legal career represent persons and entities that believed they had a legal cause against some other person or entity. He also defended persons and prosecuted persons accused of crimes.

I do not always agree with Wheat on issues, and I do agree with Lawrence VanDyke on his position on intelligent design, but I believe Mike Wheat is sound in his legal opinions and is the best qualified of the candidates.

Ed Kemmick at the Last Best News also endorses Mike Wheat for Supreme Court Justice this week.  Ed says his two most satisfying votes this election were his NO vote for LR-126 and his vote for Wheat for Supreme Court Justice.  You should go read Kemmick’s whole piece here. 

As Kemmick points out, VanDyke has tried to counter his utter lack of experience practicing law in Montana (Wheat has 36 years, VanDyke has just over 1) by saying it is his supposed “Constitutional” experience which he claims is more meaningful.   But as Kemmick points out, Chuck Johnson looked into how many cases before the Supreme Court were actually Constitutional cases.  “The answer: since 2006, in only 34 cases—out of 6,202—did one of the parties give notice that a constitutional issue was at question.”

It’s also worth pointing out here that VanDyke has also tried to counter his utter lack of experience practicing law in Montana with a claim that he as Montana roots, and claims to have grown up in Bozeman. His family may have moved there as in infant, however, VanDyke actually left Montana in his early teens to attend a small, isolated boarding school in rural Canada.

He actually graduated from this private religious live-in high school school, called Western Christian College, in 1991. The boarding school is in Dauphin, Manitoba after it moved form Weyburn, Saskatchewan in 1989.  I don’t  know whether the school is accredited or not.  I also don’t know if this is where Lawrence got the “theology degree” he touts here-the high school does offer one.

 

UPDATED 10-24: Two involved in Stanford fake voter guide scandal are fellows at right-wing think tank

More info has emerged on the 100,000 fake voters guides from Stanford and Dartmouth that flooded Montana this week, which were falsely presented as an official state mailing and urged voters to make a partisan decision in the non-partisan supreme court race.  Stanford University claims the mailers were part of an “experiment” on our elections, which is about an unethical as you can get.

Cowgirl tiptsters also report that Stanford University is affiliated with the conservative think tank the Hoover Institution, and what do you know–two of the people behind this experiment, Adam Bonica and Jonathan Rodden, are both Hoover Institution Fellows.

It’s also important to note that the Stanford Office of Sponsored Research (this is actually the name, no snark) doesn’t review studies for objectives or methodology, only for costs.

Also the Flathead Memo had obtained Stanford’s canned talking points on the election experiment scandal. So you can read them here.  Note that the talking points do not disclose who paid for the study.  Was it the Hoover Institution or one of their affiliated funders?  The “researchers” did not respond to multiple requests to disclose who funded the mailers.

Big Sky Words has more on the specific people behind the fake mailers. After he posted the names I was able to google them and found they were Hoover Institution Fellows.   The more you peek under the thin veil of pond scum, the more you see this looks less and less like a legitimate study and more and more like a right-wing ploy to influence our elections.

Out-of State Universities Seek to Influence MT Elections, Call it “Academic Experiment”

Send Deceptive Mailers Posed as Official State Voter Guide Linking Non-Partisan Candidates with Obama

Some troubling information has come to light today.  Stanford and Dartmouth universities have appartently produced a fake “voter guide” to instruct Montana voters to make a partisan decision on the non-partisan MT Supreme Court race.

The mailers, which are posted at the Flathead Memo here, also use the Montana State seal to provide the (false) impression that the mailing is an official state publication and paint our non-partisan supreme court candidates on a spectrum of who is most like Obama and who is not.  The Flathead Memo’s James Conner writes that the mailer:

resents information in a way that invites voters to conclude that researchers at two of America’s most prestigious universities want them to know that Mike Wheat is a very liberal man; almost as liberal as that black devil in the White House. Given the context, only a fool would conclude the card is intended to help Wheat.

The schools claim that the fliers are part of a study “on the impact of information about candidate positioning on turnout and ballot roll-off” in nonpartisan elections.

There are serious ethical problems with using our elections as a science experiment.  I’ve detailed some of them here:

1.  First, it simply not ethical to deliberately seek to influence the outcome of our elections to “see what happens” as a school political science experiment. The Montana Supreme Court race is our state’s most important statewide race this election cycle - and the outcome of the race could shift the balance of the court as a whole.

I suppose these professors from California and New Hampshire may think their little experiment is quite interesting.  They may think it is okay meddle in our elections because we live “out in the middle of nowhere,” because we don’t make a lot of money, and because we have a small population.  But these are our lives.  This is our Supreme Court. And it’s wrong to to use an election that has profound impacts on the lives of the people of our state as an academic experiment.

The Montana Supreme Court makes decisions that have real and very serious consequences - decisions about whether women have a constitutional right to medical privacy, whether discriminatory marriage and anti-equality laws will be allowed to stand, and on our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment.  We live here, and we have to live with the decisions our Supreme Court makes.

2. Here in Montana, we the people have decided as a state that we want our Supreme Court elections to be non-partisan.  Apparently, Stanford and Dartmouth decided that the research questions of some of the professors at these schools outweighed the concerns Montanans had with partisan elections.

The Cowgirl Blog has obtained information on the research aims of this deceptive and unethical meddling.  It looks like the plan was to give our non-partisan candidates a partisan score, then to study the impact on turnout and outcome of making our non-partisan races partisan.  I guess they don’t care what we really think.  They probably think of us as a measly amount of inconsequential people in a flyover state.  Summary here.  Longer research paper here. 

It is unethical for these out-of-state universities to decide to paint our non-partisan candidates in a partisan light as an experiment to see what happens when our wishes as a state for non-partisan elections are violated.  Putting non-partisan races on a partisan spectrum also of course influences electoral outcomes, by making them more likely to come out along traditional partisan lines.

3. The third concern here is that is unethical for these universities to conduct their little experiment by disguising it as an official state publication, plastered with the Official State Seal of Montana.   Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices and Montana’s Secretary of State today called for an official investigation into the deceptive mailers. 

4. Apparently, the political scientists at Stanford and Dartmouth do not comprehend the impact of taking a non-partisan race in a conservative leaning state and painting one of the candidates as about as close to Obama as you can get and the other candidate as less like Obama–when Obama polls at 20% or whatever in this state.

If there is truly any political science professor anywhere who doesn’t understand how doing this will impact the outcome of an election, they should be immediately fired.  And predictably (by everyone except the imbeciles behind this “experiment”), the Montana Republican party, which has sued to make our Supreme Court races more partisan, is already touting how helpful these mailings are to their goals. 

5. There are also several questionable elements to the mailing–elements which are not particularly credible or scholarly and call into question whether the piece can actually be considered with a straight face part of any legitimate academic exercise.

First, according to information Cowgirl tipsters obtained from the U.S. post office, the bulk mail permit used to send these mailers belonged to:

 Progressive Direct Mail Advertising, Inc
2089 West 2300 South
Salt Lake City, UT  84119

For a mailing on behalf of an entity called:

Everest College
3280 West 3500 South, Suite A
Salt Lake City, UT  84119

If the mailings were really from Stanford and Dartmouth, why did they come from Everest College, which is part of an online for-profit education conglomerate and the subject of a recent federal bailout scandal. 

6. There are a couple of reasons this mailing is clearly intended to influence and elections and not provide academic assistance to voters. Urging Montanans to “Take this to the polls” on “Election Date: November 4, 2014” clearly makes this an electoral mailing and not a public service mailing.

There is also something odd about to whom the mailing was sent.  I’ve talked to several tipsters whose households received multiple copies.  When you get non-householded political mail like this, you often finds it comes from an unethical  mail house consultant who is billing on a per-piece basis. Which is something a consultant is only incentivized to do with mailing lists that are very very large in size – much larger than would be needed for an academic study sample size. UPDATE:  I’m told that Stanford now admits it sent 100,000 mailers in the Supreme Court race.  That’s a $50,000 dollar mailing injected into a race where both candidates have raised under $200k.

7. Another question that hasn’t been answered is whether and how montanans4justice.com part of the project.  This site uses the same “how much is a candidate like Obama” theme – only it uses little pictures of the candidates heads (note how close Wheat’s head is placed to Obama’s.  My question is whether this site is part of the Stanford and Dartmouth “study” and if not who is paying for it.

Finally, it needs to be disclosed who paid for these mailings.  Were they funded by the universities directly?  Through grants?   Who funded the grants? The people of Montana deserve to know.

 UPDATE: Those behind the mailer are fellows with the right-wing Hoover Institution, which is affiliated with Stanford.

 

Flathead Memo: Out-of-State Group Sends Fake Voter Guide to Deceive MT Voters

Another disturbing development in the Montana Supreme Court race today as more comes out on the radical right-wingers working to elect Lawrence VanDyk. VanDyke has practiced law in Montana for only one year (compared to Mike Wheat’s 36) having briefly worked for Tim Fox, but quitting in a huff because he didn’t want to work on the cases he was assigned.

An out-of-state group has produced a fake “voter guide” to instruct voters to make a partisan decision on the non-partisan MT Supreme Court race.  The mailers, which I have posted here, also use the Montana State seal to provide the (false) impression that the mailing is an official state publication.  The Flathead Memo has an analysis up on the mailer here, which you’ll want to go read.  James Conner writes that the mailer:

resents information in a way that invites voters to conclude that researchers at two of America’s most prestigious universities want them to know that Mike Wheat is a very liberal man; almost as liberal as that black devil in the White House. Given the context, only a fool would conclude the card is intended to help Wheat.

 

I’ll have updates as more information becomes available.  James Conner has the mailer posted so you can see it on his site.

Lawrence VanDyke Left Some Things Out of His Candidate Bio


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Montana Supreme Court candidate Lawrence VanDyke has omitted from his candidate bio and website that he is part of a group of attorneys called the Blackstone Project whose aim is to “reorder society” and turn the U.S. into a theocracy.

The Blackstone Project and its “Fellows,” of whom VanDyke is one, have committed to commit to using their legal careers “to ‘reorder society’ according to a ‘christendomic’ worldview, in which there is no separation between church and state,”  as the women’s reproductive health news organization RH Reality Check reports.  The Alliance Defending Freedom to Discriminate Against LGBT People runs the Blackstone Project.

The Cowgirl Blog has obtained information that shows VanDyke’s affiliation with Alliance Defending Freedom–and his membership in the group’s Blackstone Fellowship Project, which can be seen here. [screenshot]

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.05.32 AMAs RH Reality Check reports, Blackstone Project Fellows strive “to glorify God as society is reordered bit by bit according to His design.”  The project includes readings from the Christian Reconstructionism Movement.  As the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, Christian Reconstructionism is “a theocratic movement that seeks to demolish American democracy and replace it with the legal code of the Old Testament, which calls for stoning to death adulterers, homosexuals and in some cases, wayward children.”  

Lawrence VanDyke chose to omit these things from his candidate bio-nor does he mention his own bachelor’s degree in theology [screenshot]. These things are not mentioned on his webpage [screenshot] and he doesn’t mention them in his ads or in interviews with the media.

Voters have a right to know who this man really is and what his true objective is in this race. It’s pretty clear VanDyke left these things out because he knows that the voters of Montana don’t want our society reordered into a theocracy, taking us back to the Dark Ages. Plus these revelations wipe out his whole campaign message – in which he has tried to make the case that Montanans shouldn’t vote for someone who would inject personal ideology into the race–someone like VanDyke himself.

Indeed it seems there is somewhat of a cloud of secrecy not just around VanDyke’s role in the Blackstone Project, but around the Blackstone Project itself, which does not publicize its relationships between Project Fellows and state offices of Attorney’s General and has insisted in public statements that they are “not the illuminati.” So at this point we do not know if VanDyke was recruited to work for Fox specifically for Blackstone Project purposes or because Fox just works hard to recruit any variety of wingnut.

However,  it is interesting to note that Tim Fox’s replacement for Van Dyke is said to be an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney too.  Word on the street is that Dale Schowengerdt, who made a name for himself defending business owners who discriminate against LGBT people, will be the next solicitor for AG Fox.  He’ll likely show up in the marriage equality case pending before Judge Morris in Great Falls. (That’s the case VanDyke is alleged to have quit over after refusing to work on it.) If it comes out that Fox is recruiting lawyers based on their goals to reorder society into a theocracy then this issue indeed could become not just Van Dyke’s problem but Fox’s as well.  

Perhaps it is time for another public records request for all communications between Fox’s staff and this group.

Hate Group Hosted Fundraiser for Lawrence VanDyke

Today, more details were revealed about the Washington DC fundraiser held for Supreme Court Candidate Lawrence VanDyke by the so-called Family Research Council, a group the the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as a hate group.

If you aren’t familiar with this group yet, you should know that the Family Research Council is totally dedicated to promoting hatred, denigration, misinformation and discrimination against  LGBT Americans.  The group’s leader is Tony Perkins who is on the record as supporting Uganda’s “kill all gays” bill.  [screenshot here] The group even lobbied Congress to try to convince the U.S. not to condemn the Ugandan law.

Tony Perkins has a history of working with white-supremacist organizations, the SPLC explains:

In 1996…Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Klan chieftain David Duke. The campaign was fined $3,000 (reduced from $82,500) after Perkins and Jenkins filed false disclosure forms in a bid to hide their link to Duke. Five years later, on May 17, 2001, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity.”

As Right Wing Watch reported today, among those donating to VanDyke at the fundraiser were prominent figures in the War on Women and anti-gay movements, including leaders of the militant anti-choice group Americans United for Life , Koch Brothers-funded groups, and the anti-gay hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Today’s Must-Read Political Blog Post

Is up on Preserve the Beartooth Front, where David Katz writes about how the Montana Supreme Court race could impact the front’s future.  You can read it here:

Outside corporate interests are trying to shift the balance of the Montana Supreme Court. What it means for oil drilling along the Beartooth Front.

 

Montana Supreme Court Candidate Compares Pregnant Women to Animals in Emails about Abortion Ban


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An email from a candidate for the Montana Supreme Court surfaced this week in which he compared pregnant women and fetuses to animals.

Suggesting that if it applies to animals, it applies to women, VanDyke sent an email from his state government account to an Ohio attorney recommending that Ohio amend an amicus brief to reference animal pain statutes to bolster the case against women’s medical privacy in Ohio.  You can read VanDyke’s email and his edits to the referenced amicus brief here.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.00.57 PMThe fact that VanDyke spent so much time on right-wing causes in other states like this has recently become a focal point in the Supreme Court race. You see, during VanDyke’s very brief stint as a Montana Department of Justice employee, he spent much of his time chasing down right wing lawsuits in other states rather than working on Montana laws as he was asked.  

According to emails from high-ranking DOJ management, KXLH reported, this created frustrations and problems for the other attorneys who had to pick up his slack while VanDyke pursued his wingnut agenda in other states instead of doing the Montana work we taxpayers were paying him for.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 9.53.15 PMEven worse, VanDyke fails to grasp that women, unlike animals, have fully functioning brains and the ability to make choices.  VanDyke isn’t just comparing women to animals: he’s assuming that women are incapable of making our own medical decisions and that, like animals, he should be making choices for us.

Montana doesn’t need a judge who applies animal laws to women.

But at least with these remarks coming to light one mystery is solved.  We now know why the National Republican Party is spending more on this race than VanDyke has raised himself for his entire campaign.  This is a party for which comparing women to animals to try to justify taking away our basic constitutional rights is a key tenet.

TEA Party Republican Rep. Keith Regier made statewide news in 2011 when he compared pregnant women to livestock in the Montana legislature.  And TEA Party Republican Rep. Krayton Kerns earned national derision when he compared Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke to a rutting bulldog for advocating for contraception coverage. And there have been many others who have done this on the national scene.

 

BREAKING: National Far Right Working to Flip MT Supreme Court

Today, a national exposé  by Right Wing Watch revealed that right-wing religious extremists and the corporate right have been quietly working to pour massive amounts of out-of-state money into the Montana Supreme Court race hoping to change the balance of the Montana Supreme Court. 

As Miranda Blue writes for Right Wing Watch, the extremists are:

hoping to topple a court majority that has bucked the U.S. Supreme Court on campaign finance issues and could soon hear cases with national implications challenging the state’s marriage equality ban and its abortion clinic buffer-zone law.

The national right hopes to buy a Supreme Court seat for Lawrence VanDyke. You can read the whole exposé here.