UPDATED- Documents Obtained: Montana Judges Above the Law?
***Note: Post was updated Monday evening. We obtained additional documents Sunday night, but needed more time to review the documents prior to sharing. The additional batch of documents is included below.
Apparently, there are some Montana judges who think they're above the law, especially when it comes to open records, electronic communications on government devices, and accountability before the taxpayers of Montana. It certainly makes you wonder, what else are they hiding?
With Republicans in control of the Governor's mansion for the first time in 16 years, and the Montana Legislature still squarely in Republican hands, it is pretty clear that Democrats are desperate to hold on to the grip they have over partisan judges and the judicial appointment process in Montana.
Just before the weekend kicked off, Seaborn Larson had a very interesting report in the Helena Independent Record. According to the report:
The Montana Supreme Court administrator deleted the emailed results from a poll of judges seeking opinions on a law now being challenged in the Supreme Court, according to documents provided to the Montana State News Bureau....The Montana Attorney General's Office raised the issue when it included in court filings 18 of the judges' responses, although its unclear where the office obtained them.
Larson also noted that the Supreme Court administrator is saying that the judicial branch in Montana doesn't have a policy concerning records retention.
How many times have we heard judges tell us (when they're campaigning for office) that they can't give us their opinion on a case that may come before them in their chambers? And here we have the liberal majority Montana Supreme Court specifically trying to game their system so they can control the process.
Former Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann (R-Billings) made another great point. Where are all of the so-called Freedom of Information watchdogs? He tweeted this out Saturday morning:
Waiting to hear wailing and knashing of teeth from Open Records advocates and our #MTpress poobahs.
As Mike Dennison previously reported for the Montana Television Network, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (a former Democrat party officeholder) and another judge had to step down from the case after this evidence was revealed that they personally tried to intervene in the matter.
Speaking of open records, my sources in the Montana Legislature were able to get a hold of several emails involving the Supreme Court administrator and several judges. Click here to review the files for yourself:
Batch 1 (uploaded Sunday evening) 041121 MT Leg Judges Emails Combined
Batch 2 (uploaded Monday evening) 041121 Batch 2 Compressed
Batch 3 (uploaded Monday evening) 041121 Batch 3 Compressed
Batch 4 (uploaded Wednesday afternoon) MT Leg SupCo Docs2
There will likely be more to follow on this story in the days ahead...