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Montana Trial Lawyers Group Opposes Call For Special Legislative Session

The Montana State Committee of the American College of Trial Lawyers said that it is opposed to the push for a special session of the Montana Legislature.

Three different groups of Republican lawmakers have called for a special session. One group of legislators said they believe the Legislature should convene to address immigration issues and revenue from recreational marijuana. Another has called for a special session to allow or convert Montana Supreme Court races to partisan. They are currently non-partisan. The Montana Freedom Caucus called for a special session to make sure only Montana citizens vote in elections, which is already required by law.

The attorneys’ group stated in a May 6 news release that it “strongly opposes this request for a special legislative session to consider bills intended to make partisan political bias part of our judicial elections.”

Montana has a history of political chicanery in elections, including a nationwide scandal that involved legislative bribery and the election of Copper King William Andrews Clark in 1909. That prompted lawmakers in 1912 to pass legislation that made judicial elections nonpartisan. However, because of a judiciary that was, at the time, partisan, the measure was tied up in courts and struck down from the bench until 1935, when nonpartisan judicial races were finally adopted in the Treasure State.

“Our legislature is partisan by design. Our court are not,” the committee said. “Montana learned the hard way, long ago, that partisan judicial elections threaten the independent judiciary upon which our democracy depends. This is not the time to forget that lesson.”

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