Republicans Successfully Attack 77-Year-Old Montana Law Banning Party Endorsements of Judicial Candidates
It’s been a hard year for Montana’s longstanding election laws. In June the U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-4, struck down the state’s 100-year-old law prohibiting corporations from contributing to political candidates and committees.
Now the Montana Republican Party has successfully challenged a 77-year-old state law that prevented partisan endorsements of judges running for election. Under the law, anyone violating the statute was subject to six months in jail.
After hearing an appeal from the Sanders County Republican Central Committee, a three-member panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled on a 2-1 vote that the law prohibiting political parties from supporting judicial candidates was unconstitutional on grounds that it violated the First Amendment. Democrats and Republicans will now be able to endorse judges running in the upcoming general election.
Republican Party officials said it was necessary to legally allow judicial endorsements “given the increasing intrusions by left-leaning state judges into areas of policy traditionally reserved to the Legislature.”
The GOP lost its first court hearing when U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell refused to enjoin the law, prompting an appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
The two judges who voted to overturn the law, Jed Rakoff and Ronald Gould, were both appointed by President Bill Clinton. Judge Mary Schroeder, who dissented, was nominated by President Jimmy Carter.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Court Nixes Montana's Ban on Political Endorsements of Judicial Candidates (by Mike Dennison, Missoulian)
After 77 Years, Montana Parties Can Back Judges (by Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service)
Old Montana Campaign Law Blasted in the 9th (by Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service)
Sanders County Republican Central Committee v. Steven Bullock (U.S. District Court, Montana) (pdf)
Supreme Court, 5-4, Cancels Montana’s 100-Year-Old Election Financing Law (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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