Montana Supreme Court Justice Evading “Pay to Play” Questions
Bottom Line Up Front: Justice Gustafson could clear the air by simply telling Montanans whether or not she took money from, and hosted fundraisers with, the very lawyers that she is ruling on behalf of.
Update: Partisan Democrats and liberal news outlets are pushing back very hard on a judicial standards complaint filed against liberal Montana Supreme Court Justice Ingrid Gustafson. Gustafson is facing a challenge from Public Service Commission Chairman James Brown who says Gustafson is legislating from the bench with a far Left ideology.
According to two complaints filed by conservative political consultant Jake Eaton, Justice Gustafson is raising money from lawyers who are appearing before her court, and then she is ruling on their behalf. So far, Gustafson herself is refusing to answer questions about the alleged "pay to play" scheme.
Her backers in the media and the Democrats are calling it an unfair "October Surprise" launched at the same time absentee ballots are arriving in mailboxes across Montana.
A reporter for the Montana Free Press wrote a piece critical of the complaints being filed against Gustafson, arguing that it is against the law to make these types of complaints public. However, as I first pointed out via Twitter, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled back in 2019 that silencing ethics complaints against state officials in Montana is a violation of free speech rights.
Lee Banville is quoted in the MTFP as a political analyst and is also the Dean of the UM School of Journalism. His comments reported by the MTFP made it appear as though he did not support the public's right to know. However, I followed up with Banville and he tells me that he told the reporter that he believes Eaton "had the full right to release his complaint." He also said "that some of the issues in the complaint raise interesting questions around donors and potential fundraising hosts then arguing a case before the court."
Thanks to Lee Banville for following up and for making it clear that he supports the public's right to know.
LOOK: See how much gasoline cost the year you started driving