Montana Politics 2014: Judges

Be advised that today (July 23, 2014) is National Hot Dog Day – so throw down a couple dogs today in celebration!

In my mind judges and the term “hot dog” seem to go together. That is a good thing because judges are in the spotlight today at The Western Word. Today I write about Lawrence VanDyke who wants to be a judge and current judge G. Todd Baugh who, in my opinion, should not be a judge any longer.

Lawrence VanDyke:

I was a little shocked when I heard the Montana Supreme Court had ruled that Lawrence VanDyke could be a candidate for the Montana Supreme Court. It was a 4-3 decision. This was a reversal of a ruling by state District Judge Mike Menahan of Helena.

The Associated Press reported that Menahan “previously ruled that VanDyke could not run because his status with the State Bar of Montana was inactive from 2007 to 2012.”

The funny part of this whole situation is that VanDyke is running against current Montana Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat, who recused himself. Wheat’s replacement voted in favor of VanDyke.

If the same group or groups get behind VanDyke that got behind justice Laurie McKinnon in her election, then VanDyke has a better than average chance of beating Wheat in November.

By the way, back in April I predicted, “VanDyke will be found ineligible to be a candidate for the Montana Supreme Court.” And just like that, I was wrong, which means I had to buy donuts for the staff here at The Western Word this morning.

Judge G. Todd Baugh:

In case the name does not ring a bell, Baugh is the judge “who gave a lenient sentence to a rapist after suggesting the 14-year-old victim shared some of the responsibility for the crime.”

Baugh was publicly censured yesterday by the Montana Supreme Court. Baugh stood before the court and Chief Justice Mike McGrath read a censure statement basically telling Baugh that he had been a bad judge. He was also suspended for 31 days, but the suspension is at the end of his term and Baugh is retiring, so it means little.

Back in September I said that Baugh should step down. He still should.

This is a classic example of how screwed up the justice/judicial system is in Montana. The punishment did not fit the crime in this situation. Baugh should have been removed from his position.

I’ve said before that many judges sitting on the bench in Montana today are not always the best people for the job – they just have the money to win the political campaign. When an appeal is heard from the state district court level, it’s heard by a Montana Supreme Court – a court that is nothing more than a good ol’ boys and girls club that made their way to the “lofty” positions because they had the money to mount a state-wide political campaign.

McGrath said that Baugh’s actions “eroded public confidence in the judiciary.”  Sadly, the Montana Judicial Standards Commission and the Montana Supreme Court did little to restore that confidence.

 

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2 thoughts on “Montana Politics 2014: Judges

    • Craig – I am not exactly the poster boy for healthy eating… -JmB

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