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Justice Rice: DOJ’s Actions On Judicial Appointment Lawsuit Were ‘Contemptuous’

An excerpt from Justice Jim Rice's concurring opinion on a lawsuit challenging the governor's authority to appoint judges to open benches directly. Rice wrote a concurring opinion, but included scathing criticism of the Legislature and Dept. of Justice.
https://juddocumentservice.mt.gov/getDocByCTrackId?DocId=355899
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An excerpt from Justice Jim Rice's concurring opinion on a lawsuit challenging the governor's authority to appoint judges to open benches directly. Rice wrote a concurring opinion, but included scathing criticism of the Legislature and Dept. of Justice.

Justice Rice: DOJ’s Actions On Judicial Appointment Lawsuit Were ‘Contemptuous’

A Montana Supreme Court justice who voted in a 6-1 ruling to uphold a new law allowing the governor to appoint judges directly to open benches is also condemning Republican lawmakers and the state’s attorney general for their handling of the proceedings.

Justice Jim Rice wrote a concurring opinion upholding the law, but included scathing criticism of the Republican-majority Legislature and Department of Justice. 

Rice was appointed to the court in 2001 by Republican Governor Judy Martz and previously served as a Republican lawmaker. 

Rice wrote that the Department of Justice’s actions while representing the state in the lawsuit were “contemptuous.”

Rice also wrote that the Department of Justice and Legislature don’t have an understanding of the Supreme Court’s authority, and until they do, “there is little hope they could comprehend contempt of it.” 

Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen, head of the Department of Justice, responded with a statement calling Rice’s opinion an “emotional rant.” Knudsen says Rice is trying to distract from his own behavior in the case. The attorney general didn’t elaborate on what behavior he’s referring to. 

Gov. Greg Gianforte released a statement saying the Supreme Court’s ruling affirmed what he knows to be true — that the law is constitutional. Republican Sen. Keith Regier, the law’s sponsor in the Legislature, says the ruling is “clearly correct.” Neither commented on Rice’s opinion. 

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.