Elections and Government Services Administrative Rules of Montana Business Services Notary and Certification Records and Information Management

Argument Against CI-98

Montana's electors should reject Constitutional Initiative No. 98.

Montana already has, since 1976, a sensible and workable Recall Act that applies not only to justices and judges but to every person holding an elective public office. The present Recall Act requires as a basis for a Recall Petition that public officers are lacking in physical or mental fitness, are incompetent, have violated the oath of office, have committed official misconduct or a felony. In other words, the public officer must be correctly accused of a wrongful act to be required to face a recall election.

Initiative 98 provides that 3 electors may file a recall petition against a justice or judge for any reason, claiming judicial dissatisfaction with the justice or judge.

The rights and protection of our citizens are dependent upon a fair, impartial and unbiased judiciary. If the judges were confronted with the threat of constant and repeated recall elections, they would be distracted from the performance of their duties and subjected to great expense in defending recall elections.

Consider that when a judge makes a decision that is fair, impartial and a correct application of the law and evidence, he or she may nevertheless be faced with a recall election. In any contested court proceeding, including bitter divorce cases, one of the parties will be the losing party and of course dissatisfied.

Consider a criminal case where a person is wrongfully accused of crime and the evidence used to convict is obtained by clear violations of the Constitution, a judge must deny such offered evidence and dismiss the case. The judge that upheld constitutional protections may face a recall election.

Constitutional Initiative No. 98 (CI-98) is bad public policy, unwise and unneeded and should be rejected by the electorate.

The PROPONENT argument and rebuttal for this measure were prepared by State Representative Edward B. Butcher, State Representative Diane Rice, and State Representative Michael Lange.

 The OPPONENT argument and rebuttal for this measure were prepared by the Honorable John C. Harrison, former Montana Supreme Court Justice; the Honorable Jean Turnage, former Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice; and the Honorable John C. Sheehy, former Montana Supreme Court Justice.

Proponents' Rebuttal

Saying Montana citizens have a right to recall is sort of like claiming that communist Russia had free elections. In both cases, there may be a “law” on the books, but that doesn’t mean you can exercise your rights in any meaningful way.

Here is the record: in the twenty-nine years that the Recall Act has existed, every official who challenged his recall on the “grounds” the legislature created, has had the recall action thrown out by a judge. Opponents call this “sensible and workable.” A law that will not allow us to challenge judges who throw violent criminals and pedophiles out on the street, “legislate” radical political agendas or destroy our constitutional freedoms. Currently, not even blatant bias is “acceptable” grounds for recall.

Opponents’ arguments reflect the premise that we cannot be trusted with the right to recall bad judges, because we’d retaliate against good judges for petty reasons. They say if someone gets mad over a divorce ruling, they will gather thousands of signatures and get the judge recalled. Utter nonsense!

Montana ’s current recall law was reduced to a sham by politicians who did not want to face the accountability of the recall process. CI-98 rights that wrong. It sets the recall bar extremely high to remove any possibility of misuse. Moreover, it entrusts Montanans with a sacred democratic responsibility: the ability to take action against the worst of judges, and bring them to a public vote. Vote for accountability and responsible public policy. VOTE YES FOR CI-98.