Montana earns ‘F’ for judicial financial disclosure

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The Center for Public Integrity evaluated the disclosure rules for judges in the highest state courts nationwide. The level of disclosure in the 50 states and the District of Columbia was poor, with 43 receiving failing grades, making it difficult for the public to identify potential conflicts of interest on the bench. Despite the lack of information in the public records, the Center’s investigation found nearly three dozen conflicts, questionable gifts and entanglements among top judges around the country. Here’s what the Center found in Montana:

Strengths:

None.

Weaknesses:

Montana justices, who are elected to eight-year terms, must file reports about campaign contributions and expenditures when they seek election. However, the state does not require justices to file any annual personal financial disclosure statements, unlike other statewide elected officials there.

Highlights:

Judges are subject to rules modeled on the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct and can face removal from office for violating them, said Montana Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin. “Frankly, we believe the rules provide a solid guideline for justices to avoid financial conflicts or potential conflicts,” she said. “We disagree that a grade on the checklist provides any meaningful insight into how justices manage and are required to manage potential or real conflicts.”