Broad Coalition Supports Gustafson & Rice For Supreme Court
Letter To The Editor
October 12, 2022 | View PDF
Absentee ballots will soon be mailed out for November’s election. Two of the most important elections on the ballot are for Montana’s Supreme Court.
We, as a group of Montana attorneys, former and current elected officials, and concerned citizens, are committed to supporting our Montana and United States Constitutions. We believe in the rule of law and the separation of powers between our executive, legislative, and judicial branches. We also believe in the absolute need for a fair, independent, and non-partisan judiciary to interpret our laws and invalidate those laws that infringe on our constitutional rights.
Unfortunately, recent actions of certain members of the legislative branch have threatened Montana’s independent and non-partisan judiciary. These legislators have become frustrated that some of their legislation has been found to be unconstitutional by our courts. The same politicians who have attacked our judiciary have a new strategy to force the courts to do what they want—by replacing members of the Montana Supreme Court with candidates who will rubber stamp their legislation without regard to constitutionality.
We feel it is our duty to let members of the public know what is at stake in this election and why we are supporting the retention of both incumbents, Justice Ingrid Gustafson and Justice Jim Rice.
Justice Gustafson has deep experience and—in contrast to statements made in support of her opponent—no partisan affiliation. Her career spans 35 years: 16 years practicing law, 14 years as a Yellowstone County District Court Judge, and the last five years on the Montana Supreme Court. Notably, she has received judicial appointments by governors of both political parties, Judy Martz to the District Court and Steve Bullock to the Montana Supreme Court. Over the course of her career, she has handled nearly 20,000 cases. Justice Gustafson is not a politician; she is a dedicated public servant.
Justice Rice has been a Montana attorney since 1982 and has served on the Montana Supreme Court since 2001, after being appointed by Governor Judy Martz. Although Justice Rice is a former Republican legislator, his 20 years on the bench demonstrates his commitment to an independent judiciary and his adherence to the rule of law. These values transcend partisanship. In his own words, “The ultimate duty of the courts is to protect the individual liberties and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.”
Critically, both Justice Gustafson and Justice Rice have shown they will apply the law fairly and with integrity—even when they disagree with one another or with other members of the Court. They will not be bullied into giving politicians whatever they want, regardless of the Constitution. Both justices have shown they will review cases with impartiality. Both have upheld the independence that is key to effectively balanced government.
Those supporting the challengers to Justice Gustafson and Rice have their own agenda, which will not benefit Montanans as a whole. The last thing we need is more partisanship in government. The Supreme Court works to protect Montanans’ constitutional rights, not to take sides with one political party against another. We must resist the calls to transform the Supreme Court into a third partisan branch.
We wholeheartedly support Justices Gustafson and Rice because they have the needed experience and demonstrated record of fairness, impartiality, and independence. We encourage you to join us in voting to keep both Justice Ingrid Gustafson and Justice Jim Rice on the Montana Supreme Court.
Roger Barber, Linda M. Barone, Bob Brown, Chase E. Brown, Kristin R. Bruninga, Dr. and Mrs. Henry Busey, Laura Christoffersen, Emily Cross, Geraldine Custer, Janet Davis, Maxon Davis, W. Kim Davis, Linda de Kort, Sherry Devlin, Jon Ellingson, Mae Nan Ellingson, Tom Esch, Benjamin J. Fosland, Thomas M. France, Molly Galusha, Maureen Gary, Paul Ronald Gerson, Randy Gray, Bruce Grubbs, Eric Hinebauch, Gerry Jennings, Ellen and Bob Knight, Joel G. Krautter, F. Peter Landsiedel, Karen Leigh, Paul M. Leisher, Elizabeth and Paul Loehnen, Peter O. Maltese, Keeley McKay, Matthew McKeon, Rosemary and John McKinnon, Walt McNutt, Laura Millin, Donald L. Netzer, Robin Tawney Nichols and William Nichols, Rae Olson, Lyle R. Panasuk, Brian Putnam, Marc Racicot, Arlyne Reichert, Mike Russell and Sally Cameron-Russell, Don Seifert, Cindy and Andy Shott, Rylee Sommers-Flanagan, Ward Taleff, Sally Thompson, Greg Tollefson, Tom Towe, Bill and Sarah Towle, Karen S. Townsend, Leo Tracy, Mary Van Buskirk, Constance Van Kley, Carol and Fred Van Valkenburg, Jeffrey A. Weldon, Jock B. West, Scott Wheeler, Jared Wigginton, Scott C. Wurster