Sunday, October 17, 2010

Montana Supreme Court: Justice vs. Politics?

When November 2nd rolls around folks from all walks of life will be watching the polls for their favorite candidates from around Montana and around the nation. Will the Republicans take control of the Montana House or the U.S. House of Representatives? Will Barack Obama be forced to deal with Republicans? These are but a few of the questions that will be answered after that day, but one very important race will be decided that day as well, who will join the Montana Supreme Court in January? The choice is an interesting one and both candidates are seeking your support and your vote, District Judge Nels Swandal from Livingston and Helena attorney Beth Baker.

Let's face it folks this choice is decidedly partisan without exception with one candidate admitting it and the other pretending she is the non-partisan candidate; however, there is one more important distinction in our opinion. Swandal is a judge with actual judicial experience, while Baker has 25 years legal experience as an attorney, she has no judicial experience.

The history of the Montana Supreme Court teaches us that judicial experience need not be a prerequsite to run for this office, indeed the legal qualifications for that office do not require judicial experience; however we feel one's background is just as important running for Montana Supreme court as it does in any other position.  Perhaps if the high court had more prior judicial experience, it would habe a more favorable rating from the public or its peers nationwide.

Moreover the candidates offer a choice in values. Swandal, who is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and has served as a county prosecutor and district court judge for the last 15 years, has chosen not to run away from his Republican leanings and instead says other judicial candidates should be open and honest about their own values and political opinions. Really? That would be a novel approach! It has been a number of years since a candidate for Montana Supreme Court has not pretended that they have zero political leanings and applies the law with an unbiased interpretation. We at the HDC find this to be another favorable reason to support Swandal.

Baker on the other hand seems to be a lovely person and a well qualified attorney with definite experience and a proven admiriation for the law. Her list of endorsements while pocadotted with a few high profile exceptions, such as former Governor Marc Racicot, is quite liberal. Perhaps Mrs. Baker ought to be more forthcoming about her own political leanings. I am sure her husband Tim has no problems finding his way down the political aisle being the legislative director of the Montana Wilderness Association. Along with endorsements from the Montana Conservation Voters and Planned Parenthood of Montana it is no wonder how her supporters think she will vote!

For us experience counts, but the right kind of experience wins the day. We say Swandal for Montana Supreme Court.


  1. every montanan needs to be aware of baker, her husband is a high ranking member of several wilderness goups including the western wildlands alliance, this group is involved heavily in locking up more and more of the west in wilderness and working to create monuments of private and public land in the west, any legal battle over acces or industry goin to the court would be stymied by her

  2. Good to know the facts on these 2.

  3. Marc Racicot endorsed Baker. Is there really anymore to say?

    Swandal is the only choice if you want support of your 2nd amendment rights

    I am voting for Swandal

  4. Swandal is really the only choice unless you want more government land and less taxes to pay the bills