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Judge Fagg and His Unethical #MTSEN Campaign

Helena – Today, sitting Judge Russell Fagg sent out a press release announcing he is exploring a run for the U.S. Senate, which he hinted when he announced his retirement last month. Since then, he’s set up a Facebook pagea Twitter account, and a website, complete with an “Issues” page and a “DONATE” page where he is actively fundraising.
 
This comes only a couple months after he told MTN that he couldn’t “ethically campaign for a seat while serving as a judge” and that he would need to resign to campaign ethically.
 
He attended the Montana GOP convention earlier this month to take “the opportunity to introduce himself to convention attendees,” according to the Billings Gazette. And now he is raising money. Is this allowed? Or is it ethical?
 
The Montana Code of Judicial Conduct has rules for how sitting judges are able to conduct themselves. There are rules for soliciting funds, publicly identifying yourself as a candidate, and even attending political events.
 
“Russell Fagg, a sitting judge, is actively fundraising, introducing himself to people at political conventions, and taking stands on issues with his focus admittedly on running for a Senate seat. If that isn’t campaigning for office, then what is,” said Chris Meagher, spokesman for the Montana Democratic Party. “Fagg himself said this behavior wasn’t ethical, and he can’t have it both ways.”
 
Here is a link to the Judicial Code of Conduct, with potentially relevant sections highlighted below.
 
Under The Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct, No Judge Is Allowed To “Solicit Funds For, Pay An Assessment To Or Make A Contribution” To A Political Organization Or To Any Partisan Or Independent Candidate For Public office. ““Except as permitted by law,* or by Rules 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4, a judge or a judicial candidate* shall not:…solicit funds for, pay an assessment to, or make a contribution* to a political organization, or to or on behalf of any partisan or independent office-holder or candidate for public office;” [Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct, Revised 3/25/14] NOTE: SEE RULE 4.1
 
Under The Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct, No Judge Is Allowed To Publicly Identify Himself Or Herself As A Candidate Of A Political Organization.”  ““Except as permitted by law,* or by Rules 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4, a judge or a judicial candidate* shall not:…publicly identify himself or herself as a candidate of a political organization.” [Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct, Revised 3/25/14] NOTE: SEE RULE 4.1
 
Under The Montana Code Of judicial Conduct, No Judge Is Allowed To Use Or Permit The Use Of Campaign Contributions For The Private Benefit Of The Judge, Candidate Or Others. “Except as permitted by law,* or by Rules 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4, a judge or a judicial candidate* shall not:…use or permit the use of campaign contributions for the private benefit of the judge, the candidate, or others.” [Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct, Revised 3/25/14] NOTE: SEE RULE 4.1
 
Under The Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct, Judges Cannot Even Assist Any Family Member’s Political Activity Or Campaign For Public Office. “Although members of the families of judges and judicial candidates are free to engage in their own political activity, including running for public office, there is no “family exception” to the prohibition in paragraph (A) (3) against a judge or candidate publicly endorsing candidates for public office. A judge or judicial candidate must not become involved in, or publicly associated with, a family member’s political activity or campaign for public office.” [Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct, Revised 3/25/14] NOTE: SEE RULE 4.1
 
The Provisions Of The Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct Apply To District Court Judges. “The provisions of this Code apply to justices of the supreme court, district court judges, the chief water judge, the workers compensation court judge, justices of the peace, municipal court judges, city court judges and judges of courts of limited jurisdiction created by the legislature, including judges pro tempore, as hereinafter set forth, and, where specifically indicated, to judicial candidates.” [Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct, Revised 3/25/14] NOTE: SEE RULE 4.1
 
Re: GOP Convention attendance: Under The Montana l Code Of Judicial Conduct, No Judge Is Allowed To Attend Or Purchase Tickets For Events Sponsored By A Partisan Or Independent Candidate For Non-Judicial Public Office. “Except as permitted by law,* or by Rules 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4, a judge or a judicial candidate* shall not:……attend or purchase tickets for dinners or other events sponsored by a partisan or independent candidate for non-judicial public office.” [Montana Code Of Judicial Conduct, Revised 3/25/14] NOTE: SEE RULE 4.1
 

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