The entrance to the Montana Supreme Court (Photo by Eric Seidle/ For the Daily Montanan).
As swiftly as he received it, the Commissioner of Political Practices tossed an ethics complaint filed by a Bozeman lawyer against district court judge Michael McMahon, who is running for the Montana Supreme Court.
In an order Thursday, Commissioner Jeffrey Mangan said he was rejecting the complaint for failing to state a potential violation of the code of ethics. He said a judicial officer is part of the judicial branch of state government “and therefore excluded from the definition of a ‘public officer’” connected to the code of ethics.
“Although Judge McMahon is a ‘public officer’ under the Montana Recall Act, Mont. Code Ann. 2-16-603(1), the Code of Ethics provides for a narrower definition of public official that applies to ethical obligations and potential violations,” the commissioner wrote. “Given the express and plain language of the Code of Ethics, the Commissioner rejects the emailed complaint.”
In a complaint signed Thursday, lawyer Matthew Monforton had alleged Lewis and Clark County District Judge McMahon had violated the ethics code by talking in his office with reporters about his campaign. The lawyer pointed to an earlier finding that former Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney was in violation of using his Capitol office for a campaign conference call.
“In general, members of the judicial branch are subject to their own code of ethics (IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA) and complaints are handled by the Judicial Standards Commission,” the commissioner wrote.
Monforton said the Judicial Standards Commission precludes disclosure of any complaint until an initial ruling so he could not address whether he had made a report in that venue. However, he said he would appeal Mangan’s decision to district court.
This story was updated to add comment from Monforton.
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