Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Judges in Montana would come under stricter ethical standards if a bill sponsored by State Senator Greg Hertz is passed in the Montana Legislature.

KGVO News spoke with Hertz on Wednesday morning about Senate Bill 252.

Senate Bill 252 would hold Judges to Higher Ethical Standards

“This bill has to do with judicial ethics,” began Senator Hertz. “Everybody in all branches of government should be held to basic ethics standards, and we need to bring our judges into those standards just like everybody else in government, whether it's the governor, legislators, or other statewide elected officials.”

Hertz said the bill deals specifically with campaign ethics.

Hertz said the Emphasis will be on Campaign Ethics

“What this bill does, it deals with campaign ethics,” he said. “If there's a violation of ethics standards related to political campaigning, that is, using your public office for personal gain or your uniform or anything else, then that's not allowable, and then these complaints are referred to the Commissioner of Political Practices. That's basically what the bill does, and if there are judicial conduct issues, then those would go to the Judicial Standards Commission for review.”

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Hertz said judges in the state need to be held to the same standards as all other state officials.

“Judges were kind of omitted from this ethics standard and we just felt that they should be held to the same level of standards as everybody else is in Montana,” he said. “It was probably kind of an oversight in previous law, so we just thought we had to change and make sure they are they're held up to the same standards that all other elected officials held to.”

Several 2021 Session Bills are still being Held up in District Court

Hertz referenced several bills passed in the 2021 session that were challenged in court. They include measures that expand permitless firearm carry rights on college campuses, restrict abortion, end Election Day voter registration, prevent the requirement for employee vaccinations, and also to change how the state fills judicial vacancies between elections.

“I believe most of those bills are still sitting in district court,” he said. “They haven't made their way up to the Montana Supreme Court yet, other than Senate Bill 140, which the Democrats oppose. That was the bill that had to do with allowing the governor to appoint new justices. When the judge retired, and they all said that was unconstitutional. The district court ruled that yes it was, but it made its way up to the Montana Supreme Court, and then they ruled it was constitutional.”

Click here to read Senate Bill 252.

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