On Thursday, June 6, 2024, The Federalist reported that U.S. District Chief Judge for Montana Brian Morris was observed speaking at a partisan event hosted by the U.S. General Services Administration. The event was promoting funding allocated by the Biden administration from the Inflation Reduction Act towards sustainability improvements at the Mike Mansfield Federal Building and Courthouse in Butte, Montana.

According to the article, ethics rules usually prohibit judges from partaking in overtly political events in order to maintain the appearance of impartiality and objectivity.

At the event, Judge Morris addressed attendees from behind a podium featuring signage with “President Joe Biden” and “Investing in America.” Local journalist Josh Margolis captured a photo of Morris at the event.

The Federalist detailed how the $24 million in allocated funds aimed to purchase construction materials and retrofits asserted to lower greenhouse gas emissions. This aligns with broader Biden administration goals to achieve net-zero emissions in federal building ports by 2045 and all government procurement by 2050.

During his remarks, Morris shared pride in his familial roots in the community and now serving as a judge in the courthouse located near his grandmother’s former home.

However, others saw Judge Morris’ participation as inappropriate given ethics directives for members of the Montana State Bar, of which he is a part, to avoid political activities that could undermine the judiciary’s independence or impartially.

Aaron Flint, host of Montana Talks, questioned Morris’ decision to speak at an overtly partisan occasion, while Jeremy Carl also expressed skepticism on social media.

Furthermore, the article situates the scrutiny in the context of a pattern of what some perceive as deliberately targeted ethics complaints against conservative jurists who publicly diverge from Democratic policy positions or rule against the administration in lawsuits. As an example, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen faced an ethics grievance previously that his office denounced as a strategically filed “political stunt.” The scrutiny illustrates ongoing conflicts regarding the appropriate boundary between law and politics.

 

 

Source: The Federalist