“Heated MT Judicial Campaign Spawns Free-Speech Lawsuit”

Courthouse News Service:

A new federal lawsuit involving a contentious Montana judicial race last year claims an investigation into campaign statements is having a chilling effect on one of the candidate’s ability to defend himself in disciplinary proceedings.

Robert Myers wants a federal judge to strike down Montana’s criminal defamation statute as unconstitutional. He says doing so will not only prevent Myers from being “illegally prosecuted in a criminal proceeding,” but also may encourage other witnesses to come forward without fear that their testimony regarding possible misconduct by Ravalli County District Judge Jeffrey Langton will result in them being charged with criminal defamation.

The newest complaint, filed Thursday, comes almost a year after Myers sued Chief Disciplinary Counsel Shaun R. Thompson over alleged ethics violations included in civil disciplinary complaint against him. Myers said Montana’s disciplinary code, which prohibits attorneys from making false statements about judges, forces judicial candidates to forego exercising their fundamental right to criticize their opponents. A trial before U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy is set for Sept. 25 in Helena.

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