I have known Kristen Juras for a long time. Born and raised in Montana, Juras practiced law for many years and has a broad range of legal experience. She taught extensively at the Law School, has a keen intellect, and would bring to the Court new expertise in multiple areas of the law, including family law, taxation, property, and, critically, water law, which is a growing part of the Supreme Court’s caseload and a critical issue to Montana’s future. Juras has been awarded the highest rating for competency and ethics by her peers. There is no question she would be a positive addition to the Court.
Ordinarily, I would not publicly comment on the election campaigns of those running for the Supreme Court. However, this year I have been disturbed by the attack on Juras’ religious beliefs by her opponent (see Missoulian, Sept. 15, 2016). Religious-based animus has no place in a campaign for any public office, but especially for a judicial office. Citizens must be able to trust that the courts will make decisions based on the law, without regard to a person’s beliefs. Such campaign attacks undermine confidence in the courts and demonstrate an unacceptable willingness to sacrifice the fundamental principle of impartiality for political gain.
Recently, when District Court Judge Russell Fagg of Billings endorsed Juras, he explained that “she has the right temperament, background, and legal expertise to make an excellent Supreme Court Justice.” To that I would add my confidence that Juras would serve with impartiality, respecting the rights and beliefs of all people. When it comes to their judges, Montanans should not settle for anything less.
Justice Jim Rice has served on the Montana Supreme Court since 2001.