Montana chief justice candidate calls for more 'open' court

Chris Rizo Oct. 15, 2008, 3:49am

Ron Waterman

Mike McGrath

HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newsline)-Ron Waterman, who is running for Montana chief justice, outlined his plan Tuesday to make the state Supreme Court more accessible to the public.

Waterman's plan calls for, among other things, opening up some of the high court's deliberations sessions and reinstating the practice of taking its proceedings to towns across Big Sky Country.

He said opening up the court will foster more public confidence and integrity in the state's justice system.

"I am an advocate of open government - from the state house to the courthouse," Waterman said in a statement. "I firmly believe that when citizens have the opportunity to view and understand the activities of their judicial system they will also have more confidence in the integrity of that system."

Waterman is running against Democratic Attorney General Mike McGrath for chief justice. The winner of the non-partisan race will lead the state's seven-member Supreme Court and serve as the state's chief officer of the courts.

Waterman said if elected he would also begin an annual "Court Day in Montana" to discuss, with the public, the importance of the courts and to hear the public's suggestions on improvements to the judicial system.

"I will invite nationally known court experts to participate in this initiative, and will encourage and include the League of Women Voters, the State Bar of Montana, representatives from the Law School in Missoula, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Society of Professional Journalists," he said.

Waterman is known for his role as the lead attorney for the Montana Freedom of Information Hotline, a free service to Montanans denied access to public meeting, records and the courts.

McGrath, who is barred by term-limits from seeking a third term as attorney general, has said among his priorities as chief justice are to ensure that opinions and rulings are issued in a timely fashion.

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