HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newsline)- A Helena attorney running for chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court has announced that he won't accept campaign contributions from political action committees.
Ron Waterman, 64, said because the office is non-partisan, it doesn't make sense to accept money from organized groups aimed at promoting or defeating either a candidate or legislation.
In an interview Wednesday with Legal Newline, Waterman said the courts ought to be free of political influence.
"One of the concerns I have is to make certain the court decides its cases on the facts and the law, not the politics," he said. "It seemed inconsistent to me to be taking PAC money and at the same time saying I want to keep politics out of the court."
Waterman, a long-time private practitioner, said the position of chief justice is "too important to leave the public with the impression that it is for sale to the highest bidder."
Also running for chief justice is Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath, a Democrat, elected in 2000 and re-elected unopposed four years later.
Waterman lashed out at McGrath this week for his acceptance of $2,750 from employee PACs representing Citigroup Inc., NorthWestern Energy and Montana Gas and Oil.
"I feel it is necessary to assert leadership in this area, despite the impact this may have on raising money for my campaign," Waterman said in a statement. "I will only accept donations from individuals. I will bring the same leadership to the court."
In his campaign announcement earlier this month, Waterman said he is seeking the post to continue "improving the rights of Montana citizens."
Touting his trial experience, Waterman said he has been involved in representing clients in Montana at every level of the court system: the justice court, the district court, the supreme court of Montana.
Since the Montana Supreme Court is the only appellate court in the state, lawsuits appealed in district courts could be decided by the state's seven justices.
The high court's current chief justice, Karla Gray, isn't seeking re-election.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.