A Hamilton attorney is arguing for his career, hoping to avoid suspension but also fiercely defending his ability to criticize a Ravalli County Judge during last year’s elections.
As Dennis Bragg reports, the question is whether Robert Myers’ defiance falls within the law, and ethics which govern the legal profession.
The showdown is the latest in a running battle between Myers, Judge Jeffrey Langton and the Montana Supreme Court. Now the state’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel is considering three complaints of professional misconduct. The panel heard details of all the cases Thursday, including a case involving a Ravalli County man who battled the judge over handling of his parental custody case.
Myers maintains he has a constitutional right to criticize his opponent during a campaign and that the U.S. Supreme Court is the final arbitrator in such instances, such as a case from Chicago.
“In that case they intended to lie," Myers said. "I did not intend to lie! This is what I believe happened. I don’t believe this to be false. I do not! I don’t care what the Supreme Court of Montana says. I certainly don’t care what Judge Langton thinks. I have a right to speak, and if based upon the facts that I know from this case.”
During the often combative hearing, Myers argued his positions were supported by case law, that these complaints involved “vicarious defamation."
“So I’d move to dismiss this and we get back to being Americans. Because we have a freedom of speech here to disagree with our government," Myers said. "We have a Freedom of Speech to disagree with the Supreme Court that doesn’t bother to read what’s put in front of them! Now they want to take my license because this guy over here sat in judgment of his own action.”
“He’s a meth buyin’, drunken judge. Has a 13-year-old bring him drugs. First he blew a point-1-9 and acted like it was no crime,” the radio ad said.
Then Langton took the stand.
“Do you smoke dope sir?"
“I do not,” Langton answered.
“Do you buy meth sir?”
“I do not,” Langton replied.
“Are you currently a drunken judge?”
Langton did tell the commission he had been disciplined for a drunk driving case, and subsequent non-driving violation of his supervised release more than a decade ago.
“Well I mean it was a gross error on my part, I admitted to that,” Langton said.
“I mean the advertising. The liquor stuff is not what we’re after in this case.”
“Well, he’s got far more lurid material than that,” Langton said.
“You already denied that you buy meth from a 13-year-old child, correct?'
“That never happened.”
It’s expected to be a few weeks before the ODC issues a report, which will be reviewed by the Supreme Court and could lead to suspension, or even disbarment for Myers.