Montana: Bill would mandate judges recuse based on campaign contributions and when independent expenditures were made in their favor

A member of the Montana House has introduced legislation to address the issue of independent expenditures in that state’s judicial elections. Under HB 157 as filed judges would not be able to sit on cases where a party, party’s employee, or attorney has made “aggregate contribution[s]” to the judge’s campaign that exceed the contribution limit set for individuals under state law.

“Aggregate contribution” includes both contributions made directly to a judicial candidate’s campaign PLUS “contributions made independently to or through a person or political committee when the contribution can be shown to benefit the election of the judicial candidate.”

It was independent expenditures in a West Virginia Supreme Court race that was at issue in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Caperton v. Massey. There, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the independent contributions required a justice of the West Virginia court recuse.

HB 157 has been filed in the House State Administration Committee.