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Montana's News Station - MT Chief Justice Candidate Promises Transparency

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Montana's News Station - MT Chief Justice Candidate Promises Transparency

Ron Waterman, a Helena attorney who is a candidate for Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice, is promising to increase transparency in government if elected.

Waterman unveiled a list of open Government initiatives he plans to promote if elected on Tuesday in Helena.

The initiatives include partnerships with the State Bar of Montana as well as print, radio, and television campaigns.

Waterman said, "In 1972, we created a constitution that mandates that all meetings of government be open to the public and there's a reason for that. It's because we believe, and I believe sincerely, that as we increase transparency in government, we increase people's confidence in government."

Waterman also promised to work with Montana schools to increase education about the state's court system.

He said that if elected, he intends to meet with citizens across the state on a monthly basis and encourage other justices to make similar appearances.

(from the archives)

Montana voters will have an opportunity to choose who will lead the Montana Supreme Court for the next eight years in November's election.

The race for Supreme Court Chief Justice features Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath against Helena attorney Ron Waterman.

Montana's two Chief Justice candidates have had a tough time this year getting any attention. With the Presidential contest dominating the evening news and the headlines, McGrath and Waterman have been flying under the political radar screen.

But in reality, the outcome of this race may have more impact on Montanans' daily lives than who occupies the White House

"It's the court that stands between you and government" said McGrath. "It heads the third branch of government," added Waterman.

The two candidates would each bring a breadth of legal experience to the court. Waterman's legal career spans nearly 40 years in Montana, including both civil and criminal law, but this is his first run at elected office.

"People want the court to be fair, unbiased, and independent."

McGrath served 18 years as Lewis & Clark County Attorney, and is just finishing his eighth year as Montana Attorney General.

"This is an opportunity to continue my career in public service" said McGrath.
Ironically, it's McGrath's years heading up Montana's Justice Department that Waterman views as a liability, saying that, "He'll have to disqualify himself in about half of the cases."

Waterman has also questioned McGrath's acceptance of campaign contributions from Political Action Committees which is an issue he believes points to an important difference between the two candidates.

But, McGrath brushes off Waterman's criticism as just election year rhetoric: "I don't believe they'll be any undue influence on the court due to a $300 campaign contribution."

Instead he wants to focus on ways to make the state's highest court more efficient, noting that, "In some cases, it takes longer than two to three years for the court to issue a decision."

Both of the candidates invite voters to check out their respective web sites to learn more about them and their vision for the Montana Supreme Court.
You can hear more from the Chief Justice candidates this weekend on our Face the State Program. Tune in Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. here on Montana's News Station.

The salary for Montana Chief Justice is $107,404 a year.

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