University of Montana School of Law Professor Jeffrey T. Renz on Tuesday, Oct. 5, told about 45 people in Missoula that Supreme Court candidate Cindy Younkin has been misusing an article he recently published in the Montana Law Review to unfairly and dishonestly denigrate her opponent, Justice Jim Nelson.
“[Younkin] claims, on the basis of my article, that the Montana Supreme Court is activist,” said Renz, reading from a Sept. 30 letter he wrote to Justice Nelson. “This angers and disappoints me. It angers me because it is not true. It disappoints me because [Nelson’s] opponent, a candidate for a seat on the highest court of the State of Montana, appears to lack the integrity to serve.”
Renz was joined in his remarks by Justice Nelson himself and UM School of Law Professor Emeritus Larry Elison.
The subject of Renz’s article was stare decises, which Nelson described as “a complex legal concept [that] has nothing to do with judicial activism.”
“Justice Nelson is an admirable, honest man,” said Elison. “He has a keen intellect. He is knowledgeable and experienced in the law.”
He also defended the Montana Constitution, and he implied that Younkin’s distaste for Nelson’s opinions might in reality reflect her lack of understanding of the Montana Constitution, which Elison described as “progressive.”
Missoula’s Kelley Hubbard, who describes herself as an interested citizen, characterized Elison’s defense of Nelson as “a bit of a lecture, but it was very informative.”
Hubbard says she is following the Nelson-Younkin race because she is concerned about the potential for partisanship in the Montana Supreme Court. In 2003, she witnessed then-House Majority Whip Younkin (R-Bozeman) hold open the voting over a controversial tax bill and ask Republicans for one more vote.
“I’m just appalled that she would tamper with the democratic process by holding the voting open during the Legislature,” said Hubbard.
Younkin says she has not misused the Renz article.
“I have not misrepresented Professor Renz’s [Montana] Law Review article, I have quoted it verbatim,” says Younkin. “And it says in there that this is the most active Supreme Court in Montana’s history, and that our court has been ‘rewriting the law at an unprecedented rate.’”