By Ron VandenBoom
Frank McGee, candidate for justice of the Montana Supreme Court, may be running as a nonpartisan candidate, but he makes no secret of the fact that he is the only Republican in the race.
"I am also the only candidate in this race that is a Republican ... and I'm proud to be a Republican," he told the North Central Montana Pachyderm Club Friday.
McGee, in an unabashed presentation of his political and judicial philosophy, told the Pachyderms he favors prayer in the public schools, is pro-life, believes strongly in the right to bear arms, and favored CI-75 the initiative passed by voters in 1998 that would have required all tax and fee increases to be approved by popular vote.
McGee also told the Pachyderms that he believes the Supreme Court's Commission on Practices shafted Havre lawyer Mort Goldstein.
Goldstein was found guilty by a Havre jury in August 1997 of using undue influence and taking advantage of the late Kenneth G. Axvig's diminished mental capacities when he wrote a will leaving himself half of Axvig's estate, estimated at more than $2 million.
McGee acknowledged that Goldstein did "some bad things," but described the activities and organization of the Commission on Practices as having "an odor about it."
"The commission began investigating, they bring the charges, and then play judge, jury, and executioner, and sent the results to the Supreme Court," he said.
"How would you like to get tried by the same 12 police officers that arrested you," he asked the audience. "Lawyers don't deserve favoritism, but they don't deserve to get the royal shaft," McGee said.
McGee also told the Pachyderms that claims by the other candidates that they would leave they're personal philosophy at at the door the minute they don the black robes is disingenuous.
"If you think those five non partisan Democrats sitting on the court in Helena wear black robes and forget about their philosophy guess again," he said. "Or better yet, look at the U.S. Supreme Court."
He pointed to prayer in schools as an example.
"Congress starts with a prayer, we have chaplains in the military, ... and who are the only people that can't start the day with a prayer public school children," he said, answering his own question. "Our Supreme Court says that was the establishment of a religion."
He referred to the decision as a "mistake," and noted that the consequences "exercised our courts to fill up our jails."
On the Second Amendment McGee simply said "we have a right to those guns."
"It's clearly in the Constitution and we don't need some arrogant individual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ... telling us what to do in Montana," he said.
The same logic McGee uses to defend the right to bear arms he also uses to defend the right to life.
"A child has its own DNA, its own blood type, and I can not understand how someone can look at me and tell me that that child's right to life is less important than someone else's right to privacy it doesn't make any sense to me," he said.
For McGee it is all just common sense. The same common sense that was suspended when the court struck down CI-75.
Article 2, section 3 of the Montana Constitution says the people have the right to alter or abolish the constitution or the form of government, he explained, noting that CI-75 was declared unconstitutional because it changed more than one provision.
There is nothing in the Constitution that forbids the people changing more than one provision at a time, he explained.
"I think what the people want comes first," McGee said, suggesting that if elected there are likely to be a lot of 6-1 decisions on the court.
"I believe the power to interpret the law is an awesome power and is to be done to the benefit of our citizens," McGee said. "I'm a Barry Goldwater Republican and I believe that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice and sitting on your keester' when liberty is threatened is no virtue."