(CLICK HERE for this CQ as an MSWord file.)

Montana Shooting Sports Association

2018 County Attorney Candidate Questionnaire

Introduction:  Many are aware that MSSA is the primary entity asserting the right of Montana citizens to keep and bear arms.  Over the past 30 years or so, MSSA has gotten 68 pro-gun (mostly) and pro-hunting bills enacted into law.  Montana voters are concerned about laws relating to firearms and MSSA keeps them informed about what impact the Legislature may have on those laws.

Instructions:  MSSA's 2018 Candidate Questionnaires (CQ) for County Attorney candidates is below (also a link above to an MSWord file for this CQ). There are several ways candidates can complete and return these Questionnaires to the local group that sent it to you..

Download file, complete and email file:  You may download an MSWord file of the CQ to your computer, enter the information you wish, and attach that completed file in an email to the group that sent it.  Be sure to save a copy of your completed CQ for your records.  Make your Subject: line "MSSA Candidate Questionnaire" so the incoming email will be identified.

Email only:  You can copy the text of the CQ, paste that into the body of an email, enter the information you wish, then send that email to the group that asked for your response (same Subject line as above).

Copy and email:  You can copy the text from this Web page and paste that into a word processor page, or simply download the linked word processor file (.doc), complete the Questionnaire, save the file, and send that file attached to your email.

Print, scan and email:  You could print the .doc file, complete it, scan it into an electronic file, and return that electronic file by email (same email address and Subject line).

Print and mail:  Although we recommend using email to return your CQ, you may also print the MSWord file, fill it out, and send it by U.S. Mail to the local group that sent it to you.

Questionnaire Instructions:  Complete this questionnaire (check as many items as you agree with), and return it to the county-level gun owner group that sent it to you.  Feel free to add any comments interspersed or on a separate sheet.


1.  Firearm restriction upon custody release.  People released from custody are often prohibited from possessing firearms, regardless of whether or not firearms or violence were factors in why a person was in custody.  When a person is released to probation, by bond or bail or OR, or some other way, the judge who signs off on the release is usually presented with a boilerplate list of restrictions that usually includes no firearm possession.  Because a fundamental right is at issue, it seems as if the request for such a restriction should be limited to those cases in which there is a serious and specific public interest in a firearms restriction.  As a candidate for County Attorney, do you believe that a request for such firearms restrictions upon release from custody:

a. (  ) Should always be made because they will make the public safer;
b. (  ) Should never be made because the subject won't obey them anyway;
c. (  ) Should never be made because they deprive a person of a fundamental right;
d. (  ) Should only be made when firearms or violence were an element of the reason for custody;
e. (  ) Are necessary when drugs or alcohol were an element of the reason for custody;
f. (  ) Other (please explain)

2.  Burden of proof.  In State v. Longstreth, the Montana Supreme Court agreed with the district court's jury instruction that a person claiming self defense for use of force must prove that the person was justified in using force.  In 2009, that presumption and burden was reversed by the Legislature with a change in the law requiring prosecutors to prove that a self defense claimant was not justified in using force.  When this change was before the Legislature for consideration, opposing prosecutors asserted that the proposed change would result in prosecutors never being able to obtain a conviction in any case.  Proponents claimed that the burden of proof was the proposed way in the federal system and in most other states, and that convictions were still obtained under the prosecution-has-burden standard.  Do you believe that this changed standard of proof:

a. (  ) Has made it impossible to obtain convictions in Montana;
b. (  ) Should be reversed for efficient administration of justice;
c. (  ) Is a desirable change that keeps the burden of proof where it should be;
d. (  ) Protects the presumption of innocence;
e. (  ) Other (please explain)

3.  Role of prosecutor - incarceration or justice.  Candidates for the office of County Attorney may see the role differently.  Some may see their role as the next step after police in getting undesirable people behind bars where they can no longer break civilized rules.  Others may see their role as seeking and delivering justice, regardless of whether their efforts result in a conviction and incarceration.  Do you believe:

a. (  ) If police evidence suggests the possibility of criminal act, the prosecutor must do his or her best to charge and get a conviction of the person investigated; or
b. (  ) A prosecutor serves the greater cause of justice, and is more than just a link between police and prison.
c. (  )  Justice is an adversarial process; the accused has his or her defending champion so a prosecutor must aggressively take the other side.
d. (  ) Other (please explain)

4.  "Let the jury sort it out."  Some prosecutors don't like deciding whether or not a person may have violated the law, so they adopt the attitude of "Let the jury sort it out."  Or, an elected prosecutor may be under community pressure to prosecute a person regardless of investigation results.  Whatever the reason, prosecutions with borderline cases may subject the accused to a crippling financial burden for legal defense, for a person later exonerated of wrongdoing.  Do you believe a prosecutor should take into consideration the likely financial impact on an accused person when deciding whether or not to advance a prosecution?

a. (  ) Yes
b. (  ) No
c. (  ) Other (please explain)

5.  Informed juries.  It was long accepted in US civics that jurors had the power and prerogative to vote to acquit an accused person for any reason, including because a juror thought a law was being misapplied, or because a juror though a law was unfair or improper.  Only in modern times have judges instructed juries that jurors must only consider the facts presented at trial, and jurors could only base a juror's vote in the privacy of the jury room on facts.  In this modern departure from historical civics, judges will usually not allow defense attorneys to inform jurors of their historical prerogative and power to judge the law as well as the facts.  Do you believe jurors should be barred from hearing about their prerogative to vote to acquit based on the juror's belief in the propriety of the law being applied, or how that law is being applied?

a. (  ) Yes
b. (  ) No
c. (  ) Other (please explain)

If prospective jurors believe they have the power to judge the law, should they be removed from the pool?

2a. (  ) Yes
2b. (  ) No
2c. (  ) Other (please explain)

6.  Official misconduct.  The Montana crime of official misconduct is intended to hold public officials accountable for misbehavior, including for exceeding authority or for failure to perform a mandatory duty under law.  However, county attorneys will rarely charge a public official with official misconduct.  Some think that county attorneys wish to protect other public employees as members of their brotherhood, or it may be that county attorneys are just swamped with other work they deem more important.  This failure to hold public officials accountable can undermine public confidence in governmental actors and operations.  Are you willing to make pursuit of official misconduct cases, when warranted, a higher priority than they have been.

a. (  ) Yes
b. (  ) No
c. (  ) Other (please explain)

7.  Oath of Office.  All public officials in Montana are required by law to take and file an oath of office before an official may become properly seated and may exercise any official authority.  What is your attitude about the oath of office?

a. (  ) The oath of office is archaic and doesn't really matter.
b. (  ) Nobody knows what the oath of office compels or prohibits, so it is unenforceable.
c. (  ) I will check to see if all officials in my county have taken and filed their oath of office.
d. (  ) If I learn that any official in my county has failed to take and file his or her oath of office, I will make sure that official does no official act until the deficiency is repaired.
e. (  ) Failure to have taken and filed an oath of office would make all prior acts of that person unofficial and without legal effect.

8.  Prosecutorial discretion.  Prosecutors in Montana are known to have, and probably need to have, wide discretion, both about how they expend their finite budgets and about what type of cases they prioritize.  Notwithstanding that, there are laws in Montana that say that under certain circumstances it "shall be the duty" of the county attorney to bring a prosecution.  When a county attorney declines to advance a prosecution in such a case, is that still within his or her prosecutorial discretion?

a. (  ) Yes
b. (  ) No
c. (  ) Other (please explain)

9.  State grand juries.  The Montana Constitution reserves all authority for empanelling state grand juries to District Court judges.  However, one remaining legacy of the Copper Kings in Montana is a very firm judicial culture of no grand juries - none.  The last publicly-known state grand jury in Montana only happened because the Attorney General asked the Montana Supreme Court to command a District Court judge to empanel a grand jury, which the Supreme Court did.  The legacy reason for this judicial culture is reported to be because a state grand jury, unlike a federal grand jury, is the judge of its duration and of the scope of its inquiry - it cannot be limited or controlled like a federal grand jury can.  And, one important mission of a grand jury is to uncover and address public corruption.  Of course, the Copper Kings didn't want any run-amok grand jury uncovering and addressing public corruption.  However, times have changed since the Copper Kings controlled the reins of power in Montana, so perhaps it's time for this judicial culture to change.  As an elected County Attorney, how strongly would you stand in support of a petition to a District Court judge to empanel a state grand jury?  Which statements do you agree with?

a. (  ) Regular grand juries in Montana looking for public corruption would give Montana citizens greater confidence in the wellness and accountability of government activities.
b. (  ) State grand juries are just too dangerous since they cannot be controlled once empanelled.
c. (  ) A request for a state grand jury should require the signatures of a threshold number of electors.
d. (  ) State grand juries are a waste of time and money, since anything they can do can also be done by a County Attorney filing an information.
e. (  ) I would heartily support any reasonable citizen request for a grand jury.
f. (  ) Using a grand jury would be my preferred way to explore and address any legitimate allegations of public corruption.
g. (  ) Other (please explain)

10.  Risk protection orders.  In other states, legislation is being proposed and enacted to create what is known as a "risk protection order" (RPO) (also known in the pro-gun community as an "arbitrary gun confiscation order" - AGCO), which allows any interested person to assert that someone is dangerous, which would result in police confiscating the person's firearms after only an ex parte hearing before a judge.  Among these measures in other states, there are varying provisions to protect due process for the firearms owner, but none very stringent or effective.  Under these measures, basically a person can be stripped of their fundamental right to keep and bear arms because of the accusation of a single, unidentified individual, and without the accused having any day in court.  About such an idea for Montana, would you:

a. (  ) Stay out of the debate as a County Attorney;
b. (  ) Support the idea publicly for the safety of citizens in my community;
c. (  ) Oppose the idea publicly to preserve constitutional protections;
d. (  ) Travel to Helena to speak in opposition to any legislative committee hearing such a bill.
e. (  ) Other (please explain)

11.  Domestic abuse and the right to keep and bear arms.  Current law in Montana used to address partner and family member assault branches onto two slightly different paths, one where a person is very likely to lose his or her right to keep and bear arms for life under federal law (45-5-206, M.C.A.) and another path where a lifetime loss of the right to keep and bear arms is not so likely (45-5-201, M.C.A.).  Law enforcement and prosecutors have some discretion to decide which of these two paths to select for an accused person.  When you are involved in exercising such discretion, or in advising law enforcement about exercising such discretion, are you more likely to select the path that leads to lifetime loss of the right to keep and bear arms for the accused, or the path that can allow eventual restoration of the rights of the accused?

a. (  ) When warranted, I would favor selecting a corrective path that does not lead to lifetime loss of the right to keep and bear arms for the accused.
b. (  ) This choice is not mine to make.
c. (  ) Other (please explain)

12.  Domestic - preferred arrest.  Montana law encourages that when there is a domestic disturbance, police should attempt to identify the aggressor to arrest somebody.  While this may be desirable because it can "cool down" the situation, it can also force law enforcement into an undesirable remedy, a choice about guilt and innocence for which there may be insufficient evidence, and may unfairly stigmatize one party in the incident, possibly resulting in a lifetime loss of the right to keep and bear arms.  Would you favor a change in the law to give law enforcement more discretion in such incidents?

a. (  ) Yes
b. (  ) No
c. (  ) Other (please explain)

13.  Taxpayer resources used for lobbying.  The courts have held that both the proponents and opponents of an issue to be decided as public policy have an equal stake in any taxpayer funds used to support or oppose the issue (the "equal stake" doctrine; Mountain States Legal, etc. v. Denver School Dist. (459 F.Supp. 357 (1978)); Citizens to Protect Pub. Funds v. Board of Education (9S A.2d 673)).  It has also been held that lobbying is no part of the purpose for which the supervising body has appropriated funds for a public employee's job.  Not withstanding this doctrine and some applicable Montana statutes, some public employees travel to Helena on their taxpayer-paid time, sometimes in public vehicles at public expense, to speak publicly before the Legislature for or against public policy issues to be decided by the Legislature.  Often these public employees are speaking in opposition to citizens who have traveled to Helena at their own expense and on their own time to urge some legislative action.  This is not about anyone who is a public employee traveling to Helena and addressing the Legislature on his or her own time and own expense.  About public employees using public resources to lobby the Legislature:

a. (  )  This is necessary for legislators to get full information about issues before them, and is well within the job description of all public employees.
b. (  )  This is unfair to citizens seeking redress from the Legislature and is an unauthorized and inappropriate use of public funds

14.  Game law violations.  The quality of cases brought to prosecutors for violation of Montana hunting and fishing laws is not highly regarded in Montana.  The problem seems to be that Montana game wardens may launch mistaken or flaky cases, for which the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks will insist on full-court-press prosecution by prosecutors.  Some prosecutors look carefully at these cases and choose not to prosecute the flaky ones.  Other prosecutors submit to FWP pressure and prosecute any FWP case, regardless of the quality of the work done on the case.  I would:

a. (  )  Examine each case on its merits and decline to prosecute those not put together using the same quality of work I expect from the county sheriffs department and city police department.
b. (  )  Assume that a state agency such as FWP knows what it is doing and prosecute any cases that FWP brings to me.
c. (  ) Other (Please explain.)

15.  Right to keep and bear arms (RKBA); standard of review.  The U.S. Constitution declares that the right to bear arms "shall not be infringed," and the Montana Constitution says this right "shall not be called into question."  About "shall not be infringed," and "shall not be called into question":

a. (  )  This is anachronistic language that doesn't really apply to modern conditions
b. (  )  This does imply a standard of review, but that standard has not been defined
c. (  )  Any standard of review required may only be what is supported by current case law, most recently in D.C. v. Heller
d. (  )  A rational basis should be sufficient for any RKBA curtailment
e. (  )  Given this language, RKBA restrictions must pass intermediate scrutiny
f. (  )  This language will require strict scrutiny for any RKBA restrictions to pass muster
g. (  )  The language in both constitutions will require stronger justification than even strict scrutiny for governmental inroads into this right the people have reserved to themselves.
h. (  ) Senate Joint Resolution No. 11 from the 2017 legislative session controls this.

16.  Multiple charges for self defense; heavy charging.  Some prosecutors in Montana have developed a reputation for "throwing the book" at persons who claim to have defended themselves with firearms.  Such prosecutors tend to file multiple charges for these cases, making it very expensive for the accused to mount an effective legal defense. This may be done by prosecutors to force plea bargains to give the prosecutor a win and clear the prosecutor's desk of cases.  I believe:

a. (  )  This practice is a necessary tool to get essential convictions or handle case load.
b. (  )  This practice is unfair to accused persons
c. (  )  This practice is used by prosecutors with weak cases or weak prosecutorial ability to effectively prosecute the primary offense in a case
d. This is an indication of a prosecutor who is more interested in wins than justice.
d. ( ) Other (please explain)

The foregoing responses are actually my positions on these issues, to the best of my knowledge and at this time.


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Thank you for being willing to serve your community in public office, and thank you for helping to provide us information about your views on important issues of interest to us.

(NOTE:  Please return this Candidate Questionnaire to the local group that provided it to you.)

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