That didn’t take long: religious organizations enter Rule 8.4(g) discussion; public comments pour in; comment period extended.

Since I last wrote about proposed Rule 8.4(g) to the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct way back on November 28, 2017, the landscape has changed significantly. At the time, I noted that there were only five comments filed with the Montana Supreme Court, all by members of the bar. I predicted that the rule change would occur with little debate. I was, at least, partially wrong. Today, reports place the number of comments at over 130 (possibly as high as 300,) however, the comments come mainly from the general public, rather than bar members. The supreme court has now extended the comment period to April 21, 2017. The request for the extension was made by the State Bar of Montana Board of Trustees to allow the bar’s Ethics Committee additional time to examine the proposed rule. I am told we can expect a report from that committee in mid to late March, 2017.

A cursory review of the new objections filed with the court suggests that many may have been generated through an email campaign organized by the Montana Family Foundation. That organization has included a “take action” banner on its website which claims that Montana lawyers could be “disbarred for saying marriage is between one man and one woman!” One can surmise from the comments filed with the court that additional campaigns may have been organized by other, similar organizations and a number of the new comments come from church leaders from across Montana. Filed comments can be viewed here and many take a common tone of concern about freedom of speech and religious freedom.

I’ll leave an analysis of the recent comments and claims for another post, but offer a shameless plug: I’ll be presenting on this topic, as well as other changes to the Rules of Professional Conduct concerning technology, with Professor Jordan Gross of the Blewett School of Law at the University of Montana during the 2017 Ski and CLE at Big Sky in January. It should be an interesting and informative two hours, so come and get your ethics credits and enjoy some great skiing at Big Sky.

More on the proposed Rule 8.4(g) story as it develops.

 

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