A History Lesson, Part 3

(Part 1 and Part 2 of this series can be found below. Thank you to our friend, Firefly, who is helping me with all of this.)

The November 2, 2001, Great Falls Tribune contained a lengthy and detailed story of the hearing before the Judicial Standards Commission. Sam Harris wanted Smartt out as a judge, and he pushed his complaint to a hearing.

The November 2 article quoted Harris at Smartt's hearing alleging that Smartt spent several hours a day looking at these inappropriate websites. Harris alleged that Smartt often worked half days leaving Harris to pick up the slack. Throughout this whole proceeding, Harris had repeatedly complained of his long hours. He claimed this 'extra work' was required due to what he characterized as Smartt's failure to do his job.

In response, Smartt admitted that he did use the work computer for personal reasons, but he pointed out that he often worked after hours at home on his own computer, so it was really a wash. (As someone who has performed this job, I can tell you that what Smartt said is quite possibly true. Oftentimes, the evening quiet of one's own home is the only time one can write the detailed orders necessary to resolve cases.) Smartt said that he was visiting the websites in an effort to obtain images he intended to manipulate for use in his wife's birthday card.

At Smartt's hearing, Harris alleged that the pornographic images shocked him. Harris said these images "will remain with me for the rest of my life." He said he "couldn't sleep that night and kept visualizing another of the screen images of 'one man giving another man oral sex.'" Earlier Harris had said that, as a result of viewing the images, "my stomach has been upset and I am having difficulty sleeping."

It must also be noted here that there was another accusation against Smartt: that he had accosted a lowlife, Troy Dye, in Sidney, Montana, at a judicial convention. These accusations suffered from severe credibility problems, though, and lacked the clarity and gravity of complaints by one judge against another.

After the hearing, the Judicial Standards Commission recommended that Smartt be removed from office without pay until the end of his term. Smartt appealed this recommendation to the Montana Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld his removal from office, finding that he violated both of the following Canons of Judicial Ethics:

Canon 4: Avoidance of Impropriety: A judge's official conduct should be free from impropriety and the appearance of impropriety; he should avoid infractions of law; and his personal behavior, not only upon the Bench and in the performance of judicial duties, but also in his everyday life, should be beyond reproach.

Canon 34: A Summary of Judicial Obligation: In every particular his conduct should be above reproach. He should be conscientious, studious, thorough, courteous, patient, punctual, just, impartial, fearless of public clamor, regardless of public praise, and indifferent to private, political or partisan influences; he should administer justice according to law, and deal with his appointments as a public trust; he should not allow other affairs or his private interests to interfere with the prompt and proper performance of his judicial duties, nor should he administer the office for the purpose of advancing his personal ambitions or increasing his popularity.

Mike Smartt lost his position. Finally, 2 years later, on November 3, 2003, Smartt took his own life. He was shamed, he had lost his seat on the bench, his reputation, his practice, and his good name. Ultimately, it cost him his life.

The end for Mike Smart, though, is not the end of the story. Not by a long shot.

More to come...

1 comment:

ZenPanda said...

I was working with Mike's nephew, Ned, when the family was notified of the suicide. It was an aweful blow to the family and especially Ned.

This is a great series- keep up the good work.