Resignation Request

As first noted by Aaron, a well-known local attorney has called for Justice of the Peace Sam Harris to resign.

By letter dated October 10, 2006, Channing Hartelius raised 13 points that he contends disqualify Sam Harris for remaining in office. In addition to the "GORE" allegations noted in the Tribune, Hartelius raises issues more directly related to the performance of Harris's official duties.

He asserts that he District Courts took away Harris's authority to set bail on felonies. According to Hartelius, this is because Harris "imposed bails of such magnitude" as to be punishment.

He asserts that Harris "put the sick and elderly in jail for lengthy periods of time for nonviolent crimes" and references a "Komeotis case." I am not aware of the facts of this case.

He points out Harris's putting people in jail for civil debts and argues that Harris uses high cash bonds to discourage people from invoking their right to a jury trial. He alleges that Harris has "demanded that the Clerk of Court's office give [him] referrals for nonreligious weddings."

An interesting request. I wonder what, if anything, will come of it.


Anonymous said...


I don't think much will come of it, except perhaps more bad press for Harris. A man doesn't resign when he thinks he is doing "God's work."

Is the "Komeotis case" the one where Harris put an 85 year old man with severe Alzeimers in jail for driving without a license?

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, Judge Harris got into an argument with Clerk of Court Nancy Morton (actually, he went into her office to personally accost her)about "common-law marriage." According to Harris and contrary to Montana Law (one of the few States in the nation that recognizes common-law marriage), an ordained clergy member or judge is the only person who can properly officiate at weddings. Apparently, Harris was upset that someone was cutting into his profiteering from the "fools" in Justice Court. Judge Harris was not very nice to Ms. Morton, who immediately went to see Judge Thomas McKittrick about Harris' holier-than-thou attitude.

Anonymous said...

I now have a copy of the letter. It is posted through my blog, here.

Anonymous said...

Many of us are looking forward to the day-after Sam has lost the election-that he is attempting to put together some kind of private practice. We will all be happy to see him sitting as opposing Counsel because:
1. We know that he has few legal skills;
2. We know that he has poor judgement;
3. We look forward to the opportunity to afford to him the same dignity and professional courtesy that he has afforded litigants and Attorneys in his Courtroom.

Anonymous said...

Again, I will forego being anonymous. My name is Roland Durocher.

I am responding to the anonymous comment that Sam Harris has no legal skills. To the contrary. As a prosecutor, he was well prepared, articulate, and willing to put in the effort on every case I had against him. Part of the difficulty the criminal defense bar has being in front of him as a judge is that he now has even greater knowledge of the law, and can justify his position quite well, often without the assistance of the prosectution.

He has made errors in judgment in exposing his personal bias. That made people look more closely at his claims against Judge Smartt, and at the decisions that have offended many in the bar and in the public. However, that scrutiny still shows that he has provided rational arguments for everything he has done (whether or not one might agree with those arguments). I for one have had conversations about some of these matters with Judge Harris--I am not convinced by him, but I understand his argument, and respect that he can articulate justification.

Please do not take this post as a defense of anything he has said or done to offend. I am merely trying to point out that it would be foolish for anyone apposing him to think that he lacks skills or intelligence.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Durocher: Rational arguments in support of his position or not, you make one accusation that is inconsistent with a qualified judge: "personal bias."

Anonymous said...

There is no "rational" argument supporting jailing person for failure to pay a debt-and there is no "rational" argument for calling it contempt.

free thought said...

I realize that people blind with passion cannot readily understand that something with which they disagree can be presented as reasonable, or rational.

Just because you disagree with a point, even if that point is completely wrong in fact, not merely wrong in your opinion, does not mean that the argument in support of the point may not be well formed. Therefore, that argument, even if wholly wrong, can be rational and reasonable.

On the other hand, having good points, and being wholly right (not to be confused with holy right), can be presented in an irrational, unreasonable way. If you resort to insults, hyperbole and unsubstantiated arguments, those good points will be lost, perhaps even disbelieved.

To aid those who may simply have language difficulties, and not be completely blinded by passion, I suggest a dictionary.

If you do not own one, try: http://www.m-w.com/