Helena judge reprimanded by discipline board over QAnon email

Helena judge reprimanded by discipline board over QAnon email

From the Weekly news wrap up 12/6/19. series
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County Officials Sworn In

Montana Supreme Court Justice Jim Rice swears in Justice of the Peace Michael Swingley in December 2014. 

The Montana Judicial Standards Commission has publicly reprimanded Lewis and Clark County's elected justice of the peace for using his official email account to express political opinions about the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon. 

Judge Michael Swingley sent the Jan. 2 email during work hours to Washington Post Reporter Avi Selk, who had previously authored two pieces about QAnon. One of Selk's pieces poked fun at the "meticulous research and robust body of evidence believers say supports all of QAnon."

"Whether Q is real or otherwise, there is a movement started by the hypothesis of a Q and somebody behind the scenes standing up for the average American citizen," Swingley wrote in the email. "Patriots are uniting against people just like you. Your world of fake news and liberal agendas that give away our country to foreigners and protect the Clintons and Obamas is coming to an end. Wait for it........... you pathetic, snobby ass."

According to a stipulation for public reprimand filed Nov. 12 in the Montana Supreme Court, Swingley admitted that the email violated four canons of the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct.

The stipulation says Swingley agreed to not use his public email or office to engage in any politic discourse, to not express his political feelings publicly while serving as a judicial officer, and to accept the public reprimand from the Montana Judicial Standards Commission. 

"I have never denied what I did was wrong and I believe the Judicial Standards Commission was fair, but firm and I will strive to be a better judge in the future. I always try to find that spot between mercy and justice with the people I see daily. I feel the Judicial Commission did the same with me," Swingley wrote in a statement emailed to the Independent Record. "I try very hard to be a good, compassionate judge for the citizens and I, again, apologize for my momentary lapse of judgment, and stupid conduct on what was one of the most stressful days I have had in years. I have punished myself over the last 11 months almost daily and learned a hard, but valuable lesson in the process. My fault, I own it and accept the Judicial stipulation."

According to The New York Times, "Q" is an online character who claims to be a government insider working to expose bureaucrats plotting against President Donald Trump's administration and supporters. CBS News reports that many followers of QAnon believe a "deep state" took over the government decades ago and have been involved in everything from the assassination of JFK to the rise of ISIS. 

"Many Q fans believe that President Kennedy was set to reveal the existence of the secret government when he was assassinated," CBS News reported. "They also believe President Reagan was shot on the deep state's orders, and that all the presidents since he left office -- with the exception of Mr. Trump -- have been deep state agents."

The Montana Supreme Court established the Judicial Standards Commission to regulate judicial conduct and discipline.

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