Let’s be honest. There is nothing glamourous or high-profile about the Office of Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court – nor should there ever be. While most Montanans don’t interact with the Clerk’s office, it is nevertheless an extremely important statewide elected office that has existed since statehood in 1889 and is critical to the day-to-day operations of our state’s judicial system. It is an office where experience and independence matter most. Here’s why:
In Montana, the entire judicial branch is elected, and along with judges and justices, clerks of court are elected to encourage the responsive and accessible administration of justice. Within this system, the independent clerk is beholden to the public – not the court or the judges – acting as a check and balance within the judicial branch by establishing and protecting the public record upon which judges and justices rule. It is the Clerk of the Supreme Court who serves as the public face of Montana’s highest court, directly assisting the public who cannot communicate directly with the justices regarding ongoing cases.
All Montanans have a constitutional right to know and openly observe how their government works and a right to individual privacy. It’s the Clerk who bears the important responsibility to properly maintain open access to court records. Montana’s Clerk of the Supreme Court protects and guarantees your access to these records, as well as protecting the privacy of records where information is to be kept confidential by law.
I’ve had the honor of serving as Deputy Clerk of the Supreme Court for over 23 years, and I am proud to have spent my entire professional career assisting the public as their cases are heard by our supreme court. The clerk does not influence outcomes or the court’s opinions and I believe no matter the issue that comes before the court, politics and opinions must never be introduced by the clerk. Rather, I believe in independent and direct service to the people of this wonderful state, so that everyone is treated fairly and with the respect all deserve when dealing with the state supreme court. Also, as a public servant I truly believe it is important to foster, through assistance and service, our citizens’ faith and trust in our courts, even if the outcome does not go their way. For me, promoting trust in our institutions is no small matter for our state and for our society.
Although this is a partisan race on the ballot, it should be an independent office in practice. Partisanship should not play any role in performing the duties of Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court. Experience and competency are what matter in this job. I truly believe Montanans want and deserve qualified officials who simply do their job to the best of their ability without politicizing these roles or using them as stepping stones to higher office. At the end of the day, this office is about responsibly protecting public access to court records, licensing Montana’s attorneys, and assisting the Court and the public with their cases. That’s what I’ve done every day for over 23 years, and that’s why I'm now running to carry on that commitment to service as Montana’s next Clerk of the Supreme Court. I’d be honored to continue serving our state, and I’d appreciate your vote this fall.
Rex Renk of Helena is running as a Democrat for clerk of the Montana Supreme Court.