Judge Promotes Biden’s Agenda at Political Event


Chief Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District for Montana has come under scrutiny for speaking at a U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) event that promotes President Biden’s “sustainability goals.” The judge’s podium at the event was marked with signs reading “President Joe Biden” and “Investing in America.”

Judicial ethics guidelines generally prohibit judges from participating in partisan events to avoid any perception that their rulings might be politically motivated. Supreme Court justices known for their constitutional adherence, such as Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, have faced media accusations of conflicts of interest not because of their own actions, but due to their wives’ participation in political activities.

The event in Montana highlighted the administration’s allocation of $24 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to the Mike Mansfield Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Butte, Montana, which falls within Morris’ jurisdiction. These funds are meant for purchasing materials produced with lower greenhouse gas emissions and for what the GSA terms “sustainability performance improvements.”

“My grandmother and [grandfather] raised their seven children in a duplex [up the street]. And here we are, their grandson now comes to work every day in this courthouse down the block as a judge,” Morris remarked. “Shows you what kind of country we can have when we live up to our highest ideals. This is a great joy for me.”

On X (formerly Twitter), Aaron Flint, host of the statewide show Montana Talks, questioned the ethics of a federal judge attending a “partisan event.”

This pushback follows a tweet from local journalist Josh Margolis who released a photo showing Morris at the event, seemingly speaking from behind a podium branded with Biden’s name.

Morris is a member of the State Bar of Montana, which instructs judges to avoid political or campaign activities that could compromise the judiciary’s independence, integrity, or impartiality, as well as to steer clear of any “appearance of impropriety.” Although the GSA operates as an independent agency within the executive branch, the funding clearly supports the Biden administration’s ambitious environmental agenda.

According to a GSA press release, “The project marks another step toward achieving President Biden’s federal sustainability goals, including a net zero emissions federal building portfolio by 2045 and net zero emissions procurement by 2050, while supporting good American manufacturing jobs.”

This scrutiny arises amid what many perceive as politically motivated ethics complaints against conservative judges who oppose Democratic policies and litigation. For instance, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen faced a 41-count ethics complaint last year for defending Republican state legislators in litigation against the Montana Supreme Court. Knudsen’s office has labeled the complaint a “political stunt” aimed at deterring him and others from raising legitimate concerns about judicial misconduct.

Morris’ office and the State Bar of Montana did not respond to requests for comment.

Monroe Harless
Monroe Harless
Intern. Monroe is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia with degrees in journalism and political science.

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