- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A judicial regulatory panel is accusing a Ravalli County candidate of professional misconduct over a radio ad that says the incumbent judge he is trying to unseat committed fraud.

The complaint filed Friday by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel with the Montana Supreme Court says that Robert Myers’ ad against Judge Jeffrey Langton violates ethics rules for state attorneys. Deputy Disciplinary Counsel Jon Moog, who wrote the complaint, is requesting a formal hearing and disciplinary recommendations against Myers, a Hamilton attorney.

The ad features Dan Cox, Myers’ client in a child custody case. Cox says in the ad that Langton committed fraud by secretly communicating with attorneys for the other party and denied Cox from fully representing himself.

The ad ran for five weeks beginning in June on several radio stations in Missoula and Ravalli counties, according to the complaint.

The ad’s statements against Langton are false, and by making them in a campaign ad, Myers engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in violation of the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel said.

Judicial ethics rules prohibit candidates from knowingly or recklessly making any false statements, according to the complaint.

Moog noted in the complaint that Myers was fined $10,000 in Cox’s child custody case for making legally and factually unsupported arguments, and that the state Supreme Court upheld Langton’s rulings and conduct in the case.

Myers says the state is trying to intimidate him for criticizing an incumbent judge. He filed a federal lawsuit last month after he learned the Office of Disciplinary Counsel was investigating him.

In the lawsuit, Myers’ attorney says the ethics rules Myers is accused of breaking violates both the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“Judicial candidates should not be forced to choose between exercising their fundamental right to criticize their opponents or keeping their law licenses,” Myers’ attorney, Matthew Monforton, wrote in the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy refused Myers’ request to block the Office of Disciplinary Counsel from pursuing its investigation, but he allowed Myers’ federal lawsuit challenging the ethics rules to continue.

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