Anthony Johnstone '99 Named Appellate Lawyer of the Week by Natiional Law Journal
Excerpted from National Law Journal:
In 2009, Anthony Johnstone and his home state of Montana played supporting roles in the legal drama surrounding the Citizens United campaign finance challenge. Today, the law professor and state officials stand center stage in a fight to save Montana's law in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision.
Johnstone was Montana Solicitor when he drafted an amicus brief for 26 states in Citizens United v. FEC. The brief basically urged the Supreme Court to leave state limits on corporate electioneering alone. No longer state solicitor, Johnstone now is trying to convince the justices that Montana's century-old law in particular is constitutional.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock brought Johnstone, who teaches constitutional and election law at the University of Montana School of Law, back on board as a special assistant attorney general to assist in the latest legal fallout from the controversial Citizens United decision.
This time 22 states and the District of Columbia are supporting Montana in its argument that Citizens United does not apply to Montana's law prohibiting political expenditures by corporations to support or oppose candidates in state and local elections.
After the 2010 decision in Citizens United, striking the federal ban on corporate and union use of their treasuries for independent campaign expenditures, Bullock and Johnstone discussed the potential vulnerability of the Montana law's ban. Months later, Western Tradition Partnership — now known as American Tradition Partnership — and two Montana businesses challenged the constitutionality of the state law.
The complaint went to Johnstone who as state solicitor litigated from trial through appeal those civil cases with constitutional or complex legal issues likely to raise important questions on appeal. He worked with Bullock on the complaint, and Bullock argued the state's defense in the district court and the Montana Supreme Court, which upheld the law in September 2011.
After seven years in state government, Johnstone left in 2011 to teach full time, but there was no leaving the election law case behind. Bullock kept Johnstone at hand for the inevitable appeal by American Tradition to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Anthony could have chosen to work at any of the nation's largest law firms, but instead chose a path of public service," said Bullock. "He is a thoughtful and talented lawyer, and has left his mark on legal thought and practice in Montana, far surpassing his years."
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