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Montana Lawyer Emily Jones Sanctioned for Obstructing Investigation into Her Husband’s Consulting Firm
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Jones and Eaton

Summary: A District Judge sanctioned a Montana lawyer for trying to intimidate witnesses from testifying against her husband’s firm.

A Billings, Montana lawyer has been sanctioned for attempting to obstruct an investigation into a political consulting firm. The District Court judge agreed to give sanctions to Emily Jones for her actions in trying to intimidate potential witnesses.

  
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Jones is accused of telling potential witnesses that they could get into legal trouble if they disclosed information about the defunct political consulting firm, believed to be a dark money group, operated by her husband Jake Eaton. He is the former executive director of the Montana Republican Party.

Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Kathy Seeley passed the motion for sanctions against her, stating her actions “usurped the Court’s inherent authority to control discovery and trial administration in the interest of fairness and justice.” Jones was ordered to pay all attorney fees and expenses in relation to the motion for sanctions. Seeley also passed along her notes to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

The state Commissioner of Political Practices raised concerns over the group and ordered an investigation. Billings lawyers John Heenan and Gene Jarussi filed the motion for sanctions for the commissioner when it became clear that she may have violated Montana Rule of Professional Conduct 3.4, in which lawyers cannot “unlawfully obstruct another party’s access to evidence.” Seeley agreed that she may have violated the rule.

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Jarussi and Heenan were appointed special attorneys generals by then-Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl, who was investigating the Montana Growth Network. Motl believed the group was breaking election laws and not reporting all of its activities. Motl was replaced in May by Jeff Mangan, who is listed as the plaintiff on the order Seeley issued.

The Montana Growth Network has been investigated since 2012 when it was reported that the nonprofit spent thousands of dollars on elections. The group claims to have raised $900,000 that year, some of which went towards election activities for then-Republican state Sens. Ed Walker and Jason Priest.



Motl served a subpoena on 47 North Communications, the consulting firm owned by Eaton in June 2016. He was seeking documents and information related to the Montana Growth Network case. 47 North was listed as a witness in that case.

Jones issued a motion to throw out the subpoena on grounds that it was too broad. The court granted her request in January but allowed Motl to issue a new subpoena with more specific details. Before her request had been granted, Motl had served other subpoenas with court-approved language to other witnesses such as Ed Walker, Art Wittich, Jeff Essmann, and Thomas Hauptman. Jones had contacted those witnesses as the attorney representing 47 North. She told the men “By this letter, 47 North informs you that you are not authorized to publicly disclose any of 47 North’s confidential, proprietary, or trade secret information that may be in your possession.”

Her letter went on to state that the men “protect any and all such information,” warning that any “unauthorized disclosure of 47 North’s confidential, proprietary and trade secret information  could expose you to liability for any resultant damages.”

Hauptman had his own lawyer who took the letter to Heenan and Jarussi who then filed the request for sanctions. None of the witnesses had ever signed a nondisclosure contract, deeming her threats unlawful. Her husband’s business had gone out of business in February 2015.

Do you think Jones deserved her sanctions? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

To learn more about sanctions imposed on lawyers, read these articles:

Jones Photo: missoulacurrent.com

Eaton Photo: mtcowgirl.com



 

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