Darrell Ehrlick

(Daily Montanan) Attorneys defending Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen before the state’s Commission on Practice, which disciplines and regulates the legal profession, said they need more time to prepare a defense for Knudsen, who faces 41 counts of ethical violations.

Knudsen, a Republican who is running for re-election in November, has three attorneys — Mark D. Parker of Billings; Tyler Green of Salt Lake City; and Solicitor General Christian Corrigan, a state employee.

In a Tuesday filing to the Montana Supreme Court, the trio of attorneys list four reasons for delaying the hearing and trial of Knudsen, which is currently scheduled for July 17.

The attorneys said that depositions from Montana Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin and her attorney Randy Cox have uncovered “new information that provides a basis for amending (Knudsen’s) answer.” They also said that Corrigan and his wife are expecting a child in early August, and that Corrigan has the best command of the specific facts of the case.

However, Knudsen’s attorneys cite two other pieces of information about the case. In the first, the attorneys detail their efforts to try to depose all seven members of the Montana Supreme Court and Butte-Silver Bow District Judge Kurt Krueger, who was selected to sit on the case. Knudsen’s attorneys believe the judge and the justices may have information relevant to the case.

Furthermore, the court documents said that the new information from McLaughlin and Cox will be incorporated into Knudsen’s defense, and they need time to do so. The commission on practice could take any number of possible disciplinary actions if they find Knudsen acted improperly, including suspending his law license.

Some of the ethical allegations center on whether Knudsen refused to comply with a lawful order of the Montana Supreme Court, or supported a subpoena of court records, held by McLaughlin, as the chief courts administrator, without proper notification.

Attorneys for Knudsen argue the hearing and trial should be postponed until the commission’s October meeting.

In paperwork filed with the motion for a continuation, Knudsen’s legal team included several letters between attorneys. One of those from Green asks Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath to allow attorneys to depose the justices and Krueger, saying it should take no longer than four hours apiece.

However, the attorney representing the Montana Supreme Court replied that the information they were seeking was privileged.

“We disagree that taking depositions of sitting judges in the Commission on Practice proceeding is appropriate or permissible,” said Helena Attorney Amy D. Christensen. “The court’s nonpublic proceedings relating to Brown vs. Gianforte and McLaughlin vs. Montana State Legislature, like other nonpublic court proceedings, are privileged and not subject to disclosure through a deposition or other testimony.”

In its Supreme Court filings, Knudsen’s attorneys said the issue “remains unresolved,” and said it will need additional time to negotiate or, if necessary, “litigate for a resolution.”

“The Montana Supreme Court justices and Judge Krueger are ‘the only witnesses with access to facts that will allow the defense to test the veracity of some of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s allegations.,” attorneys for Knudsen said.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel handles complaints against members of the state bar,  and also conduct disciplinary investigations, and recommend sanctions. It told the attorneys representing Knudsen that it opposed all reasons for the delay except for continuing the case because of Corrigan’s child.