Montana Judge Sides with CREW, Says There Is Public Interest in Details of 2009 Boat Crash
On October 9, 2012, Judge John McKeon of the Montana Eleventh Judicial District, Flathead County, issued an order in response to CREW’s request for the presentence investigation report (PSI) that was part of the record in the state criminal case against then-Montana State Senator Gregory Barkus. Sen. Barkus was charged with criminal endangerment and negligent vehicular assault after he crashed a boat into the shores of Flathead Lake while under the influence of alcohol. CREW requested the PSI to shed light on the true facts surrounding the crash, including the extent to which those facts differ from the version offered by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), a passenger on the boat who denied Sen. Barkus was impaired in any way.
Judge McKeon found through its submission CREW had met its burden of showing it is entitled to the PSI, specifically because the requested information is in the public interest. The court agreed with CREW that “there is ‘significant public interests in disclosure’ to understand the circumstances of the crash and how those circumstances relate to the integrity and judgment of these government officials,” referring to Sen. Barkus and Rep. Rehberg. The court ordered the parties to the underlying action – presumably Sen. Barkus and Rep. Rehberg – to respond to CREW’s request for the PSI by October 23, 2012, showing how the demands of individual privacy outweigh the merits of public disclosure.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Jordan Libowitz at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.