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Sheriff Slaughter: visiting Missoula judge ordered a man jailed for not wearing a mask

Sheriff Slaughter: visiting Missoula judge ordered a man jailed for not wearing a mask
Posted at 9:24 AM, Aug 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-28 19:58:35-04

Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter says that a visiting judge from Missoula, who was substitute-presiding over Judge Greg Pinski's courtroom in Great Falls, ruled a man to be in contempt of court for refusing to wear a mask.

According to a news release from Slaughter, Cascade County resident Phillip Dupaul reported for jury duty for a trial being held by Judge John Larson of Missoula, who was filling in for Pinski.

When Dupaul entered the room at the Hilton Garden Inn, he took his seat and Larson asked him to put on a mask. Masks are required for court officials and the public during all court hearings and trial based on a July mandate from Governor Steve Bullock. When he refused, Larson issued a contempt of court order for Dupaul to be jailed for 24 hours.

Slaughter said: "This order by the Judge then forced my Deputy (the Bailiff) to have to arrest Phillip and place him in the Cascade County Detention Center. I’m extremely frustrated and disappointed in how this situation was handled by Judge Larson. He did not consult with me regarding his decision. This whole mask order is contentious, to say the least. We as the Government should not be incarcerating and oppressing our citizens during this crisis over a mask order."

Slaughter said that he is truly sorry for what happened to Phillip Dupaul, adding that "...this was not justice of any kind; this was a Judge who used very poor judgment in our community. I spoke with Phillip and I apologized for what happened to him. He was very upset and worried due to him being incarcerated and our COVID outbreak, and rightfully so.However, he has shown grace and accepted my apology."

We are working to get in touch with all parties involved, and will update you if we get more information.



Here is the full news release from Sheriff Slaughter:

  • Months ago, I knew this mask issue may come to fruition, so I took the initiative and met with all of our local 8th District Court judges in Great Falls. They too require masks in their courtrooms, but they assured me they would not put me in a position where my Deputies would have to arrest a citizen (potential juror) for not wearing a mask. As a matter of fact, this same situation played out in Judge Best’s courtroom several weeks ago and she was able to successfully defuse the situation before issuing a contempt of court order; something commendable on her part. So, at that point, I was confident that we had this mask issue worked out and I would never have to deal with a citizen coming to jail for refusing to wear a mask in a courtroom setting.
  • What I failed to anticipate was that an out of town Judge from Missoula would not respect my concerns or the values of the people in Cascade County. Judge Larson is not accountable to the citizens of Cascade County, he felt he could do whatever he wanted. Judge Larson sentenced Phillip to jail for contempt of court because he refused to wear a mask, potentially exposing him to COVID at the Cascade County Detention Center.
  • On Friday, 8/21/2020, I issued a press release that told the public that we had a positive COVID-19 case in the jail and further testing was being done. On the morning of Monday, 8/24/2020, when Phillip was brought to the jail via Judge Larson’s order, I was learning that over the weekend, testing had resulted in an outbreak of 55 more positive results. Taking a healthy person and ordering them to jail for not wearing a mask, where there is a known COVID outbreak, is reckless and very troublesome, especially over the highly contentious and debatable mask order.
  • Unfortunately, my Deputies and I have to follow Judge Larson’s Order under MT Law:
  • 3-1-501. What acts or omissions are contempts -- civil and criminal contempt.
    • (1) The following acts or omissions in respect to a court of justice or proceedings in a court of justice are contempts of the authority of the court:
      • (a) disorderly, contemptuous, or insolent behavior toward the judge while holding the court tending to interrupt the due of a trial or other judicial proceeding;
      • (b) a breach of the peace, boisterous conduct, or violent disturbance tending to interrupt the due course of a trial or other judicial proceeding;
      • (c) misbehavior in office or other willful neglect or violation of duty by an attorney, counsel, clerk, sheriff, coroner, or other person appointed or elected to perform a judicial or ministerial service;
      • (d) deceit or abuse of the process or proceedings of the court by a party to an action or special proceeding;
      • (e) disobedience of any lawful judgment, order, or process of the court;
      • (f) assuming to be an officer, attorney, or counsel of a court and acting as that individual without authority;
      • (g) rescuing any person or property in the custody of an officer by virtue of an order or process of the court;
      • (h) unlawfully detaining a witness or party to an action while going to, remaining at, or returning from the court where the action is on the calendar for trial;
      • (i) any other unlawful interference with the process or proceedings of a court;
      • (j) disobedience of a subpoena duly served or refusing to be sworn or answer as a witness;
      • (k) when summoned as a juror in a court, neglecting to attend or serve as a juror or improperly conversing with a party to an action to be tried at the court or with any other person in relation to the merits of the action or receiving a communication from a party or other person in respect to it without immediately disclosing the communication to the court;
      • (l) disobedience by a lower tribunal, magistrate, or officer of the lawful judgment, order, or process of a superior court or proceeding in an action or special proceeding contrary to law after the action or special proceeding is removed from the jurisdiction of the lower tribunal, magistrate, or officer.
    • (2) Disobedience of the lawful orders or process of a judicial officer is also a contempt of the authority of the officer.
    • (3) A contempt may be either civil or criminal. A contempt is civil if the sanction imposed seeks to force the contemnor's compliance with a court order. A contempt is criminal if the court's purpose in imposing the penalty is to punish the contemnor for a specific act and to vindicate the authority of the court. If the penalty imposed is incarceration, a fine, or both, the contempt is civil if the contemnor can end the incarceration or avoid the fine by complying with a court order and is criminal if the contemnor cannot end the incarceration or avoid the fine by complying with a court order. If the court's purpose in imposing the sanction is to attempt to compel the contemnor's performance of an act, the court shall impose the sanction under 3-1-520 and may not impose a sanction under 45-7-309.
    • (4) A person may be found guilty of and penalized for criminal contempt by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The procedures provided in Title 46 apply to criminal contempt prosecutions, except those under 3-1-511.
  • 3-1-511. Procedure -- contempt committed in presence of court. When a contempt is committed in the immediate view and presence of the court or judge at chambers and the contemptuous conduct requires immediate action in order to restore order, maintain the dignity or authority of the court, or prevent delay, it may be punished summarily. An order must be made reciting the facts that occurred in the judge's immediate view and presence and adjudging that the person proceeded against is guilty of a contempt and that the person must be punished as prescribed in the order. An order may not be issued unless the person proceeded against has been informed of the contempt and given an opportunity to defend or explain the person's conduct. A person may be adjudged guilty of and penalized for criminal contempt under this section by a fine in an amount not to exceed $500 or by imprisonment for a term not to exceed 30 days, or both, and by any other reasonable conditions or restrictions that the court may consider appropriate under the circumstances.
  • 3-1-111. Powers respecting conduct of business. Every court has power to:
    • (1) preserve and enforce order in its immediate presence;
    • (2) enforce order in the proceedings before it or before a person or persons empowered to conduct a judicial investigation under its authority;
    • (3) provide for the orderly conduct of proceedings before it or its officers;
    • (4) compel obedience to its judgments, orders, and process and to the orders of a judge out of court in an action or proceeding pending therein;
    • (5) control, in furtherance of justice, the conduct of its ministerial officers and of all other persons in any manner connected with a judicial proceeding before it in every other matter appertaining thereto;
    • (6) compel the attendance of persons to testify in an action or proceeding pending therein in the cases and manner provided in this code;
    • (7) administer oaths in an action or proceeding pending therein and in all other cases where it may be necessary in the exercise of its powers and duties;
    • (8) amend and control its process and orders so as to make them conformable to law and justice.
  • 3-1-402. Powers of judicial officers as to conduct of proceedings. A judicial officer has the power to:
    • (1) preserve and enforce order in the officer's immediate presence and in proceedings before the officer when the officer is engaged in the performance of official duties;
    • (2) compel obedience to the officer's official orders, as provided in this code;
    • (3) compel the attendance of persons to testify in a proceeding before the officer in the cases and manner provided in this code;
    • (4) administer oaths to persons in a proceeding pending before the officer and in all other cases in which it may be necessary in the exercise of the officer's powers and duties.
  • 3-1-403. Power to punish for contempt. For the effectual exercise of the powers conferred by 3-1-402, a judicial officer may punish for contempt in the cases provided in this code.
  • 45-7-401. Official misconduct.
    • (1) A public servant commits the offense of official misconduct when in an official capacity the public servant commits any of the following acts:
      • (a) purposely or negligently fails to perform any mandatory duty as required by law or by a court of competent jurisdiction;
      • (b) knowingly performs an act in an official capacity that the public servant knows is forbidden by law;
      • (c) with the purpose to obtain a personal advantage or an advantage for another, performs an act in excess of the public servant's lawful authority;
      • (d) solicits or knowingly accepts for the performance of any act a fee or reward that the public servant knows is not authorized by law; or
      • (e) knowingly conducts a meeting of a public agency in violation of 2-3-203.
    • (2) A public servant convicted of the offense of official misconduct shall be fined not to exceed $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 6 months, or both.
    • (3) The district court has exclusive jurisdiction in prosecutions under this section. Any action for official misconduct must be commenced by an information filed after leave to file has been granted by the district court or after a grand jury indictment has been found.
    • (4) A public servant who has been charged as provided in subsection (3) may be suspended from office without pay pending final judgment. Upon final judgment of conviction, the public servant shall permanently forfeit the public servant's office. Upon acquittal, the public servant must be reinstated in office and must receive all backpay.
    • (5) This section does not affect any power conferred by law to impeach or remove any public servant or any proceeding authorized by law to carry into effect an impeachment or removal.
  • In conclusion, I am truly sorry for what happened to Phillip Dupaul under my watch. This was not justice of any kind; this was a Judge who used very poor judgment in our community. I spoke with Phillip and I apologized for what happened to him.He was very upset and worried due to him being incarcerated and our COVID outbreak, and rightfully so.However, he has shown grace and accepted my apology.