Senator Scott Sales: Legal Scholar and Hypocrite

Senator Scott Sales certainly has an interesting view of the law. In rambling defense of his vote against the CSKT Compact this Friday, Sales took the position that he couldn’t support the compact because his interpretation of the intent of water treaty language was superior to the jurisprudence of the courts who have reviewed it. This renowned legal scholar then went on to argue his proof: court cases affirming the right to privacy [1. He really ought to read Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)] , the right for equality under the law when it comes to marriage, and the right to legal counsel for the poor in criminal cases all demonstrate, to him, that courts simply cannot be trusted.

Sales not only argued that indigent defendants should have no legal right to an attorney, but that somehow, bizarrely, demands for legal such legal protection would “bankrupt” the state.


It was an interesting week for Senator Sales on the legal front. On Wednesday, Governor Bullock signed Representative Moffie Funk’s HB 57, which will increase penalties for swindling the elderly in the state. Senator Sales voted for the measure, a fascinating change for a man who was one of only nine legislators who voted against increasing penalties for elder abuse back in 2005, and who responded less than charitably when his mother-in-law reported Mr. Sales’s wife for stealing from her while she was “coerced” to live in his home. Rather than apologizing then, Sales felt victimized, as he told the Missoulian:

Fife said he and Poole believe even more money was taken over the years, and that is why they originally asked for $45,000 from Sales. But Fife said they were only able to prove to a criminal standard that about $20,000 was taken, although he believes the large amount could be proven in a civil trial. Sales said he felt extorted by the request to pay back $45,000, since he saw no evidence that is how much his wife took. That is why he rejected the offer last year to avoid criminal proceedings in exchange for the larger sum, even though he knew it would end up being a public issue in his campaign.

I guess one might be tempted to believe that Senator Sales learned from the mistakes in his family, but his position seems clear: we can only evaluate the “original intent”–and it’s hard to give a person who demanded receipts proving that an elderly woman had been stolen from should be casting any votes to protect the elderly.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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  • It strikes me as odd that Senator Sales was appointed chairman of the committee over Senator Swandal, a former district judge. Swandal (R-Wilsall) voted in support of the CSKT Compact.

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