An attorney suing a Montana judge for assault even as she seeks to replace him on the bench has been sharply rebuked in another case and ordered to pay more than $15,000 in attorney fees.
In a Thursday ruling, state District Judge Kathy Seeley of Helena disparaged what she called the "neglect," ''paranoia," and "erratic" behavior of Lewistown attorney Britt Long in a lawsuit Long filed against a state agency.
Long said Friday in response that Seeley appeared to be trying to influence the outcome of Long's bid to become a state judge in Lewistown.
Thursday's order came after Seeley sanctioned Long over a series of missed depositions in a 2009 lawsuit against her former employers at the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Long alleged she was wrongfully discharged.
Seeley rejected the claim and in her order dismissed Long's motion for relief from fees racked up by state attorneys defending the case.
"It would be charitable to characterize Long's behavior in this lawsuit as erratic," Seeley wrote. "She apparently believes she is competent enough to run for judge. Yet she failed to read her legal mail for months, initiated no contact with opposing counsel and filed nothing with the court to timely address concerns or objections."
In a telephone interview, Long linked the order's scathing tone to her pending lawsuit against retiring 10th District Judge Wayne Phillips, who slapped Long's butt with a folder when she was his clerk.
Phillips has said it was a "tap" made out of frustration after Long complained about his administrative assistant.
Prosecutors refused Long's request to pursue criminal charges in the case. In January, she filed to run for Phillips' seat before he announced he was retiring.
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Long has said both the DNRC and Phillips cases were influenced by an insider's network of Montana judges and attorneys determined to frustrate her challenge to authority. She made a similar assertion Friday after being told of Seeley's ruling.
"(Judge Seeley's) comment regarding the current judicial race appears to be an attempt to influence the political process from the bench," she said.
Long added that Seeley was "exploiting her total immunity" as a judge by commenting on Long's mental health "without any expert testimony in support of her unqualified opinions."
Long blamed a doctor's appointment, the death of a relative's infant and other personal emergencies for missing the depositions in the DNRC case.
Seeley shot down Long's claims that her own attorney had conspired with an attorney for the state to undermine her case. The judge added that "Long's pleadings exhibit a degree of paranoia that causes this Court concern."
Seeley did not return a call from The Associated Press to her chambers seeking comment.
In Tuesday's primary election, Long trailed opponent Jon Oldenburg by a huge margin and captured less than 15 percent of 3,465 votes cast, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State. Both candidates advanced to the November general election in the nonpartisan race.
A jury trial in the lawsuit against Phillips is set for Dec. 10. The case is before retired Montana Supreme Court Justice John Warner.