Discussing the Montana Constitution With Its Authors

Montana Constitutional Convention LogoProfessors at the University of Montana School of Law continually seek to provide differential learning opportunities to their students. In Professor Johnstone’s Montana Constitutional Law course, students have a unique opportunity to talk about the Constitution with the people who wrote it. Two delegates from the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention have been visiting the class to discuss their drafting of the Constitution and their practice under it.

Mae Nan Ellingson (JD ’76) discussed drafting the preamble, one of the most beautiful constitutional preambles in the world. In another class she turned to her practice as a public finance lawyer, when she brought test cases under the Constitution’s taxing and spending provisions.

Bob Campbell (JD ’67) discussed drafting the rights to privacy and to a clean and healthful environment. The right to privacy is only expressed in a handful of such state constitutions, and Montana’s is perhaps the strongest. Campbell also recounted the dramatic moment at the Constitutional Convention in which the delegates reconsidered and adopted the historic guarantee of “the right to a clean and healthful environment” in the declaration of rights.