Welcome to the Montana Fully Informed Jury Association website! Montana is the original home of the Fully Informed Jury Association, America’s largest association dedicated to jury rights advocacy. The organization was started more than two decades ago by Montanans Don Doig and Larry Dodge to educate Americans about the eternal, historic and constitutional power of juries to protect their neighbors by vetoing bad laws and checking bad prosecutions.
The primary objective of Montana FIJA is to educate Montanans about their fundamental rights, powers and duties when they serve on juries. Since 2010, we have also been promoting various proposals to reform jury instruction practices in Montana. We have had tremendous success in educating people, and growing success in reforming the political system.
2011: Montana FIJA began during the 2011 Montana Legislative Session. We promoted House Bill 332, introduced by State Representative Bob Wagner of Jefferson County. HB 332 would have required that Montana judges, upon request by any party, inform state jurors of their rights and powers to judge both the law and the facts. It would have applied to both civil and criminal cases. HB 332 went down in defeat by a 5 to 15 vote in the Montana House Judiciary Committee.
2012: Montana FIJA promoted CI-107, a constitutional ballot initiative which would have amended the State Constitution to require judges to inform jurors of their powers and rights to consider the propriety and merits of the laws when they serve in criminal cases. The ballot initiative was approved for circulation by the Secretary of State but failed to gather enough signatures required to get on the ballot during the 2011 election.
2013: State Representative Jerry O’Neill introduced HB290, which would have clarified Montana law so that jurors would be made aware of their right to decide how to apply the law. HB290 was patterned after the New Hampshire FIJA law that was enacted in that state in 2012. Unlike HB 332 in 2011, HB 290 was successfully passed in the House Judiciary Committee and made it to the House Floor for a vote. Unfortunately, the bill went down on a 38-62 vote with 21 Republicans voting against it. Nonetheless, we are making progress in this area. Onward and Upward!
2014: FIJAFest 2014 will take place in the town of White Sulpher Springs, Montana on August 21-23 (Thursday – Saturday), 2014. White Sulpher Springs is the home of FIJA founder Don Doig. The event will feature speakers, lectures, entertainment and presentations by Doig, Ilo Jones, FIJA National Director Kyrstan, Roger Roots (candidate for U.S. Senate), Mike Fellows (candidate for U.S. Congress), David Herbert (attorney and candidate for Montana Supreme Court) and others.
In many modern court rooms, jurors are deceived by judges, who falsely tell juries that they are somehow required to follow the judges’ orders regarding interpretations of the Constitution and the propriety of laws. This violates the fundamental right of jurors (and parties) to have juries act as a check on the power of government–not simply a “fact-finding” mechanism.