Bestselling author Jon Krakauer, known for his book “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” among others, is taking legal action against the Montana Commissioner of Higher Education for refusing to release records pertaining to a notable rape case and the University of Montana’s court decisions. The case, John Krakauer v. the State of Montana and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian, started out in District Court 1, with Honorable Kathy Seeley presiding. Seeley ruled in Krakauer’s favor, which prompted Christian to appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, April 27, Montana’s highest court, the Montana Supreme Court, will hear the oral arguments at Montana State University en banc, which means that all justices will preside over the case. The six justices and the one judge on the court will hear arguments from Krakauer, the appellee, and from Clayton, the appellant. The seventh justice, Justice Patricia Cotter, has recused, or excused, herself; and the Honorable John Brown will take her place.
The case centers around a request for information. Krakauer asked for documents about a court the University of Montana conducted in determining guilt in a student rape case. The court originally found student Jordan Johnson guilty and expelled him from the university. The case was appealed to Christian, and he reportedly overturned the decision to expel the student, although the records explaining the exact decision are sealed. “You could surmise that Christian overturned [University President] Engstrom’s ruling, because [he] was not expelled,” said Krakauer in a piece he wrote for The New York Times. The case covers the topic of information, privacy and how the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act and Title IX were used to deny information.
A panel moderated by Dean of Students Matt Caires will discuss the importance of the case and the relevance to students will take place on Thursday, April 21, from 12 to 1 p.m. in the Procrastinator Theater.