The Montana GOP, including the Legislature and Attorney General's Office, launched into a high-voltage dispute with the state's judicial branch in April with allegations of judicial bias and corruption. The judiciary has since fired back, claiming Republicans ginned up a constitutional crisis to undermine the public credibility of the courts. See complete and ongoing coverage, here:
(31) updates to this series since
For the second time in three months, a judge has ruled against the way the Republican-majority Legislature used investigative subpoenas to access to judicial records earlier this year.
In their order on Tuesday, the state Supreme Court wrote its July ruling did not foreclose discussions between the branches and only examined the question of legislative subpoena power.
Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Mike McMahon did, however, leave the door open for the Legislature to obtain the sought-after dismissal.
The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled the state Legislature overstepped its authority when it subpoenaed records from the judicial branch without a legislative purpose.
Gov. Greg Gianforte on Wednesday announced the first judicial appointment of his administration, naming David Grubich to the open district court bench in Cascade County.
"The history of this litigation has given us reason to be skeptical of the representations by the Legislature and its counsel in this matter," the Supreme Court wrote in an order Tuesday.
Lawmakers also said withdrawing the subpoenas meant the litigation over the Legislature's subpoena power likewise ended Tuesday.
A citizen group espousing the need for judicial integrity is backtracking claims on its website.
Justice Jim Shea authored the opinion Thursday, writing neither the state Constitution nor its framers' recorded intent required an independent commission to screen judicial applicants.
The Montana Attorney General on Wednesday issued a letter defending his attorneys after the state Supreme Court's characterization of language…
A District Court judge wrote he would have to be "blind" to not see that the Legislature's recent subpoena for a Supreme Court justice's records is not a legislative effort.
"The Legislature's unilateral attempt to manufacture a conflict by issuing subpoenas to the entire Montana Supreme Court must be seen for what it is," Justice Laurie McKinnon wrote.
Montana Supreme Court Justice Jim Rice was the only justice last month to file a court challenge against a legislative subpoena seeking his communications.
District Court Judge Matt Wald, of Lodge Grass, has been the district court judge in the 22nd Judicial District since 2019.
The state's Republican Attorney General called it an "obvious conflict of interest" for the Supreme Court to preside over the case.
"In conclusion, the minority does not support the creation of committees for political theater," Democrats wrote in the report released Monday.
"There has been no misuse of state resources," Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote in a letter to lawmakers on Friday.
The last day of the state Legislature proved a rollercoaster day for Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Chris Abbott.
The Select Committee on Judicial Transparency and Accountability is scheduled to meet at 8 a.m. Thursday.
State Supreme Court Associate Justice Jim Rice wrote the subpoena for his communications was an "inappropriate overreach by the Department of Justice and the State Legislature."
Republicans have honed in on the judicial branch this session, leading to an investigative committee.
The committee chair said he had prepared a list of roughly 40 questions for the Supreme Court Administrator.
One branch of government in Montana rejecting the power of another would be unprecedented, except this was the second time it'd happened in less than a week.
Republican lawmakers in the last week have sought to investigate the Supreme Court on matters including email retention and using state computers to coordinate lobbying efforts.
The nine subpoenas issued by Republican lawmakers in the last week is a procedural outlier for the Legislature.
Another email cache released to the Montana State News Bureau on Wednesday shows the administration department's new director responding to the subpoena for the Supreme Court administrator's emails.
The select committee announced seeks to "continue investigating the conduct and practices of the Montana Judiciary," a GOP spokesperson said in an email Wednesday.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Keith Regier issued the subpoena for the Montana Supreme Court Administrator's emails on April 8.
State government records retention rules require routine records such as emails be kept for three years.
Judge Kurt Krueger, according to the email chain included in the filing, wrote from his state email account, "I am also adamantly oppose[sic] this bill."
The law eliminates the judicial nomination commission and gives Gov. Gianforte direct appointment power of state district court judges and Supreme Court justices upon a vacancy.