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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bill would require bonds when asking courts for temporary injunctions

A gavel and scale of justice.

Groups that bring legal challenges asking for a temporary block of a state law could be asked to post a bond, under a bill advancing in the Montana Legislature.

The House of Representatives has given an initial endorsement of the policy that could force groups to post collateral if they want a judge to temporarily block laws that regulate industrial operations like mining, timber, grazing or access to hunting and fishing.

A judge can order these temporary blocks, or preliminary injunctions, while a full legal case is made in court.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jedidiah Hinkle from Belgrade, says these injunctions infringe on constitutional rights to hunt and fish.

“These injunctions can and do financially ruin the individual or businesses being sued, even if that individual or business ultimately wins in court.”

Hinkle says this is needed after recent legal fights over wolf trapping delayed the hunting season.

Environmental groups are concerned that imposing bonds for these cases threatens their right of equal access to the law.

Marc Cooke with Stevensville-based Wolves of the Rockies says his organization might have to change how they can advocate in court.

“We have to come up with more money. We don't have deep pockets. We’re a homegrown grassroot-level organization.”

The bond amount would be set by the judge based on a preliminary injunction's perceived harm on businesses or access to hunting.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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