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2024 Montana Primary elections
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Lawmakers convene special committee in ongoing dispute with the judiciary

Montana State Senator Jason Ellsworth
Montana Legislative Services
Montana State Senator Jason Ellsworth

A panel of Republican lawmakers met on Monday to discuss their concerns over what they’ve called “troubling judicial rulings.” Democratic legislators declined to participate.

The first meeting of the Special Committee on Judicial Oversight and Reform was largely informational. Lawmakers and presenters discussed the three branches of government and their checks and balances.

Republican Senate President Jason Ellsworth said the overview would inform committee members as they continue their work.

“When we swore to uphold the Constitution, that is what we swore to do and this is part of that process,” Ellsworth said.

Ellsworth formed the special committee in early April. In a statement at the time, he said Montana’s courts were “out of control.” GOP lawmakers cite recent state Supreme Court decisions focused on the powers of the Legislature and governor’s office as examples of what they view as overreach.

In a press conference after the committee meeting, Democratic House Minority Leader Kim Abbott called the committee an “attack on the judicial branch.”

“Democrats aren’t going to be part of an unconstitutional breach of separation of powers and we’re certainly not going to engage in going after an independent branch of government,” Abbott said.

The Legislature’s legal services director, Todd Everts, told the committee it has broad authority under state law to conduct investigations, so long as they serve a lawmaking purpose.

The committee did not set a next meeting date, but Ellsworth asked that it be held after the June 4 primary election.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing austin.amestoy@umt.edu.
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