Montana Public Radio

Montana Supreme Court

Lawmakers Navigate Separation Of Powers Challenges

Apr 19, 2021
Majority Leader Sue Vinton speaks during a Special Joint Select Committee on Judicial Transparency and Accountability, April 19, 2021.
Montana Legislature

HELENA — Gov. Greg Gianforte and the Legislature are locked in a legal battle over a new law giving the governor sweeping powers to appoint judges. 

The Session Week 16: Separation Of Powers And The Future Of Colstrip

Apr 19, 2021

As of mid-day Friday, 1,297 bills have been introduced and at least 197 have been signed into law. This week we’re watching a mounting dispute over separation of powers between the Legislature and the Montana Supreme Court. We’re also watching debate on a bill that would incentivize the state’s largest utility to buy more of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant.

'Capitol Talk' is MTPR's weekly legislative analysis program.
Montana Public Radio

COVID leads to the cancellation of floor sessions at the Legislature as the Republican leaders are in a subpoena standoff with the state Supreme Court. All this as a bill to ban abortion dies in the Senate, the governor tries to prohibit "vaccine passports" and a Montanan may become the next head of the Bureau of Land Management.

Listen now on Capitol Talk with Sally Mauk, Rob Saldin and Holly Michels.

The Montana Capitol
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

The Montana Supreme Court has blocked several subpoenas filed by legislative Republicans ordering the justices to produce internal communications about pending legislation by Monday.

The Supreme Court Friday also blocked a subpoena that would have required Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin to appear Monday before a special legislative committee investigating judicial conduct, and to turn over her state computer. 

Montana Republican legislative leaders have subpoenaed the Montana Supreme Court’s seven justices and court administrator, looking for evidence of alleged bias over bills that could be challenged in court. It is the latest development in a conflict brewing between the state’s legislative and judicial branches.

A gavel and scale of justice.
iStock

A bill passed by the state Legislature's Republican majority is now leading to debate over the separation of powers between the branches of Montana’s government.

The bill that eliminates the Judicial Nomination Commission and allows governors to directly appoint judges to certain vacancies was signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte last month. Montana State News Bureau reporter Seaborn Larson updates MTPR’s Shaylee Ragar on the latest developments.

The Montana Supreme Court will move forward with six justices to consider the constitutionality of a new law that gives the governor more discretion to appoint judges.

The court will have one empty seat on the bench as justices weigh the policy signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte less than a month ago.

As of March 2021, eight states and the District of Columbia allow terminally ill patients to obtain medications to end their lives. In 2021, legislators in at least 19 states have pushed aid-in-dying bills, including some to modify existing laws.
Lydia Zuraw / Kaiser Health News

 

Linda Heim knew her dad didn’t plan to wait for the cancer to kill him. For decades, he’d lived in Montana, which they’d thought was one of the few places where terminally ill people could get a prescription to end their life.

HELENA — The Montana Legislature has considered nearly a dozen bills this session aimed at changing how Montana’s judicial branch is formed and how it works.

A group of Republican lawmakers and protestors gather on the steps of the Montana Capitol for an anti-abortion rally on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021.
Austin Amestoy / UM Legislative News Service

After nearly two decades of a Democratic governor vetoing anti-abortion legislation, Montana is poised for a major change — and possible legal battles — over laws that allow for broad access to abortion.

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