Montana Public Radio

Montana Supreme Court

Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Public Domain

Dinosaur fossils aren't minerals under state law, a divided Montana Supreme Court said in a Wednesday ruling with implications for an ongoing legal battle over the ownership of millions of dollars of fossils unearthed on an eastern Montana ranch.

The Montana Supreme Court will not mandate expanded measures requested by disability rights advocates to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Montana prisons and jails.

Justices Tuesday unanimously denied a petition filed two weeks ago by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana on behalf of Disability Rights Montana.

Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Gov. Steve Bullock Wednesday issued a directive aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 in Montana’s Correctional facilities. But it was dismissed as too little, too late by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana and disability rights advocates.

The Montana Supreme Court weighed in late in the afternoon.

Butte-Silver Bow Detention Center
Josh Burnham

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court is asking city and county judges to consider releasing from jail as many offenders as they can to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote to judges asking them to review their jail rosters for inmates that could be released.

Downtown Libby, MT.
libbymt.com

The Montana Supreme Court ruled largely in favor of roughly 1,200 plaintiffs Wednesday that say BNSF railway should be held liable for its part in contaminating Libby with asbestos. But, the court didn’t outline exactly what activities the railway could be held liable for, and to what extent.

Solar panels. Stock photo.
(PD)

The Montana Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday over how the Public Service Commission should set the rates NorthWestern Energy has to pay for power it's required to buy from small solar projects.

Kendra Espinoza in her Kalispell home  Jan. 14, 2020. Espinoza’s family is front and center in the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide whether states like Montana can exclude religious schools from school choice programs.
Aaron Bolton / Montana Public Radio

Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments both for and against the Montana Supreme Court’s decision to shut down a school choice program it said violated the state constitution’s ban on public money flowing to religious schools. The case may decide whether Montana and other states can exclude religious schools from school choice programs.

The Montana Supreme Court Wednesday in Helena heard oral arguments from a lawsuit challenging immigration detentions in Lincoln County. The decision at a later date will have broad implications for the policy and practice of sheriffs across the state. 

There’s a three-way race underway for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court. Each of the candidates are relying on self funding to get their 2020 campaigns off the ground.

Justice Laurie McKinnon, who lives in Helena, is running for reelection after announcing last year she would not seek a second eight-year term on the state high court.

Secretary of State Office at the Montana Capitol.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

A fourth Republican is entering Montana’s primary race for Secretary of State.

Bowen Greenwood, current clerk of the Montana Supreme Court, announced Tuesday he’s joining the 2020 race for the job of top election official.

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