There’s a growing scandal around the Supreme Court — and it’s not the one involving President Joe Biden and Democrats’ plans to “pack” the highest court of the land.
Instead, the scandal is located in Montana.
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The growing fight between the state’s progressive Supreme Court judges and Republican-controlled legislature has become so explosive, it could end in the impeachment of some of the judges and at least one arrest, the Montana Gazette reported.
A developing scandal regarding the Montana Supreme Court and their refusal to abide by information requests for their email correspondence on publicly-owned servers. But what lies under the surface of the scandal – and what is currently developing – will likely lead to the biggest news story in Montana politics in decades.
Ultimately, as this saga continues, the scandal might lead to the impeachment of Supreme Court Justices and the arrest of at least one employee of the court. In the end, Governor Gianforte might be able to appoint new justices to the court, overthrowing the last liberal stronghold in the Montana state government.
The controversy started after Gov. Greg Gianforte, R-M.T., signed into law SB140, a bill that gives the state’s governor the power to appoint justices and district judges directly into vacancies.
Previously, the vacancies were filled by selecting a nominee put forward by the state’s Judicial Nomination Commission.
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The bill received an immediate legal challenge from former state officials. Chief Justice Mike McGrath recused himself from the case after lobbying against the bill. Instead, a lower court judge — Kurt Krueger — was appointed to serve in his place.
Since then, Republicans have started an investigation into whether members of the judicial branch, including Krueger, had “pre-judged” the legislation through an email poll sent to top judges in the state. Krueger has since recused himself, and the email chain was reportedly deleted.
But not before copies of the emails were reportedly leaked to local news sites. Lawmakers subpoenaed judicial records and emails related to the controversial poll.
The Montana Supreme Court on Friday blocked the subpoenaes.
“It is the exclusive constitutional duty of this court to consider the competing constitutional and other legal interests at issue, and adjudicate them accordingly to resolve the dispute matters at issue, as a matter of law,” the judges said in a letter.
On Monday, the Republican state Senate said they would defy the court orders squashing the subpoenaed records.
“The Legislature does not recognize this court’s order as binding and will not abide it,” Montana’s Department of Justice Lieutenant General Kristin Hansen wrote to Supreme Court Justice Jim Rice.
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“The Legislature will not entertain the court’s interference in the Legislature’s investigation of the serious and troubling conduct of members of the judiciary.”
Democrats have backed the state Supreme Court and called the Republican investigation a “witch hunt.”
“Today’s action is just the latest attempt to undermine the Judiciary and our Constitution as Republicans look to take control of an independent branch of government,” Democratic State Sen. Jill Cohenour and Rep. Kim Abbott said through a statement.
“By forming this inquisition, Legislative Republicans are deepening the constitutional crisis that they’ve already manufactured in their effort to destroy the last remaining checks and balances on their power.”
The Horn editorial team