Montana Legislature Withdraws Judicial Branch Subpoenas
Montana State Senator Greg Hertz told KGVO News on Wednesday that the legislature is withdrawing its subpoenas for records from Montana Supreme Court justices and administrators.
“By withdrawing these subpoenas we think it shows a good faith effort on the part of the legislative branch and our committee to reset this conversation,” said Hertz. “We need to work with the judicial branch to resolve some unresolved issues such as they're not following the law when it comes to lobbying use of state resources, disclosing public records, and even following their own judicial code of conduct.”
Hertz looked back on the purpose of the subpoenas.
“Early on, we issued a subpoena because we became aware during the legislative session that we had numerous laws that they were polling members on, and their lobbying group, the Montana Judges Association looked like they were using state resources, which is against the law,” he said. “Once a judge weighs in on a particular topic. According to their judicial code of conduct, they need to recuse themselves when they have a case referred to them.”
Hertz referenced the State Supreme Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin.
“Beth McLaughlin is still the Supreme Court administrator that Chief Justice McGrath directs, and she has admitted to deleting emails,” he said. “We need to get that information so we can see what she was doing and what the courts were doing in regards to lobbying.”
Hertz said many issues still separate the legislature and the state Supreme Court, but dropping the subpoenas is a good faith effort to bring the two sides together.
“They continue to ignore the legislative branches request,” he said. “They have a public records policy that says they're supposed to retain their emails yet they're not retaining those emails, and when people do FOIA requests, even in the press, they're not providing that information to the public. So we just thought that this would be a good way to reset this and start talking with the judicial branch. I mean, there's been a lot of back and forth here and we just need to sit down and get this issue resolved.”
Hertz said he looks forward to working with committee members and the judicial branch as they continue the legislative investigation.