HELENA (KPAX) — Republicans at the Montana Legislature are withdrawing their request for internal communication documents from the state Supreme Court, attempting to end legal action over the issue, state Sen. Greg Hertz of Polson said Tuesday.
In a statement, Hertz said withdrawing subpoenas issued by the Legislature in April are the best way to advance a special committee’s investigation of potential conflicts of interest within the judiciary.
“The Legislature’s position all along has been that litigation in front of judges with inherent conflicts of interest is not the appropriate way to resolve these issues,” said Hertz, a Republican.
The Supreme Court had been preparing to rule on the legal scope of the subpoenas and whether the Legislature had the power to demand internal emails and other documents from the court.
The subpoenas are part of a running battle waged by the GOP-led Legislature against the Supreme Court and the state’s judiciary, began earlier this year in the wake of a new law giving GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte more power to fill state judicial vacancies.
Republicans alleged the high court, which was considering a challenge to the law, could be biased against the new law, and used the subpoenas to acquire court emails on the subject.
At the request of a lawsuit filed by its administrator, the high court blocked the subpoenas in mid-April and said it would rule on their legality.
Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin declined to comment Tuesday evening.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the judicial-appointment law that began the controversy. In a special concurring opinion, Justice Jim Rice blasted both the Legislature and Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen for their actions in the case, saying they had shown contempt for the court and threatened its legitimacy.
Republicans at the Legislature, aided by Knudsen, have steadily escalated their criticism of the Supreme Court and the judiciary.