The Montana Legislature and the Attorney General’s Office will continue to challenge the Supreme Court and the state’s court administrator in a matter that challenges the limit of the lawmakers’ subpoena power and whether it can review thousands of emails belonging to the judiciary.
Kristen Hansen, the lieutenant attorney general, filed a motion for an extension of time last week so that the office could prepare a petition to get the Supreme Court to rehear the case.
That motion for an extension was granted by the court, and the Attorney General’s Office will now have until Aug. 11 to file its petition.
That means the lawmakers and the Attorney General’s Office will attempt to have the court reconsider its lengthy unanimous decision that ruled the Legislature’s subpoenaing of Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin’s email was invalid and served no legitimate purpose.
The court also ruled that all the email the Legislature had received via the Department of Administration must be returned. The opinion wasn’t just a unanimous opinion; Justices Dirk Sandefur and Laurie McKinnon contributed concurring opinions that accompanied the main opinion that was written by Justice Beth Baker.
The filing merely asks the court for an extension of time, and does not lay out its legal arguments for wanting the case reheard. Hansen notes in her request for extension, though, that the Attorney General’s Office needs more time to review the decision, which is novel in case law for Montana. In other words, the court had not previously weighed in on the extent and the legitimacy of legislative subpoenas.
Moreover, Hansen requested the extension for more time to consult with legislative leaders who are out of session.
With the motion, the case continues to be considered open and active, and the thousands of emails that the Legislature had received from Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles have not been returned to McLaughlin.
“The issues are complex and wide-ranging, the July 14, 2021 opinion is lengthy, and the Montana State Legislature therefore requires additional time to prepare its petition for rehearing,” the court filing asks.
Questions to the Attorney General’s Office were not immediately returned on Thursday.