Chief Justice Mike McGrath said in an email the new title for the commission was “out of the book, ‘Where Democracies Go To Die.”
The GOP-led Legislature has this session introduced several attempts to alter the judicial branch, from removing the nomination panel between the Republican governor and applications for the bench to introducing new definitions for acts for which a judge can be impeached.
Democrats, deep in the minority this legislative session, have voted against all such proposals and likened the focus on the judicial branch to a power grab.
“I don’t know why but the 67th Legislature is in my opinion very much overreaching into judiciary and attempting to destroy the independence of that branch,” Sen. Jen Gross, D-Billings, said on the Senate floor in March. “To me this is just the latest attempt and we’re clearly seeing a pattern now where a political party is basically taking power grabs and putting them into statute.”
The justices wrote in their Sunday order that because the Senate committee’s subpoena does not reference SB 140, or the Montana Supreme Court case, it would not “address the serious issues raised regarding the Legislature’s authority to issue such a subpoena” without further hearings.
The high court also concurred with McLaughlin’s attorney, who argued the subpoena was too broad, and turning over all her emails could divulge private health information, youth court proceedings and other confidential material.