HELENA, Mont.—The Montana Legislature’s Special Select Committee on Judicial Accountability and Transparency released its draft final report to the public today. The report details problems within Montana’s judicial branch of government on matters including public records management, lobbying practices, and due process and offers potential solutions to those issues.
The committee will meet next Thursday, December 22, to take public comment and finalize the report.
The 31-page report makes several conclusions about issues examined by the committee, including that the judicial branch destroyed public records, improperly comingled its government operations with those of a private association, strayed from constitutional separation of powers into the Legislature’s authority, lacks adequate policies to address conflicts of interest, lacks transparent oversight, and that key representatives of the judiciary repeatedly lied to the Legislature, the press, and courts of law.
The report also commends the judicial branch for already working to solve issues surrounding the retention and management of public records.
“While many people will probably focus on issues like the chief justice lying to the Legislature and the public in testimony and in writing, at this point we’re focused on solutions as we move into the next legislative session,” said Sen. Greg Hertz, the chair of the judicial select committee. “Some of the potential solutions identified in our report could be implemented by the judicial branch internally. I expect we’ll also see many potential solutions brought forward as legislation during the upcoming session.”
The report includes a timeline of key events from the time the Legislature became aware of concerning judicial branch emails during the last legislative session two years ago through the end of this year. The report also examines the following topics in detail: polling done by the Montana Judges Association, that private association using state resources to lobby the Legislature, the destruction of public records, conflicts of interest, the Judicial Standards Commission as an oversight body, known complaints made to the Judicial Standards Commission, unethical conduct by legal counsel for the judicial branch, Chief Justice Mike McGrath’s role in those issues, and the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling against the Legislature.
The report also lists potential solutions to all the problems examined.
The Final Report will conclude the select committee’s work for the outgoing 67th Legislature and will be sent to the incoming lawmakers of the 68th Legislature, who will be officially sworn in on January 2. Preliminary rules voted on by incoming legislators will end the Special Select Committee on Judicial Accountability and Transparency once formally adopted.
The draft final committee report and details about next week’s committee meeting can be found on the committee’s webpage HERE.
Press Release provided by: Montana Legislature Special Select Committee on Judicial Accountability and Transparency