Supreme Court denies to hear former lawmakers argument over new judicial appointment process

The case will now go back to Lewis and Clark District Court.

By: - July 21, 2021 3:26 pm

The Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building in Helena which houses the Attorney General’s Office, the Montana Supreme Court and the state law library (Photo by Eric Seidle/ For the Daily Montanan).

The Supreme Court denied Tuesday two former Democratic lawmakers’ requests to hear their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s newly established judicial appointment process calling their filing inadequate.

Tom Winter and Barbara Bessette turned to the Supreme Court after Lewis and Clark District Judge Mike McMahon denied their request for a temporary restraining order to block GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte from filling a Cascade County judicial vacancy in early July. The lawsuit focuses on the already once unsuccessfully challenged Senate Bill 140, which eliminated the Judicial Nominating Commission and gave the governor an expanded ability to fulfill judicial vacancies. The two lawmakers are arguing SB140 violates the  “Separation of Powers” clause.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said Winter and Bessette did not come with the proper filings and said their argument focused too much on the unconstitutionality of the law they are challenging instead of what it claimed to be about — appealing McMahon’s order to not issue the temporary restraining order. Additionally, the court said the normal appeals process is adequate.

The case will now go back to Lewis and Clark District Court to be heard by McMahon, who has already voiced skepticism about the merits of the case.

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Keith Schubert
Keith Schubert

Keith Schubert is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. Keith was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has worked at the St.Paul Pioneer Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and most recently, the Asbury Park Press, covering everything from local craft fairs to crime and courts to municipal government to the Minnesota state legislature. In his free time, he enjoys cheering on Wisconsin sports teams and exploring small businesses. He can be reached by text or call at 406-475-2954 .