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The Montana Supreme Court is doing its job

Senate President Ellsworth was looking for members of the public to join his new committee to “reinforce” the courts, which he believes make laws from the bench. Having served under two Republican and three Democratic attorneys general and testified before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on various issues in many legislative sessions, I believed I could offer some perspective. I applied and was rejected.

Senator Ellsworth suggested that I contact committee members with suggestions for judicial reform. Here's mine: None required. The fact that he and other conservatives disagree with certain decisions does not mean that the courts are “legislating from the bench,” as is common practice in Republican circles. When the legislature enacts laws that are unconstitutional, it is the duty of the district court and the Supreme Court to declare those laws unconstitutional. The Held v. Montana case is a classic example. Article II, Section 3 of the Montana Constitution guarantees all people the inalienable right to a clean and healthy environment. Yet, in a blatant disregard for this right, the legislature passed House Bill 971. Our attorney general could have avoided this litigation in a number of ways, but confronted the matter with flimsy and costly arguments.

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All this chatter just means that they don't like the way cases are decided because they aren't decided the way they want them to be decided. I've been around long enough to know many of our judges personally. And I know that they do their best to decide cases, interpret the law, and treat litigants without regard to social status, political beliefs, or other self-interests.

Anna Harden

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