Arguments filed to Supreme Court in closed-primary lawsuit
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Attorneys for Montana and the state Republican Party have filed their arguments with the U.S. Supreme Court about whether or not the GOP should allow only registered party members to vote in its June 7 primary elections.
Now it’s up to the nation’s high court to decide whether to intervene.
The Montana Republican Party and eight county central committees filed an emergency application for an injunction that would close the primaries.
The state Department of Justice filed its response on Tuesday, quickly followed by a reply by the Republicans’ attorney, Matthew Monforton.
Party officials say the open-primary system results in crossover voting and prevents them from identifying Republican voters.
State attorneys argue two lower courts have already denied the request for an injunction against the system has been in place for a century.
Last defendant in Oregon standoff is at large; family mum
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The last named defendant in the armed occupation of an Oregon wildlife refuge hasn’t been arrested, and his family in Montana isn’t giving up his location.
Jake Ryan was identified Monday as the 26th person charged in connection with the nearly six-week-long standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He and another man are accused of using heavy equipment to dig through a Native American archaeological site.
Occupation supporters are using social media to call on a northwestern Montana sheriff to shield Ryan from arrest and for people to head to the town of Plains to pray with Ryan’s family.
Sheriff Tom Rummel said Tuesday that outsiders should stay away while negotiations are underway for a peaceful resolution for Ryan’s arrest.
Ryan’s mother, Roxsanna Ryan, says she doesn’t know where her son is.
Browning boys found safe after being reported missing
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Department of Justice officials say two Browning boys who were taken by their non-custodial father last month have been found safe.
The justice department had issued a missing and endangered person advisory for 8-year-old Victor Killsnight and 12-year-old Kaelin Rodgers.
The advisory said they were taken by 37-year-old Shem Killsnight from a Child Protective Services placement home on Feb. 11. Shem Killsnight is under federal investigation for child abuse.
Blackfeet police say the boys weren’t reported missing until last Friday.
State officials said in a statement Tuesday the boys were located in Montana and are safe. The statement did not provide any details.
Sarah Palin sets sights on reality courtroom TV show
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Move over, Judge Judy. Alaska’s mama grizzly is getting a gavel.
A production company spokesman says former Gov. Sarah Palin has signed a deal to make a pilot for a reality courtroom TV show.
Warm Springs Productions spokesman Howard Bragman said Tuesday that the company will use the pilot to try to find a buyer to air the show five days a week starting in fall 2017.
Bragman says Palin is a natural for the role because she’s telegenic and not afraid to give her opinion. She has no legal training.
The Montana-based production company specializes in outdoors shows and programming for the National Rifle Association. This would be its first reality courtroom show.
Palin also starred in “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” a reality show that ran for a single season on TLC from November 2010 to January 2011.
Northern Cheyenne declare state of emergency over drug use
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The president of the Northern Cheyenne tribe has declared a state of emergency due to drug-related activity on the reservation, including a weekend shooting in Lame Deer involving two people he says are known drug users.
Conrad Fisher tells The Billings Gazette that he wants to ban from the reservation any nontribal members involved in drug activity. The tribal council also plans to update tribal codes so they can prosecute drug-related crimes.
The Fort Belknap Tribal Council declared a state of emergency due to drug problems in January.
The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council voted last fall to banish suspected drug dealers from the reservation while the Chippewa Cree were considering a similar ban on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation.
Signups for Montana’s Medicaid expansion exceed expectations
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — More than 38,000 previously uninsured Montanans have enrolled for health coverage from the state’s Medicaid expansion program.
State officials told a legislative oversight committee that the pace of enrollment is far exceeding expectations, and they are especially encouraged by the number of young adults who have enrolled. Nearly half of enrollees thus far are between the ages of 19 and 34.
The state Department of Public Health and Human Services had expected about 23,000 to be enrolled by this time. Instead, more than half of the 70,000 Montana residents eligible for the program, known as the HELP Act, now have health insurance.
Medicaid expansion was hotly debated during the last legislative session and won passage only after Democrats and Republicans hammered out a compromise that included a workforce component.
New lawsuit challenges Montana campaign finance laws
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A national gun-rights group is challenging Montana’s new campaign finance laws, saying they violate free-speech rights.
The National Association for Gun Rights says it wants to send mailers to voters about political candidates’ position on guns, but worries the law would brand it a political committee subject to disclosure of its donors and spending.
The Virginia-based issue-advocacy group filed a similar lawsuit in 2012, before last year’s revisions to the state’s campaign laws, and lost.
The organization also is asking a judge to declare that its 2012 mailer attacking a Republican legislative candidate’s position on guns is not express political advocacy. Such a ruling could be used as a defense against recent findings by Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl that the mailers required the group to register and report with the state.
Appeals court overturns drug conviction, criticizes judge
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A federal appeals court has overturned a pair of drug convictions and a 30-year prison sentence for a Minot, North Dakota man, ruling a federal judge in Montana was wrong to reject his plea agreement.
The three-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled Monday that during the trial, U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon incorrectly prohibited defense attorneys from questioning three co-defendants about plea agreements that could have led to reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony.
The panel remanded Lloyd Nickle’s case to a different judge.
Nickle had agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute. However, Haddon rejected the plea because he did not feel Nickle adequately accepted responsibility. Nickle was convicted of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute.
New Flathead plant to turn culled cherries into juice
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Flathead will soon be home to a new cherry juice plant.
The Daily Inter Lake reports that the Flathead Cherry Growers Association has announced that the plant will turn cherries not suitable for market into juice.
Association member Bob Sandman says they’ve been searching for a way to make money off the culled cherries.
Gary and Susan Snow will run the factory. They are originally from Yellow Bay and have moved back into the area after farming cherries in British Columbia.
The new company will be called Tabletree Montana and will be capable of producing 150,000 8.5-ounce bottles of cherry juice. It will be the new arm of the Snows’ startup, Tabletree Juice, which won the Best Pure Juice in the World award in Barcelona, Spain, in 2012.