Zephyr Denied, Judge Rules on Montana House Floor Debate
Update- Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen reacted to the judge's decision:
This lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt by outside groups to interfere with Montana’s lawmaking process. Today’s decision is a win for the rule of law and the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution.
INITIAL BREAKING NEWS: A Helena judge denied an attempt by a transgender lawmaker from Missoula to regain access to the floor of the Montana House of Representatives. The order will effectively prevent Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D-Missoula) from accessing the floor for the remainder of the legislative session.
House lawmakers in a 68-32 vote blocked Zephyr from accessing the floor after Zephyr cheered on the mob of protestors that stormed the Montana capitol Monday April 24th. Zephyr had previously faced retribution by the Montana House Majority for bigoted remarks attacking lawmakers of faith.
In the order by District Judge Mike Menahan, the judge shot down several claims made by Zephyr and the ACLU:
Plaintiffs have asked this Court to issue injunctions prohibiting Defendants from enforcing their censure of Rep. Zephyr and from refusing to recognize her on the House floor. Based on the relief requested, the Court finds Plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on the merits and therefore cannot satisfy the first requirement. Plaintiffs’ requested relief would require this Court to interfere with legislative authority in a manner that exceeds this Court’s authority. Plaintiffs also seek injunctive relief which far outpaces the facts at issue here.
The judge also ruled that even if he were to rule that the Legislature acted unlawfully, the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution would not allow for him to interfere with the Legislature.
The Court also finds Plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on the merits because the ultimate relief they seek includes broad permanent injunctions clearly outside the scope of this Court’s authority. Even if the Court ultimately finds the House of Representatives, Speaker Regier, and Sergeant at Arms Murfitt acted unlawfully under the facts of this case, it does not have the authority to issue a broad permanent injunction to effectively remove all legislative authority under Article V Section 10 in relation to a single member.
Click here to view the full order by the judge: attachment-Order On Plaintiffs' Motion For Temporary Restraining Order - Denied
The Montana Attorney General's office represented the State of Montana in this lawsuit. Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General, previously dismissed the rhetoric used by Zephyr and the ACLU.
This is performance litigation – political activism masquerading as a lawsuit. The ACLU is trying to use the courts to interfere with the legislature as it carries out its constitutional duties on behalf of Montanans. Any relief granted by the court would be a gross violation of the separation of powers.
This will be a developing story. For more background on the Zephyr case, check out this column I wrote for The Federalist.
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