When Joe Alexander’s daughter came out to him as LGBTQ her sophomore year in high school, he wished there would have been more peer support groups like the Gay-Straight Alliance to help her cope with the stress.

“There’s nothing wrong with my daughter; she is a wonderful person,” said Alexander, who has a son currently enrolled in the Florence Carlton school system, at Tuesday’s district board of trustees meeting. “She did not have a support group like (Gay-Straight Alliance)… And I can tell you that the kind of mental anguish and the struggle that these children have when they’re going through these things, having that kind of support would have been wonderful.”

The debate about an informal club at the board of trustees meeting of the rural school district in the Bitterroot is taking place on the heels of a fraught legislative session where lawmakers passed or considered significant legislation impacting LGBTQ people. Public comment about middle school students attending GSA meetings during their lunch hour without parental consent took up more than half of the nearly six-hour meeting, which at its peak saw more than 200 online attendees.

The Montana Human Rights Network said that in the last six months there has been a sharp uptick in LGBTQ youth calling into its crisis hotline.

The high attendance and intense public debate can be partially attributed to the group Stand Together for Freedom, which rallied its members to protest against the GSA meetings. In a flier posted to the group’s Facebook page, it said GSA is a “nationally organized effort to introduce and recruit children deliberately to undermine parental authority into immoral and risky behavior.”

The group’s website says it stands for preserving the U.S. Constitution. However, during its meetings and in its monthly newsletter to more than 400 members, the group consistently pushes out questionable statements about things like vaccines, mask usage and the 2020 election.

This summer, MAM is participating in EXTRACTION: Art on the Edge of the Abyss, a special project of the CODEX
Foundation. It aims to produce a multimedia and multivenue art experience that investigates extractive industry
in all its forms. With sites stretching throughout the United States and abroad, MAM is part of an organic
collective of participating artists, art venues, curators, and arts supporters. MAM has developed a suite of
exhibitions aimed at offering different perspectives:

Edge of The Abyss: Artists Picturing the Berkeley Pit includes artists Jean Arnold, Eben Goff, Kristi Hager,
Marcy James, Peter Koch in collaboration with Didier Mutel and Nolan Salix. These artists present a
dynamic range of perspectives in reaction to the former mine in Butte, ranging from awe at the
grandeur of the landscape to concerns about land use and environmental impact. The Berkeley Pit
began as a traditional copper mine in the late 19th century, which gave way to large-scale industrial
excavation when an open pit mine was opened in 1955. Over 1.5 billion tons of material were eventually
removed from the pit before it closed in 1982 and was designated as an EPA Superfund site in 1987.
A second exhibition focuses instead on The Space of Hope: A Collective Response. The title of this
exhibition is taken from a quote by author Rebecca Solnit: “We don’t know what is going to happen, or
how, or when, and that very uncertainty is the space of hope.” Rather than focus on the devastation
wrought by the intertwined processes of industrialization and cultural displacement, the goal of this
exhibit is to provide a positive counter-narrative to the historical power structures inherent to
extraction. This juried group exhibition includes Montana artists as well as artists from Tennessee,
California, and New Mexico. MAM is grateful for project support from the Cultural Vision Fund for this

Police: Northern Cheyenne Tribal Councilwoman suffers non-life-threatening injuries during May 16 incident

A GoFundMe for the councilwoman has raised more than $23,000


The GoFundMe page for Cheyenne Tribal Council Member Silver Little Eagle (GoFundMe)

Billings police said Monday that there is an “open investigation” into a May 16 incident where Northern Cheyenne Tribal Councilwoman Silver Little Eagle suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

On Friday, a GoFundMe for Little Eagle was started asking for donations for medical and legal costs stemming from the incident: “On Sunday, May 16, 2021, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Councilwoman Silver Little Eagle was brutally attacked in Billings, Montana, and left for dead. She suffered severe physical injuries, as well as the theft of her vehicle and personal belongings.”

Little Eagle’s condition was unknown Monday. Monday, she was not listed as a current patient at St. Vincent Hospital or the Billings Clinic.

This weekend, the officer handling the case would not comment on whether law enforcement had any suspects. Monday, the Billings Police Department confirmed there is an “open investigation” and the councilwoman suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to a local hospital for treatment. However, the police department declined to provide additional details. The intensity of Little Eagle’s injuries was first reported by KTVQ.

The GoFundMe post said “had Councilwoman Little Eagle not been found by a family member, it is very likely she would have died from this violent attack. That speaks to the severity of her injuries.” The GoFundMe, which has gained traction on social media, has raised more than $23,000 since Friday, surpassing its original goal of $8,000.

Little Eagle, 23, is the youngest member of the Tribal Council and was part of a historic 2020 election when five open seats, as well as the Tribal presidency and vice presidency, were filled by women, according to Native Business.

Worked with Tester, served as Bullock’s chief of staff

Tracy Stone-Manning

Democrats say inquiry is a ‘witch hunt,’ while Republicans deride court for judging itself


The Montana State Supreme Court made a series of orders on Friday that temporarily suspended legislative subpoenas and allow the high court to slow the process on two different but related cases, which entangled all three branches of state government and stretch the limits of their respective constitutional power.

In its order on Friday afternoon, the court gave Montana Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin 14 days until April 30, to respond to questions about the release of her email and why the case shouldn’t be dismissed. Meanwhile, the court said it was enjoining — or suspending — a legislative subpoena that allowed the state’s Department of Administration to take more than 2,400 emails.

It is unclear if the Department of Administration has the bulk of email it had originally wanted, and if the search process would even be stopped, as required by the courts.

The high court also enjoined legislative subpoenas issued to McLaughlin and all seven justices of the Supreme Court, which would have required them to appear on Monday before a special select committee of lawmakers, which met for the first time on Friday afternoon.

In their order, the full Supreme Court said that the matters raised were unique in the state’s 132-year legal history, and in order to ensure privacy rights and due process, the matter would be put on an ordered schedule that will take it beyond the end of the month.

In its order, the court said, “It is clear the Legislature, to exercise its separate and distinct powers of governance effectively, must have the power to acquire information regarding the subject matter of its legislation. However, neither the subpoena power of the Legislature, nor that of the judiciary, is subject to unquestioned enforcement.

“This court has not previously considered the extent of any limitations on the Legislature’s subpoena power. The scope of the Legislature’s inherent legal authority to compel information, and how it applies under particular circumstances, are quintessentially functions for this court to determine within our exclusive constitutional duty and authority under Article III, Section 1, and Article VII, Sections 1-2(1), of the Montana Constitution. We have not heretofore considered whether that authority is limited when competing rights or privileges exist and are expressed.”

The court also pushed back against lawmakers who asserted that their inquiry into the judiciary was meddling unconstitutionally where the courts have no power.

“The Legislature seeks to obtain a broad swath of internal judicial branch documents and communications, some of which appear to be confidential and privileged as a matter of law from compelled disclosure to the Legislature, but some of which may very well be reachable by legislative subpoena. All those requests, moreover, are directly or indirectly related, and certainly have directly arisen from, the matters now squarely at issue before this court in the above-captioned Brown and McLaughlin proceedings, in both of which the Legislature is now a party under the personal jurisdiction of this Court,” the court wrote in its seven-page order.

“As a result, the legality of the previously issued legislative subpoenas, and any similar subpoenas regarding the same subject matter, is currently at issue before this court … for adjudication, upon participation of the parties thereto under due process of law, under the exclusive constitutional power and authority of this Court under Article III, Section 1, and Article VII, Sections 1-2(1), of the Montana Constitution. Within that legal framework, it is the exclusive constitutional duty of this Court to consider the competing constitutional and other legal interests at issue and adjudicate them accordingly to resolve the dispute matters at issue as a matter of law.”

The court gave McLaughlin, the Legislature and the Montana Department of Administration until April 30 to file motions with court so that the issues can be “presented and adjudicated in the course of due process.”

While it dismissed McLaughlin’s original complaint, it allowed her second motion, concerning emails and the release of private information to proceed.

Also, Justice Jim Rice requested — and the court granted — the subpoena issued to him by the Legislature not be stayed because he wants to seek a review in a district court.


Chief Justice Mike McGrath also issued a three-page letter that he presented to the lawmakers, and Senate Republicans also issued a statement, in a flurry of competing back-and-forth public messages.

The Senate Republicans said, “Today the Supreme Court rejected the court filings in the SB140 case by its court administrator related to the investigative subpoenas, effectively acknowledging that its weekend order was improper,” the statement by the Senate GOP said. “It’s disappointing but not surprising that the remaining justices ruled on their own subpoenas, a clear and inappropriate conflict of interest.”

It said that it would continue to assert its investigative authority “to obtain public records from public officials.”

But McGrath’s letter to the lawmakers rebuts much of what the lawmakers had to say, and also gave a list of what legislation the Montana Judges Association supports or opposes. McGrath said that all Supreme Court Judges recuse themselves from those infrequent polls because the issues may wind up for decision at the state’s highest — and only — court of appeal.

“Although not the way I would have preferred to open a dialogue between our coordinate branches of government, I welcome the opportunity to provide you with information about how and under what circumstances the judicial branch engages with the legislative process on matters involving court operations,” McGrath wrote to Senate President Mark Blasdel and Speaker of the House Wylie Galt.

McGrath defended polling of judges on the legislation, and said the practice is long-standing.

“It is appropriate for judicial officers — those who sit on cases every day and manage the courts’ ever-growing caseloads — to apprise the Legislature of how its decisions may affect the functionality of the judicial system and impact Montanans. For many years the elected members of the judicial branch have worked through the Montana Judges Association to give the legislative body information important to the Legislature’s consideration,” McGrath wrote.

He also pointed out that the association was funded by dues from the judges themselves, not state funds, and its primary purpose is to hold mandatory educational conferences twice a year.

“On the rare occasion when I have, in my role as chief, needed to advocate on behalf of a policy matter directly impacting the judicial branch, I have recused myself from any case involving the bill as I did with SB140,” McGrath said.

He also said that, despite reports to the contrary, he never consulted with any other attorney on the case besides the lieutenant attorney general.

McGrath’s letter also said it’s important for lawmakers to hear from the judiciary about proposed legislation, and there are numerous cases where that input has been beneficial.

“As (an) example, input was sought from the legislative committee regarding HB90 from Justice Gustafson and others because of her expertise in child dependency,” he wrote. “The MJA has created a legislative committee that has authority to determine if a proposed bill should be given judicial input. Most sessions, the judiciary takes positions on a very limited number of bills outside of the budget process.”

McGrath described how the polling process — which has become such a focal point of the GOP-led Senate concern — is conducted.

Here are the bills that the Montana Judges Association has taken a poll on:

SB 175 (Removing principal from the judges retirement system): SUPPORTED
HB 342 and HB 355 (Partisan election of judges): OPPOSED
HB 325 (The election of Supreme Court Judges by district): OPPOSED
HB 685 (Replacing Judicial Standards Commission): OPPOSED
SB 140 (Replacing the Judicial Nominating Commission): OPPOSED
* The MJA is SUPPORTING HJ 40 proposal to study the Judicial Standards Commission

“If a proposed bill has major impact on the judiciary, the association, through its president, may conduct a poll of the members,” McGrath wrote. “MJA’s position is not a secret. Indeed, the very purpose of the poll is to inform the Legislature of the judiciary’s policy position on how the bill impacts the branch.

“…It would be irresponsible for the judicial branch not to inform the Legislature on proposals that directly affect the court system and how it functions. Judges come before you as witnesses, precisely because they know you are the policymakers; it has been our experience that the Legislature appreciates having information from those involved in a subject.”

Finally, the chief justice lamented how the controversy that has ensnared all three branches has played out.

“It is unfortunate that we have not had the opportunity thus far to discuss our procedures in a more congenial fashion,” McGrath wrote. “In other years, if the Legislature desired an in-depth investigation, a referral would be made to the Legislative Auditor for a performance audit. The judicial branch would gladly cooperate with the Legislative Auditor process.”

Special Select Committee hearing

The select committee that GOP leadership formed this week to investigate the judiciary had a brief first meeting on Friday, laying out expectations for the committee’s work and responding to orders from the court attempting to enjoin the legislative subpoenas from earlier in the week.

The judges, said, Sen. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, who’s chairing the special committee, “prejudged pending legislation that is likely to be brought before the courts” when they responded to a poll on legislation this session sent out on behalf of the Montana Judges Association.

Hertz in the committee did not say definitively whether the judges that the Legislature subpoenaed this week would appear Monday, but he said the decision by the bulk of the Supreme Court to quash a subpoena order issued to the court itself amounted to a conflict of interest.

“No other citizen would have the audacity to claim that he or she gets to be the judge in their own case,” Hertz said.

The committee’s two Democrats, House Minority Leader Kim Abbott of Helena and Sen. Diane Sands of Missoula, questioned the very precept of the special committee, and said the Legislature’s standoff with the courts amounted to a constitutional crisis.

“This is part of what I view as a session-long attack on a necessarily nonpartisan and independent judiciary,” Abbott said. “It feels like a constitutional crisis point for me…and I feel like it undercuts the checks and balances that Montanans demand, respect and depend-on.”

Sands, who first served in the 1997 legislative session, said she feels it’s disingenuous to assert that the poll conducted by the Judges Association is “outside the realm of the legitimate process of the court.”

“The judges’ association comes in every year on a number of bills,” she said, calling the committee a “witch hunt.”

‘Public records from public officials’

One of the central flashpoints of this controversy centers on whether emails and communications from the judiciary are indeed public record. While case law has continuously ruled that courts are public bodies, and therefore subject to public observation, the emails and communications of the judicial branch have routinely been off limits for several reasons; sensitive information may be in the contents, and there’s an understanding that the judicial branch must be free to deliberate issues without the fear of those deliberations becoming public.

“The Legislature respects the judicial branch and is committed to finding solutions to the numerous concerning issues at hand, including deleting public record emails, pre-judging cases that are likely to come before the court, using state time and resources for a private association, and ruling on matters where judges have conflicts of interest,” the Senate Republicans said.

Also on Friday, the Supreme Court rejected a motion from the Montana Family Foundation that would have allowed an extension to file an amicus curiae or friend of the court brief because the attorney missed the deadline.