Montana: county needs only provide the absolute “minimally required” resources for the courts

As in many states, court operations are often funded and staffed by local government, particularly in limited jurisdiction courts. Montana’s Justice Courts, and particularly the staffing thereof, appear to be in contention under SB332.

Existing law specifies the board of county commissioners are to provide the justice court(s) in the county an “office, courtroom, and clerical assistance necessary to enable the justice of the peace and the clerk of justice’s court, if any, to conduct business in dignified surroundings” as well as ”¬†the books, records, forms, papers, stationery, postage, office equipment, and supplies¬†necessary in the proper keeping of the records and files of the court and the transaction of the business” (emphasis added)

SB 322 takes the word “necessary” and defines it to mean “that which is minimally required, but not more.” It further adds “clarification” to the existing law, effectively denying any power of the judge/court to control staff. Moreover, the bill specifies the board of county commissioners alone is to determine current and future caseload needs and the needed staffing.

SB 322 is up for a hearing before the Senate Local Government Committee on February 22.