Parties in two separate lawsuits challenging the Legislature’s “constitutional carry” law on college campuses will be refiling their complaints in district court, following the Montana Supreme Court’s dismissal of both petitions on Wednesday.
The Montana Board of Regents and, separately, a collection of individuals and organizations that includes two former regents, a former commissioner of higher education and the Montana Federation of Public Employees had requested that the high court take up their cases due in part to the new law’s June 1 effective date. The law, House Bill 102, allows concealed carry of firearms across much of the Montana University System. Both lawsuits, filed late last week, allege that is an infringement by the Legislature on the regents’ authority over the university system as outlined in the Montana Constitution. The Supreme Court’s dismissals state that despite assertions of urgency made by the regents and others, a requested stay temporarily blocking implementation of the law on campuses until the litigation is resolved could be obtained in a district court.
Helen Thigpen, spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, told Montana Free Press the regents plan to refile their motion “in an appropriate district court,” adding that the specific court has yet to be determined. She said the new complaint will mirror the regents’ request to the Supreme Court, including the request for an emergency stay.
MFPE President Amanda Curtis echoed that position, indicating that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit brought by her organization and others have yet to decide what district court they will refile in.
“It doesn’t change MFPE’s pathway,” Curtis said of the Supreme Court’s dismissal. “We will continue to do as we have always done, which is defend Montana’s Constitution. The only thing that’s changed is the venue, and we will be filing in district court.”
Other parties involved in the lawsuit alongside MFPE include the faculty senate at Montana State University, the Montana University System Faculty Association Representatives and the University of Montana-based Montana Public Interest Research Group. Their challenge includes not only HB 102 but three other laws passed by the Legislature that they allege similarly infringe on the constitutional powers of the regents.
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