HELENA (AP) - The Montana Supreme Court has refused to allow 27 Republican senators to have a say in the legal battle over how midterm senators are assigned to newly drawn legislative districts.
In an order signed by six of the seven justices on Tuesday, the high court said the GOP lawmakers cannot file their own written arguments in the case because that would delay what the court intends to be a quick decision.
Allowing the senators to weigh in would require the court to also permit other interested parties to file "friend-of-the-court" briefs and provide additional time for responses to those arguments, the justices said. With candidates able to start filing for office Jan. 26, the court said it did not want further delay in deciding the case.
The Supreme Court, in response to requests for fast action from all those involved in the case, has promised a ruling by Feb. 3.
The effort by the Senate Republicans to voice their concerns reflects that group's intense involvement in challenging the work of the state Districting and Apportionment Commission for more than a year.
The GOP majority in both houses passed laws to undo the Democratic-controlled commission's district boundaries and its assignment of the "holdover" senators to some of the new districts.
The Republicans have maintained the work was part of Democrats' scheme to regain control of the Legislature by putting new and incumbent Republican candidates at a disadvantage in future elections.
The Legislature's efforts so far have been struck down by the courts. The issue on appeal to the Supreme Court is whether legislators or the commission had the authority to pair midterm senators with districts.
The case was launched last fall when three Democratic senators affected by the legislative assignments sued Secretary of State Bob Brown, the state's chief elections official.