Oral Argument Schedule


The majority of cases before the Montana Supreme Court are decided based upon the written briefs submitted by the parties. However, the Court may decide that a case requires further discussion, in addition to what the parties have argued in their written briefs. In such cases, oral arguments are scheduled in open session before the Court. Approximately 30 cases a year are scheduled for oral argument.

Oral arguments are tightly structured and timed. The counsel for each party is allowed limited time to make an argument. The times typically range from 20 to 40 minutes and are set forth by the Court in the order setting oral argument. 

While this format allows the counsel brief opportunity to further develop their arguments, it also gives the Court an opportunity to ask questions of the attorneys on points which the Court needs clarification.

A majority of oral arguments take place in the Montana Supreme Court Courtroom, located at 215 N. Sanders, Helena, Montana. The Court does schedule a few arguments to be heard in different cities around the State.​ See the list of scheduled oral arguments below.

All oral arguments are open to the public. 

Click here to see list of previous oral arguments 


2018

JANUARY

--OP 17-0677 SHANNON LEIGH SWEENEY, Petitioner, v. MONTANA THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, HONORABLE RAY J. DAYTON, District Judge, Respondent.     Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, January 31, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

Shannon Sweeney was the court-appointed attorney for a man charged with possession of dangerous drugs. After Sweeney’s client failed to appear at a final pretrial conference, the State of Montana additionally charged him with bail-jumping. In connection with the bail-jumping charge, the Third Judicial District Court has ordered Sweeney to testify on the State’s behalf about her communication with her former client concerning the pretrial conference. Sweeney asks the Montana Supreme Court to direct the District Court not to require her to testify, on grounds that attorney-client privilege bars her from doing so.

The Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Sweeney’s position.

FEBRUARY

-- DA 17-0131 DUANE C. KOHOUTEK, INC., a Montana corporation, BUCHER SALES, LLC, a Montana Limited Liability Company, NOBLES, INC., a Montana corporation, and SPIRITS PLUS, LLC, a Montana Limited Liability Company, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. STATE OF MONTANA, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, Defendant and Appellant. .     Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, February 7, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

Kohoutek and other owners of Montana liquor stores (the Class) brought this action against the State of Montana to challenge the constitutionality of a statute (repealed in 2015) regarding case-lot discounts for the purchase of liquor from the State. The Eighth Judicial District Court ruled that the statute violated Class members’ right to equal protection and that the Class is entitled to $26,156,411.65 in damages from the State, plus $8,718,803.88 in attorney fees, litigation expenses, and class representative incentive awards payable from the judgment; plus judgment interest and costs.

On behalf of the State, Appellant Montana Department of Revenue raises several issues on appeal. It argues the District Court erred when it: (1) ruled that the weighted average discount ratio (WADR) found at § 16-2-101(2)(b)(ii)(B), MCA (2013), failed rational basis review under the constitutional right to equal protection, and by applying a change in circumstances test to render the WADR unconstitutional; (2) denied the State’s motion to amend its answer to include a statute of limitations defense; (3) ruled that the doctrine of laches did not bar the Class’s claims for monetary damages; (4) awarded damages (including interest) to the Class and calculated those damages; and (5) ruled that the Class is entitled to attorney fees under the private attorney general doctrine.

On cross-appeal, the Class argues that the District Court erred in relying on the statute, after having found it invalid, to set storeowner expectations in the takings claim.

--DA 17-0184  CITY OF MISSOULA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. MARCY JANE KROSCHEL, Defendant and Appellant.   Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

In this appeal, Marcy J. Kroschel argues University of Montana police officers violated her constitutional rights when they detained and questioned her on suspicion of being a minor in possession of alcohol (MIP) at a University of Montana football game. The Missoula Municipal Court denied Kroschel’s motion to suppress her answers to the officers’ questions after she initially provided a false name and date of birth, ruling that, under the circumstances presented here, the officers made a lawful investigative stop and did not violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by governmental officials. The Fourth Judicial District Court agreed with that ruling.

MARCH

-- DA 17-0502  DAVID RAMSBACHER, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. JIM PALMER TRUCKING, Defendant and Appellee.  Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, March  28, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

 

David Ramsbacher was an employee “on loan/lease” to Jim Palmer Trucking under Montana’s professional employer organization or group (PEO) statutes.  He was injured at work and received workers compensation benefits from his PEO employer.  Ramsbacker also brought an action against Jim Palmer Trucking for negligence and violation of law.  Here, he appeals the Fourth Judicial District Court’s dismissal of that action.

Section 39-8-207(8)(b)(i), MCA, provides that a PEO and its clients are entitled to exclusivity of remedy under workers compensation law.   Jim Palmer Trucking prevailed in the District Court on summary judgment based on its argument that, as a client employer under the PEO statutes, it is exempt from liability.  Ramsbacher argues that violates his right to full legal redress under Article II, section 16 of the Montana Constitution.  The Court has accepted friend-of-the-Court briefs from the Montana Trial Lawyers Association, the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, and Avitus Group. 

 

APRIL

-- DA 17-0492  

  

-- OP 17-0678   RONALD DWIGHT TIPTON, Petitioner, v. MONTANA THIRTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT and HONORABLE MARY JANE KNISLEY, DISTRICT JUDGE, Respondent.  Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, April 18, 2018, at 10:30 am. in the Strand Union Building, Ballroom A on the campus of Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Tipton asks the Court to direct the Thirteenth Judicial District Court to dismiss a prosecution against him for a 1987 rape of a then-8-year-old Billings girl. Another individual was convicted of the rape long ago but was exonerated by DNA evidence in 2002.In 2014, the DNA evidence was found to link Tipton to the crime. Tipton was charged in 2015.

In 1987, the statute of limitations for sexual intercourse without consent was 5 years.In 1989 the statute of limitations was amended to 5 years or 5 years after the victim turns 18.In 2007, the statute was again amended, to provide that, if a suspect is conclusively identified by DNA testing after the statute of limitations has expired, a prosecution may be commenced within one year after the DNA identification.

In response to Tipton’s motion to dismiss the charges against him, the District Court ruled that the legislature intended the 2007 statute to apply retroactively. Tipton argues that retroactive application violates the ex post facto provisions of the Montana and United States Constitutions.

JUNE

-- DA 17-0061  STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. CRAIG ALAN BARROWS, Defendant and Appellant.  Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, June 27, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

Craig Alan Barrows appeals his conviction of three counts of assault with a weapon and two counts of criminal possession of dangerous drugs—one for possession of methamphetamine and the other for possession of Lorazepam. Although Barrows has raised several issues on appeal, the Court has limited oral argument to the issue of whether the trial court violated constitutional prohibitions against double jeopardy in relation to the conviction of possession of Lorazepam.

This case was tried to a jury. At the close of the State’s case in chief, the District Court ruled that the State’s evidence was insufficient to support a Lorazepam possession conviction, based on the State’s failure to send the purported Lorazepam to the state crime lab for identification. Instead, the investigating officer testified that he had typed the number printed on the pills into “Drugs.com,” which suggested the pills were Lorazepam. The court stated, “I will dismiss the Lorazapem case. The Lorazepam charge is off.”

Then, Barrows testified in his own defense. During his testimony, he admitted he knew there was Lorazepam in the vehicle he was driving when he was arrested. When the court and counsel were settling jury instructions, the State proposed instructions relating to the Lorazepam charge. The court agreed to put the Lorazepam charge on the verdict form based on Barrows’s admission, and the jury convicted him of that charge.

JULY

-- DA 17-0576 CITY OF HELENA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. RONALD SCOTT PARSONS, Defendant and Appellant.  Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, July 25, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

Ronald Parsons used his truck and attached boat trailer to set up a roadblock to assist police in their pursuit of a fleeing suspect, who was driving a motorcycle. The motorcyclist hit a curb and sustained injuries trying to avoid Parsons's roadblock. The City of Helena charged Parsons in Municipal Court with negligent endangerment and reckless driving. A jury convicted Parsons and the District Court affirmed Parsons’s conviction.

Montana’s citizen arrest statute, § 46-6-502, MCA, grants a private person the right to “arrest another when there is probable cause to believe that the person is committing or has committed an offense and the existing circumstances require the person’s immediate arrest.” Parsons disagrees with the manner in which the Municipal Court permitted the statute to be used during trial.

On appeal, Parsons contends the Municipal Court erred in designating the statute as an affirmative defense, arguing that the court should have permitted him to raise a defense based on the statute without having to first admit to the underlying charge. Parsons also argues that the court should have taken judicial notice of and instructed the jury on the statute.

AUGUST

-- DA 17-0045   STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. RANDALL BRYCE WALKER, Defendant and Appellant. Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, August 8, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

A jury convicted Walker of two counts of sexual intercourse without consent and two counts of incest. The charges arose out of Walker’s relationship with his step-daughters.  At trial, the State presented testimonial evidence from the alleged victims and other witnesses, but no physical evidence of the crimes.  As part of his defense, Walker sought to admit into evidence the results of a psychosexual examination and polygraph examination.  Walker argued that the examinations demonstrated he did not have sexual interest in children and that he told the truth about the offenses.  The District Court excluded the examinations’ results. 

Walker argues on appeal that the District Court erred by excluding evidence of the examinations.  Regarding the polygraph examination, Walker argues the results are admissible because, in 1994, the Legislature repealed its statutory ban prohibiting the introduction of polygraph results.  Walker maintains the psychosexual examination is character evidence which may be admitted by a defendant on his or her behalf.  The State maintains that polygraph examinations are unreliable and that psychosexual examinations are not appropriate character evidence


SEPTEMBER

-- DA 17-0599   KENNETH & KARI CROSS, HENLEY & NICOLA BRADY, and ROLAND & LANA REDFIELD, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. ROBERT and SHERLE WARREN; GRASS CHOPPER, LLC; TAYLOR WARREN and PROGRESSIVE INS. CO., Defendants and Appellees. Oral Argument  is set for Friday, September 21, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. at the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell, Montana, with and introduction to the argument beginning at 9:30 a.m.

This case arises out of a dispute about whether Montana law authorizes the stacking of third-party liability limits.  In 2015, Taylor Warren crossed the centerline while driving his parents’ pickup truck, resulting in an accident and causing injury to Kenneth Cross, Henley Brady, and Roland Redfield (the Plaintiffs).  The Warrens’ auto insurance policy with Progressive Direct Insurance Company included a bodily injury liability coverage of $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident.  The Warrens owned four vehicles, each with identical policies and limits.

Progressive paid each of the Plaintiffs $100,000, exhausting the pickup truck’s $300,000 per accident liability limit.  The Plaintiffs asked that Progressive stack the liability limits for all four of the Warrens’ vehicles, bringing the total liability coverage to $1,200,000.  When Progressive denied their request, the Plaintiffs initiated a declaratory judgment action in Montana’ Twenty-Second Judicial District Court.  The District Court granted Progressive’s motions for summary judgment, holding that those provisions of the Montana Insurance Code did not apply in this case because third-party liability coverages are not stackable in Montana.

On appeal, the Plaintiffs argue that the plain language of § 33-23-203, MCA, permits stacking of liability coverages for which the insured paid multiple premiums.  Further the Plaintiffs assert that Progressive failed to comply with § 33-23-203, MCA, and thus, the Warrens’ multiple coverages must be stacked.  The Plaintiffs also argue that Montana’s public policy supports stacking by injured claimants, whether or not they qualify as insureds.