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

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.

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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.

NOVEMBER

-- DA 17-0731   DRAGGIN' Y CATTLE COMPANY, INC.;and ROGER and CARRIE PETERS, Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. JUNKERMIER, CLARK, CAMPANELLA, STEVENS, P.C., Defendants and Appellees, NEW YORK MARINE AND GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Intervenor and Appellant. Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, November 14, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

In 2004 Larry Addink, a certified public accountant with Junkermier, Clark, Campanella, Stevens, P.C. (JCCS), advised Roger and Carrie Peters on how to structure the sale of a conservation easement on their company’s property. The Peters finalized the sale in accordance with Addink’s recommendations in 2007. Addink’s advice was incorrect and exposed the Peters’ company to substantial unanticipated taxes and other financial harm.

In 2011, the Peters filed a claim against Addink and JCCS to reclaim their financial losses. New York Marine and General Insurance Company (NYM), JCCS’s professional liability insurer, agreed to defend JCCS, but it reserved the right to deny coverage for some or all of the claims. The Peters offered to settle the case for $2 million, the policy limit, but NYM rejected the offer on the belief that the Peters’ claims were only worth between $100,000 and $350,00. JCCS wished to accept the $2 million offer.

In 2014, the Peters and JCCS tentatively entered into a $10 million settlement agreement, with the covenant that the Peters would not seek payment from JCCS directly. Rather, the agreement stipulated that the Peters could only pursue the insurance company to execute the settlement. The settlement agreement required a court to find it was reasonable, and if found unreasonable, the case would be tried to a jury. The District Court found the settlement reasonable and entered judgment in accordance with the settlement agreement.

On appeal, NYM asserts that the settlement agreement is unenforceable because it is unreasonable pursuant to Montana law.

DECEMBER

-- OP 18-0599  

STEVE BULLOCK, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS GOVERNOR OF MONTANA; MARTHA WILLIAMS, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FISH, WILDLIFE, AND PARKS, Petitioners, v. TIMOTHY C. FOX, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MONTANA, Respondent.   Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, December 5, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

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The Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is currently attempting to acquire three conservation easements across Montana that have received approval by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Governor Bullock and FWP Director Williams have filed a petition asking the Montana Supreme Court to assume original jurisdiction to determine whether FWP needs approval from the Board of Land Commissioners (Land Board) as well.

Montana law provides that “land acquisitions” of more than 100 acres or $100,000 in value require Land Board approval. The issue before this Court is whether the term “land acquisition,” includes conservation easements.

Governor Bullock and FWP Director Williams contend conservation easements are not “land acquisitions.” Conservation easements are interests and rights in real property. The holders of conservation easements do not own or pay taxes on the land.

The Attorney General contends that Governor Bullock and Director Williams do not have standing to petition this Court in their official capacities. On the merits, the Attorney General contends that the plain meaning of “land acquisition” includes conservation easements. “Land acquisition” is non-specific and can be read to encompass any interest in land.

2019

JANUARY

-- DA 17-0440   CITY OF HELENA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. KRISTI ANNE O'CONNELL, Defendant and Appellant. Oral Argument  is set for Wednesday, January 23, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

In June 2016, Kristi O’Connell caused a multiple-vehicle accident at an intersection in Helena, Montana, and was charged with careless driving. Ms. O’Connell agreed to provide a blood sample. Later that month, Ms. O’Connell pleaded guilty to the careless driving charge.

The results of the toxicology report revealed the presence of medications in Ms. O’Connell’s blood. In October 2016, Ms. O’Connell was cited for Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

Ms. O’Connell filed a motion to dismiss the DUI charge, arguing that the DUI charge violated a Montana statute, § 46-11-504(1), MCA, prohibiting subsequent prosecution following a conviction. Additionally, Ms. O’Connell asserted the charge violated double jeopardy protections guaranteed to her by the Montana constitution. The Municipal Court denied Ms. O’Connell’s motion to dismiss and the District Court affirmed the Municipal Court’s decision.

On appeal, O’Connell argues that double jeopardy applies because the DUI charge was based upon exactly the same conduct as her careless driving conviction, she performed one act with one criminal objective: driving carelessly by driving under the influence of medication.

The City argues that O’Connell’s careless driving conviction was, like her DUI charge, an absolute liability offense that does not require proof of mental state. Accordingly, the City contends that since O’Connell’s careless driving conviction and subsequent DUI prosecution were not concerned with criminal objective, the offenses did not arise out of the same transaction and her double jeopardy rights were not violated.