--DA 18-0110 MONTANA ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION CENTER and SIERRA CLUB, Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY, Defendant and Appellant, and WESTERN ENERGY COMPANY, Defendant/Intervenor and Appellant. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, March 13, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.
The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) and Sierra Club challenged a permit renewal the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued to Western Energy Company (WEC) that allowed WEC to discharge pollutants from the Rosebud Mine into surrounding waters.
The First Judicial District Court, Lewis and Clark County, determined DEQ had improperly reclassified affected streams as ephemeral, and subject to reduced water quality standards, without following the proper reclassification procedure.
The court also took issue with the way in which the permit dealt with the Rosebud Mine’s “outfalls,” the places where pollutants may be discharged. It concluded that the permit arbitrarily did not require all outfalls to be monitored in the same way or on the same schedule, and that DEQ provided no scientific basis for its decision that not all outfalls needed to be monitored.
DEQ and WEC have appealed the decision and ask this Court to overturn it. DEQ argues that it did not reclassify any waters and that it followed the applicable laws and administrative rules regarding the outfalls. The WEC argues that the decision should be overturned because the District Court issued its decision while an administrative appeal was pending, and because the court relied on information which was not available to DEQ at the time it issued the permit.
MEIC and Sierra Club argue that the District Court’s decision was correct and the Supreme Court should uphold it.
--DA 16-0445 CITY OF KALISPELL, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. THOMAS SALSGIVER, Defendant and Appellant. Oral Argument is set for Friday, April 5, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. in the George Dennison Theater, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:00 a.m.
On March 17, 2015, Thomas Salsgiver was arrested and charged with Partner or Family Member Assault and Criminal Mischief. The Kalispell Municipal Court ordered Salsgiver to personally appear at all court proceedings. Salsgiver was cautioned that failure to appear would waive his right to a jury trial and informed that the next hearing would be May 5. A week later, Salsgiver’s attorney received an Order which also stated, “your personal presence is required” at the May 5 hearing. On May 5, Salsgiver’s attorney personally appeared at the hearing, but Salsgiver did not. Because Salsgiver did not personally appear, the Municipal Court concluded he waived his right to a jury trial.
Salsgiver objected, but the Municipal Court held that his failure to appear waived his right to a jury trial under Article II, Section 26, of the Montana Constitution. The court then convicted him of both charges after a bench trial. Salsgiver appealed to the District Court, which affirmed the Municipal Court’s ruling denying Salsgiver’s motion for a jury trial.
On appeal to the Montana Supreme Court, Salsgiver argues that he did not waive his right to a jury trial under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The State disagrees, arguing that Salsgiver knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his right to a jury trial by failing to personally appear at the May 5 hearing.
--DA 16-0473 STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. BRIAN DAVID LAIRD, Defendant and Appellant. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. in the Strand Union Building, Ballroom A, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:30 a.m.
In 1999, Brian Laird’s wife Kathryn drowned in the Afterbay of the Yellowtail Dam at the Bighorn Canyon Reservoir. At the time, it was not determined whether her death was caused by accident, natural causes, suicide, or homicide. An autopsy was not performed until after Kathryn’s body was embalmed.
In 2014, Laird was charged with homicide for Kathryn’s death. The case went to trial in 2016. At trial, the State did not present any medical experts to testify about Kathryn’s cause and manner of death. Because the doctor who performed the autopsy was deceased by the time of trial, the court allowed an FBI agent who attended the autopsy to testify about statements the doctor made during the autopsy. Although the defense objected to this as hearsay testimony, the court allowed it for the limited purpose of explaining what the agent did next in his investigation. Over the defense’s objections, the State also showed the jury a graphic autopsy photograph.
On appeal to the Montana Supreme Court, Laird argues that he did not receive a fair trial and was wrongfully convicted of homicide. He argues that the State waited 15 years to charge him in this case, during which time witnesses died and evidence was lost. He argues that the court should not have allowed the autopsy photograph into evidence, and should not have allowed the FBI agent to testify about what the doctor said during Kathryn’s autopsy. He also argues that the State did not present enough evidence to prove that Kathryn’s drowning was a homicide.