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 15 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 


If you plan to attend the argument in-person, you MUST wear a mask and comply with all other Phase One safety guidelines.

2020

September

DA 19-0368 - STEVEN WAYNE KEEFE, Petitioner and Appellant, v. LEROY KIRKEGARD, Respondent and Appellee.

Oral Argument is set for Friday, September 11, 2020, at 9:30 a.m..
The argument will be held via Zoom. 

Oral Argument will be live streamed by clicking HERE to WATCH.

In 1987, a jury found Steven Wayne Keefe guilty of three counts of deliberate homicide and one count of burglary.Keefe was 17 years old when he committed these crimes.The court sentenced Keefe to a term of life without parole for each count of deliberate homicide, a ten-year term of imprisonment for the burglary, and to four ten-year terms for use of a weapon.All of Keefe’s sentences were to run consecutively to each other.

In 2017, the Montana Supreme Court held that recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions limiting the circumstances in which a defendant could be sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed while a juvenile applied to defendants sentenced under Montana’s laws.The U.S. Supreme Court decisions mandate that sentencing courts only sentence a juvenile to life without parole if the crimes reflect “irreparable corruption” and set forth specific factors sentencing courts shall consider in determining whether a juvenile offender may be sentenced to life without parole.The Montana Supreme Court concluded these decisions require Montana’s sentencing judges to adequately consider the mitigating characteristics of youth that were enumerated by the U.S. Supreme Court when sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole.

After the Montana Supreme Court announced this decision, the Eighth Judicial District Court ordered resentencing for Keefe.After a resentencing hearing, the District Court reimposed consecutive sentences of life without parole.

On appeal, Keefe raises four issues: whether the District Court unconstitutionally deprived him of expert assistance for his resentencing hearing; whether the court failed to comply with the requirements of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on sentencing juvenile offenders; whether the court incorrectly relied on expert testimony offered by the State; and whether the court violated Keefe’s constitutional right to due process of law by denying him a fair and impartial hearing.

 The Juvenile Law Center and the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have filed amicus briefs in support of Keefe’s appeal.The Montana Attorney General’s Office, representing Appellee Leroy Kirkegard, Warden of Montana State Prison, opposes Keefe’s appeal.

 

DA 19-0492 - PARK COUNTY ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL and GREATER YELLOWSTONE COALITION, Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY and LUCKY MINERALS, INC., Defendants and Appellant, and TIM FOX, in his capacity as Attorney General of the STATE OF MONTANA.

Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, September 30, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.  
In 2017, DEQ approved Lucky Minerals’ application for a mining exploration license in the Emigrant Gulch area.  Park County Environmental Council and Greater Yellowstone Coalition challenged DEQ’s decision.  The District Court concluded that DEQ had violated the Montana Environmental Policy Act by failing to take the required “hard look” at the environmental impacts of Lucky Minerals’ proposal, including the project’s impacts on wildlife and water quality.  
Park County Environmental Council and Greater Yellowstone Coalition moved to vacate the exploration license in spite of a recent statutory change which dictated that the matter must instead be remanded to DEQ to further analyze the proposal’s environmental impact.  They argued that the statute was unconstitutional because it did not allow the court to revoke or suspend the exploration license.  The District Court agreed that the statute infringed upon Montanans’ constitutional rights to participation in the operation of governmental agencies and to a clean and healthful environment.
Lucky Minerals and DEQ have appealed the District Court’s rulings.  The Attorney General has intervened on behalf of the State of Montana.  Lucky Minerals argues that Park County Environmental Council and Greater Yellowstone Coalition do not have standing in this matter.  Both Lucky Minerals and DEQ argue that the District Court erred in ruling that DEQ’s environmental analysis was inadequate under MEPA.  Lucky Minerals and the State of Montana also argue that the District Court incorrectly concluded that the statute requiring remand to DEQ is unconstitutional.   

Pursuant to a Montana Supreme Court Order, the parties have filed supplemental briefs addressing three questions: (1) Does the Congressional withdrawal of federal lands in the Emigrant Crevice Area require the District Court to reconsider its 2018 order granting summary judgment?  (2) Does the withdrawal require DEQ to conduct a new MEPA analysis taking Congressional actions into consideration?  (3) How does the withdrawal impact Lucky’s ability to conduct road improvements to allow access of its mining equipment, given that such improvements would occur on Forest Service roads within the withdrawal area?

October

DA 18-0006 - STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. TREVOR JOSEPH MERCIER, Defendant and Appellant.

Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, October 14, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

On August 10, 2017, Trevor Mercier was convicted of deliberate homicide for the death of Sheena Devine and evidence tampering for placing Devine’s cell phone in a pan of water in an attempt to prevent the recovery of data. Mercier had gotten into a physical altercation with Devine when she confronted him while he was vandalizing her car. Mercier admitted that he restrained Devine using a “sleeper hold.” He then carried her into her residence and left. The next day, Mercier learned that Devine had died; Mercier insisted that Devine was breathing when he left her in her home.

Prior to trial, the State moved, over Mercier’s objection, to have a witness testify via videoconference to spare the expense of having the witness travel to Montana from his home in Colorado. The District Court granted the motion on the grounds that the distance and expense of travel was impracticable and because the witness’s anticipated testimony would not require extensive cross-examination.

Mercier has appealed his convictions to the Montana Supreme Court. In ordering oral argument, the Court directed the parties to address the question of whether Mercier was denied his constitutional right to confront testifying witnesses face-to-face when the District Court allowed the State to offer a foundational witness via real-time videoconferencing.