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

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.

November

DA 19-0533 - NATIONAL INDEMNITY COMPANY, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. STATE OF MONTANA, Defendant, Appellee, and Cross-Appellant, and TERRY JELLESED, RAYMOND ABRAHAMSON, RANDALL BAETH, MARLISE BAILEY, DELMAS BROOKS, SHIRLEY CHAPMAN, RUTH FORE, JEFFERY GOVI, THOMAS JENKINS, JAMES McNULTY, and PHILLIP PEREZ, Intervenors.

Oral Argument is set for Friday, November 20, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

National Indemnity Company provided the State of Montana with a liability insurance policy that was effective from July 1, 1973, until July 1, 1975. In 2002, the State advised National that claims relating to asbestos contamination in Libby had arisen under the policy. In 2005, National began defending the State against these claims under a reservation of rights.

In 2012, National filed an action for declaratory judgment against the State, arguing that the State should reimburse National for $16.1 million National had spent defending the State and settling claims made against the State, and that the court should declare National had no further obligations under the policy. National alleged that the parties disagreed on the extent of National’s obligations under the policy.

The State opposed National’s lawsuit and filed a counterclaim against National, arguing that National had breached its duty to defend and indemnify the State, that National owed more money under the insurance policy, and that National was obligated to continue defending the State against asbestos claims.

After several years of litigation and via a series of substantive rulings, the First Judicial District Court determined that National owes the State nearly $98 million and that it was obligated to continue defending the State against these asbestos claims. National has appealed the rulings, arguing that the District Court erred in concluding that National breached its duties and that it owes additional funds to settle claims. The State has cross-appealed, arguing that it is entitled to more coverage from National than the District Court’s rulings provide.