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 


2019

March

--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.

April

--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.

May

--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.