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.
All of the oral arguments are open to the public.
--DA 15-0055 MONTANA CANNABIS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION, MARC MATTHEWS, SHELLY YEAGER, JESSE RUMBLE, JOHN STOWERS, M.D., POINT HATFIELD, and CHARLIE HAMP, Plaintiffs, Appellees and Cross-Appellants, v. STATE OF MONTANA, Defendant, Appellant and Cross-Appellee. ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday, November 4, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana. Oral argument times shall be 40 minutes for the Appellant and 30 minutes for the Appellees.
In this action, the Montana Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA) challenges the 2011 Montana Medical Marijuana Act. The State of Montana appeals the First Judicial District Court’s rulings that three provisions of the Act are unconstitutional: the prohibition of commercial sales of marijuana, the provision subjecting physicians who certify more than 25 patients per year to review by the Board of Medical Examiners, and the ban on advertising by medical marijuana providers. MCIA cross-appeals the court’s decisions that the Act’s ban on access to medical marijuana by probationers and its authorization of unannounced inspections of providers’ premises pass constitutional muster.
--DA 14-0181 STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. JAMES MORRIS COLBURN, Defendant and Appellant. ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday, December 2, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana. Oral argument times shall be 30 minutes for the Appellant and 25 minutes for the Appellee.
Montana’s “rape shield law” prohibits admission at trial of evidence concerning the sexual conduct of the victim except for “evidence of the victim’s past sexual conduct with the offender or evidence of specific instances of the victim’s sexual activity to show the origin of semen, pregnancy, or disease that is at issue in the prosecution.”
In this case, James Colburn appeals his conviction of incest, sexual intercourse without consent, and sexual assault of two 11-year-old girls. The Court has granted oral argument on the issue of whether the District Court erred in ruling that the rape shield law prohibited Colburn from introducing evidence that one of the victims had been sexually abused by another man—her biological father. Colburn argues such evidence could explain the young victim’s advanced sexual knowledge, and that the rape shield law must yield where its application deprives a defendant of his constitutional right to present a defense.
--DA 14-0825 KELLI TYRRELL, as Special Administrator for the Estate of BRENT T. TYRRELL (deceased), Plaintiff and Appellee, v. BNSF RAILWAY CO., a Delaware corporation, Defendant and Appellant. ----------------------------------------------------------- ROBERT M. NELSON, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. BNSF RAILWAY CO., a Delaware corporation, Defendant and Appellee. ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday, December 9, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana. Oral argument times shall be 40 minutes for the Tyrrell and Nelson, and 30 minutes for the BNSF Railway Co.
Several Montana district courts have recently faced the question of whether they have jurisdiction to decide Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) claims filed by out-of-state plaintiffs against BNSF Railway. The district courts’ answers have not been uniform. The question has two parts: Do Montana statutes authorize our state courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over BNSF in such situations, and does the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution allow our state courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over BNSF in such situations? The Montana Chamber of Commerce has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this consolidated appeal of two such cases, in which the district courts reached opposite conclusions.