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 14-0807 STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. MATTHEW JOHN BLAZ, Defendant and Appellant. Oral Argument is set for Monday, May 1, 2017, at 10:30 a.m. in the Strand Union Building, Ballroom A on the campus of Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Matthew Blaz appeals his conviction of deliberate homicide in the death of his infant daughter, who died as a result of two skull fractures sustained in their home.
On appeal, Blaz argues the Second Judicial District Court erred when it allowed the State to present evidence at trial about an incident that occurred about a month before his daughter died, in which Blaz threw his wife down and pounded her head into the floor while she was holding the baby. Blaz maintains admission of that evidence deprived him of his right to a fair trial. The State responds that evidence of the prior incident is relevant as to Blaz’s disregard for his daughter’s well-being, and was properly admitted to rebut Blaz’s theory that a neighbor boy dropped the baby and fractured her skull. The issue requires application of the basic evidentiary rule that relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.
--OP 16-0328 DERRICK EARL STEILMAN, Petitioner, v. MIKE BATISTA, TIMOTHY CHARLES FOX, Respondents. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, May 17, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.
This is a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed on behalf of Derrick Earl Steilman, who is serving a 100-year sentence with no parole for a 1999 deliberate homicide conviction. The homicide was committed when Steilman was six weeks shy of his 18th birthday. Steilman pled guilty, and the principal issue at sentencing was whether he should be eligible for parole. Steilman did not appeal his conviction or sentence or seek post-conviction relief.
In his petition for writ of habeas corpus, Steilman now raises a Miller argument – that his “life without parole” sentence is unconstitutional because the sentencing court did not consider the special circumstances of his youth.
--DA 16-0745 ZIRKELBACK CONSTRUCTION, INC., Third-Party Plaintiff and Appellant, v. DOWL, LLC dba DOWL HKM, Third-Party Defendant and Appellee. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, June 21, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.
--DA 16-0156 IN THE MATTER OF: J.S., Res pondent and Appellant. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, June 28, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.