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 15-0205 MARK IBSEN, INC., D/B/A URGENT CARE PLUS, on behalf of itself and all those similarly situated, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. CARING FOR MONTANANS, INC., F/K/A BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF MONTANA, INC., and HEALTH CARE SERVICE CORP., and JOHN DOES 1-X, Defendants and Appellees. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.
Ibsen (d/b/a Urgent Care Plus) filed this lawsuit after Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBS) charged consumers—including Ibsen’s employees—insurance premiums that included kickbacks to the Montana Chamber of Commerce, which had marketed the plans to its members. The Montana Insurance Commissioner has fined BCBS $250,000 for this practice, which she determined violated the Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA).
The First Judicial District Court dismissed Ibsen’s lawsuit against BCBS’s successors Caring for Montanans and Health Care Service Corporation on grounds that there is no private remedy for violation of the UTPA. On appeal, Ibsen argues he is entitled to file the complaint based on common-law causes of action for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and unjust enrichment. BCBS’s successors have filed separate responses in support of the District Court’s decision. The Montana Trial Lawyers have filed a friend-of-the-Court brief in support of Ibsen, and the Insurance Commissioner has filed a friend-of-the-Court brief supporting the District Court’s decision.
--DA 15-0375 CITY OF MISSOULA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. MOUNTAIN WATER COMPANY and CARLYLE INFRASTRUCTURE PARTNERS, LP, Defendants and Appellants.THE EMPLOYEES OF MOUNTAIN WATER COMPANY, Intervenors and Appellants. Oral Argument is set for Friday, April 22, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. at the George Dennison Theater, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 8:30 a.m.
The Fourth Judicial District Court has granted a preliminary order of condemnation allowing the City of Missoula to take over the Missoula water system now operated by Mountain Water Company. The court ruled that municipal ownership of the system is a “more necessary public use” than private ownership.
Although Mountain Water and its parent company raise several issues on appeal, the Court has limited oral argument to the question of whether the District Court correctly applied the law as set forth in § 70-30-111, MCA, and City of Missoula v. Mountain Water Co., 228 Mont. 404, 743 P.2d 590 (1987).
--DA 15-0502 JON KRAKAUER, Petitioner and Appellee, v. STATE OF MONTANA, by and through its COMMISSIONER OF HIGHER EDUCATION,Clayton Christian, Respondent and Appellant. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 10:00 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 9:30 a.m.
Journalist Jon Krakauer asked the Commissioner of Higher Education for copies of disciplinary records of a University of Montana student and, when the Commissioner refused to provide those records, brought this action to force disclosure of the records. The First Judicial District Court ruled that Krakauer is entitled to the requested records under the right-to-know provision of the Montana Constitution and a since-repealed public records statute, § 2-6-102, MCA. The court also ordered the Commissioner to pay Krakauer’s attorney’s fees and costs.
The Commissioner appeals, arguing that disclosure of the records is prohibited by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), the § 20-25-515, MCA, requirement that a university shall release a student’s academic record only upon request by the student or a court-issued subpoena, and the student’s right to privacy under the Montana Constitution. The Commissioner also argues that the District Court abused its discretion in ordering him to pay Krakauer’s attorney’s fees and costs.
The Court has accepted friend-of-the-Court briefs from the United States Attorney for Montana (concerning FERPA) and from several journalistic organizations that support Krakauer.