District Court Council - Montana Courts
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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.

Click here to see list of previous oral arguments 

2017


 

MARCH

--DA 16-0429    BITTERROOTERS FOR PLANNING, INC., and BITTERROOT RIVER PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION, INC. Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY, an agency of the State of Montana, Defendant and Appellant, STEPHEN WANDERER and GEORGIA FILCHER, Defendants, Intervenors and Appellants. Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, March 29, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a permit for a wastewater discharge system for property near Hamilton. Anticipating construction of an unidentified “big box” store on the property, two Hamilton-area organizations—Bitterrooters for Planning, Inc., and Bitterroot River Protective Association, Inc.—challenged the permit. The First Judicial District Court ruled that the permit is void.

In this appeal, the landowners argue the District Court erred by concluding that, if and when DEQ reconsiders their application, the landowners must identify the nature of the anticipated “big box” business. In addition, both the landowners and DEQ question whether the District Court impermissibly expanded the scope of the Montana Environmental Policy Act analysis in its construction of the terms “secondary impacts” and “cumulative impacts.”

The Montana Environmental Information Center has filed an amicus brief.

APRIL

--OP 16-0555  ATLANTIC RICHFIELD COMPANY, Petitioner, v. MONTANA SECOND JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, SILVER BOW COUNTY, THE HON. KATHERINE M. BIDEGARAY, Respondent.    Oral Argument is set for Friday, April 7, 2017, at 9:30 a.m.  at the George Dennison Theater, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:00 a.m. 

The Montana Supreme Court will hear argument on Atlantic Richfield Company’s  petition to reverse the Second Judicial District Court’s ruling in this action for damages to privately-owned lands within the boundaries of the Anaconda Smelter Superfund Site.  The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the District Court erred in refusing to grant Atlantic Richfield judgment as a matter of law that the federal Superfund law (CERCLA) bars the plaintiffs’ common-law claims for restoration damages.

The United States of America, the Montana Trial Lawyers Association and Montana Environmental Information Center, and the Clark Fork Coalition have filed friend-of-the-Court briefs.

MAY

--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.