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Judicial Branch

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
 
List of Audio Files 

2014/2015

 DECEMBER 2014

DA 14-0183  ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. POSNIEN, INC., Defendant, Counterclaimant and Appellant.   ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday,  December 10, 2014, 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.

Kalispell Allstate Insurance agent Posnien, Inc., sold its business to Baird 7 in 2007. As part of the deal, Baird 7 gave Posnien a security interest in the “book of business” (ongoing commissions on customer accounts). Allstate later terminated the agency after Baird 7 made a fraudulent insurance claim. Allstate brought this declaratory judgment action to have the District Court determine the rights to, and allocation of, ongoing commission payments.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Allstate on Posnien’s counterclaim of conversion of money for Allstate’s failure to pay Posnien the ongoing commissions. Posnien contends that was an error of law. Resolution of the issue hinges on the nature of Posnien’s security interest—did the security interest attach to the ongoing commissions, or to Baird 7’s interest in the commissions, which has terminated?

 

JANUARY 2015 

DA 14-0015  GREGORY A. CHRISTIAN, et al.,  Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. ATLANTIC RICHFIELD COMPANY, Defendant and Appellee.    ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday,  January 14, 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 Appellants and 30 minutes for the Appellee.

 

A group of citizens of Opportunity, Montana, filed suit against the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) to recover damages for elevated arsenic levels in their soils and other injuries to their properties from ARCO’s former industrial activities in the area. The Second Judicial District Court granted ARCO’s motion for summary judgment on grounds that the statute of limitations had expired—ARCO’s industrial activities in the area ended in 1980.

In this appeal, the citizens argue that whether the statute of limitations has expired turns on a question of fact, not a legal question to be resolved by the court on summary judgment. They maintain that, under this Court’s opinion in Burley v. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co., reasonably abatable pollution gives rise to a continuing tort, and the question of whether the pollution in Opportunity is reasonably abatable is a question of fact for a jury to decide. 

DA 14-0253  ROBERT W. ANDERSON, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. BNSF RAILWAY, a Delaware Corporation, Defendant and Appellee.    ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday,  January 28, 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 Appellee.

After 33 years of employment with BNSF, Robert Anderson filed this action against his employer under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Anderson claims BNSF negligently caused him to suffer cumulative trauma injuries to his back, culminating in a disabling back injury in 2008. The Eighth Judicial District Court submitted to a jury the question of whether the statute of limitations had run on Anderson’s claims, and the jury found that it had, precluding Anderson’s recovery of damages. Anderson appeals both the court’s decision to submit this question to the jury and the jury’s answer to the question. He also claims BNSF’s counsel made improper arguments and statements at the 7-day jury trial. Anderson asks this Court to construe FELA liberally in his favor and grant him a new trial.

FEBRUARY 2015 

OP 14-0685  BARRY ALLAN BEACH, Petitioner, v. STATE OF MONTANA, Respondent.  ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday,  February 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 Petitioner and 30 minutes for the Respondent.

Barry Beach asks the Court to grant him a writ of habeas corpus on grounds that the 100-year sentence he is serving at Montana State Prison for his 1984 conviction of deliberate homicide is invalid. He sets forth two grounds for relief:

1. At Beach’s sentencing, the court did not consider Beach’s age at the time the crime was committed (he was 17 years old) as a mitigating factor.

2. The sentence “leaves no meaningful opportunity for release.”

Beach asks the Court to vacate his sentence and send the case back to the District Court for resentencing in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent. In the alternative, he asks the Court to strike a provision of his sentence declaring him ineligible for parole.