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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

SEPTEMBER 2014

DA 14-0113 MASTERS GROUP INTERNATIONAL, INC., Third-Party Plaintiff and Appellee, v. COMERICA BANK, Third-Party Defendant and Appellant,     ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Friday,  September 26, 2014, at 9:05 a.m. at the Huntley Convention Center in Big Sky, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 8:45 a.m.    Oral argument times shall be 40 minutes for the Appellant and 30 minutes for the Appellee.

The founders of Masters Group International, Inc., (Masters) began development of a multi-million-dollar international office products assembly and distribution facility in Butte, Montana, in 2004.   Over the next few years, Comerica Bank (Comerica) and the Butte Local Development Corporation (BLDC) provided funding for the project.  Comerica’s loan agreement with Masters provided that it would “be governed by and construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the State of Michigan.”  Larry Pratt and the Larry F. Pratt Living Trust and Dr. Dr. Michael Vlahos provided guarantees for the Comerica loan and increases in that loan.

In October of 2011, BLDC filed a complaint in the Second Judicial District Court alleging that Masters had failed to pay its obligations on its loan agreement with BLCD.   The following month, Masters filed an answer and third party complaint against Comerica alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, constructive fraud, deceit, wrongful offset, and interference with and loss of prospective economic opportunity.  Masters also requested punitive damages.

The District Court did not rule on a motion by Comerica to sever the third party complaint, which was then was deemed denied pursuant to Rule 19 of the Second Judicial District Court Rules.  In addition, the court denied Comerica’s motion for partial summary judgment on the applicability of Michigan law as provided under the Comerica loan agreement, determining that Montana law should apply because Comerica had not affirmatively raised the issue in a timely manner.

A jury found Masters liable to BLDC for $275,251.09.  The jury also found Comerica liable to Masters for a total of $52,037,593.  Comerica appeals.

The Court has limited oral argument to the following issues:
1. Whether the judgment should be reversed because the District Court failed to grant Comerica's motion to sever the Third Party Complaint.
2. Assuming for the sake of argument that Michigan law should have been applied to the contract claims, whether it also should have applied to the tort and implied covenant claims and what effect, if any, that would have had on resolution of those claims.
3. Whether Comerica was entitled to summary judgment on its claim that its February 2009 Forebearance Agreement with Masters, Pratt, and Vlahos was not an enforceable contract.
4.  Whether the cap on punitive damages imposed by § 27-1-220(3), MCA, is unconstitutional.
 

OCTOBER 2014

DA 14-0013   THE MILKY WHEY, INC., Plaintiff and Appellant, v. DAIRY PARTNERS, LLC, a limited liability compnay, and SCOTT STEFAN, Defendant and Appellee.    ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday,  October 29, 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 Appellees. 

The Milky Whey, Inc., (TMW) is a Montana distributor of dairy products. Dairy Partners, LLC, is a Minnesota dairy products supplier. TMW and Dairy Partners entered a contract for 10,000 pounds of a product known as “Swiss trim.” Dairy Partners delivered the product to TMW’s warehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, but 4,475 pounds of it were moldy. Although TMW initiated several email contacts with Dairy Products concerning a refund, no refund was ever paid.

TMW sued Dairy Partners in Montana’s Fourth Judicial District Court for breach of contract, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment, and breach of obligation to pay. Dairy Partners filed a notice of appearance and then moved to dismiss the action on grounds that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over it. The District Court ruled that (1) the notice of appearance did not amount to a waiver of personal jurisdiction, and (2) the court’s exercise of long-arm jurisdiction over Dairy Partners would offend due process notions of fair play and substantial justice. The District Court therefore granted Dairy Partners’ motion to dismiss the action. TMW appeals. 

DA 13-0589   STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. MARK NICHOLAS WHITE, Defendant and Appellant.    ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday,  October 29, 2014, at 10:45 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.

The issue in this appeal is whether Mark Nicholas White’s conviction of assault with a weapon must be vacated under the plain error doctrine because (1) he was not advised of his rights at his initial appearance, and (2) he was not present at all critical stages of the proceedings against him.

At the beginning of White’s initial appearance, his attorney told the court that informing White of his rights would “be of no benefit” and requested an evaluation of White’s fitness to proceed. The court committed White to Montana State Hospital and agreed to review the matter in 60 days. During the following months, the court granted several continuances for the evaluation. After the evaluation was completed, the court declared White unfit to proceed to trial, at a hearing at which White was not present.

At a later date, the court declared White fit to proceed to trial, and found him guilty of the assault with a weapon charge. White appeals.