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 15 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. See the list of scheduled oral arguments below.

All oral arguments are open to the public.  

Click here to see list of previous oral arguments 


2021

September

DA 20-0609

ARIANE WITTMAN and JEREMY TAYLEN, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CITY OF BILLINGS, Defendant and Appellee.  Oral Argument is set for Friday, September 10, 2021, at 9:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:00 a.m. 

In 2019, approximately 1000 gallons of raw sewage backed up into the basement of Ariane Wittman and Jeremy Taylen’s home in Billings due to a blockage in a City sewage line caused by grease accumulation.  Wittman and Taylen sued the City for damages caused by the sewage overflow under the theory of “inverse condemnation” because, they argued, the discharge of sewage into their home constituted a governmental “taking” of their property and they were therefore entitled to compensation under the eminent domain provisions of Article II, Section 29, of the Montana Constitution.

The District Court ruled that Montana’s inverse condemnation law does not allow for Wittman and Taylen to recover damages in this instance because the City’s discharge of sewage into their basement was inadvertent and not a deliberate “taking” of their property.

On appeal, Wittman and Taylen argue that Montana’s inverse condemnation laws do not require that the “taking” be deliberate, but only that it is an inevitable or reasonably foreseeable consequence of a government undertaking.  In this case, they maintain that sewage overflows onto private property due to grease accumulation inevitably occur because of the design of the City’s sewer system.