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 


2022

September

OP 22-0023

CHARLES DANIEL SMITH, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, INC., Defendant and Appellee. Oral Argument is set for Friday, September 23, 2022, at 9:30 a.m. at the Delta Hotels Helena Colonial in Helena, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Live-streamed through the Court’s website at http://stream.vision.net/MT-JUD/

In 2016, Charles Daniel Smith became a vice president at Charter Communications, Inc. His job duties required him to travel to certain sites on a quarterly basis. In July 2017, Smith took medical leave, returning to work in November 2017. In January 2018, Charter fired him. In its discharge letter, Charter claimed that Smith failed to fulfill his job’s 50% travel requirement.

Smith sued under Montana’s Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act. Charter moved for summary judgment. A federal district judge determined that it was unclear if Smith’s job had a 50% travel requirement. However, the judge determined that it was clear Smith had failed to meet the quarterly travel requirement and thus granted judgment in Charter’s favor.

Smith appealed to the Ninth Circuit, arguing it was improper for the court to consider his failure to meet the quarterly travel requirement since Charter did not list that as a basis for termination in its discharge letter. Smith argued that in 1995, the Montana Supreme Court held that an employer may only rely upon the reasons it gave in the discharge letter to defend itself in a wrongful discharge case.

However, in 1999, the Montana Legislature amended the WDEA so that it no longer requires employers to provide a full and complete statement of the reason for discharge. Because of the change in the law, the Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Montana Supreme Court: Whether, in an action for wrongful discharge pursuant to Montana Code Annotated section 39-2-904, an employer may defend a termination solely for the reasons given in a discharge letter, as the court held in Galbreath v. Golden Sunlight Mines, Inc., 890 P.2d 382 (Mont. 1995), or whether the 1999 statutory amendments have superseded the Galbreath rule.