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 


2023

March

OP 22-0587

MELISSA GROO, Petitioner, v. MONTANA ELEVENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, Respondent. Oral Argument is set for Friday, March 31, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. in the George Dennison Theatre at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:30 a.m.

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

Triple D Game Farm in Flathead County offers the opportunity to photograph wildlife that it maintains at its facility. In July 2020, Heather Keepers, who worked for Triple D, left that employment and moved out of state. In August 2020, she contacted Melissa Groo, a New York wildlife photographer. Keepers alleged that Triple D was mistreating its animals and she asked Groo to help her shut down Triple D.

Groo then used social media to post public messages, send messages to businesses and individuals, and “tag” photographers with remarks that accused Triple D of mistreating its animals and urged the recipients not to patronize Triple D. Groo was not physically present in Montana when she sent these messages, but between one-quarter and one-third of the messages’ recipients were located in Montana.

In January 2022, Triple D sued Groo in Flathead County District Court, claiming that her social media campaign had financially harmed it. Groo moved to dismiss the lawsuit because she alleged the court had no personal jurisdiction over her. The District Court denied Groo’s motion, concluding it had specific jurisdiction over Groo because Groo used social media to target a Montana audience with the intent to put a Montana business out of business and Groo had not proven that exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable.

Groo then petitioned the Montana Supreme Court to assert supervisory control over the District Court. She argues that the court erred in concluding it had jurisdiction over her and it would be unjust to force her to participate in a trial in a forum that lacks personal jurisdiction over her.

April

DA 22-0064

MONTANA ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION CENTER and SIERRA CLUB, Petitioners, Plaintiffs, and Appellees, v. WESTMORELAND ROSEBUD MINING, LLC, f/k/a WESTERN ENERGY CO., NAT. RES. PARTNERS, L.P., INT’L UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS, LOCAL 400, and N. CHEYENNE COAL MINERS ASS’N, Respondents, Respondent-Intervenors, and Appellants, and MONTANA DEP’T OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY, Respondent and Appellant, and MONTANA BD. OF ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW, Respondent. Oral Argument is set for Monday, April 3, 2023, at 10:30 a.m. in the Strand Union Building, Ballroom A, on the campus of Montana State University, Bozeman, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 10:00 a.m.

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

The Montana Environmental Information Center and Sierra Club (Conservation Groups) challenged a permit the Montana Board of Environmental Review (BER) approved that allowed Westmoreland to expand the Rosebud Mine. The Sixteenth Judicial District Court, Rosebud County, reversed BER’s decision and remanded the matter to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Westmoreland and DEQ appealed. Westmoreland argues that the District Court improperly adopted findings that conflicted with BER’s and incorrectly fashioned relief other than remanding the matter to BER. DEQ argues that the court erred in concluding that the Conservation Groups did not have the burden of proof and need not exhaust administrative remedies, incorrectly determined that DEQ was limited in the evidence and argument it could present to BER, and exceeded its authority by allowing the Conservation Groups to recover attorney fees against DEQ.

The Montana Supreme Court has asked the parties to address three issues at oral argument: (1) Did the hearing officer err in limiting the issues and evidence the Conservation Groups could present in the contested case proceedings while allowing DEQ and Westmoreland to present evidence outside the administrative record on which DEQ based its permitting decision? (2) Did BER err in its allocation of the burden of proof? (3) Did the District Court err in reversing BER’s decision to uphold DEQ’s approval of the AM4 permit amendment upon BER’s finding that AM4 is designed to prevent material damage?