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 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 


 

2020

May

If you plan to attend the argument in-person, you MUST wear a mask and comply with all other Phase One safety guidelines.

DA 19-0510 - JAMES REAVIS, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. PENNSYLVANIA HIGHER EDUCATION ASSISTANCE AGENCY d/b/a FEDLOAN SERVICING, Defendant and Appellee.

Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

James Reavis consolidated his student loans in 2012 in order to qualify for the Public Student Loan Forgiveness program. His loans were serviced by Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency under its d/b/a Fedloan Servicing.

In 2018, Reavis filed suit against Fedloan, alleging that it was not properly calculating and crediting his loan payments and thus delaying his student loan forgiveness. Fedloan moved to dismiss Reavis’s complaint, arguing that his claims under Montana law were preempted by the federal Higher Education Act. The District Court agreed with Fedloan, ruling that Reavis’s allegations all implicate “disclosure requirements” and that improper disclosure claims are preempted by federal law. It therefore dismissed his case.

On appeal, Reavis argues that the HEA does not expressly preempt his claims against Fedloan because Congress did not intend to preempt state law claims when it enacted the HEA. He also argues the District Court misapplied case law in analyzing Fedloan’s motion to dismiss and improperly relied on the Department of Education’s interpretation of the HEA. The Montana Attorney General, Montana Federation of Public Employees, Veterans Education Success, Montana Legal Services Association, National Consumer Law Center, and Student Borrower Protection Center have filed amicus briefs in this case, also arguing that Reavis’s state law claims are not preempted by federal law. Fedloan argues that the District Court correctly dismissed Reavis’s complaint because the HEA preempts his state law claims.

June

DA 19-0343 - ROBERT DANNELS, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, Defendant and Appellant.

Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, June 10, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

In 2010, Robert Dannels sued BNSF Railway Company under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act for work-related injuries. After Dannels obtained a jury verdict of $1.7 million, BNSF moved for a new trial. After BNSF’s motion for a new trial was denied, Dannels and BNSF settled the dispute for $1.7 million.

Dannels then filed a bad-faith claim against BNSF, arguing that BNSF violated Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices Act in its handling of Dannels’ FELA claim. BNSF moved for summary judgment in the District Court, arguing that Dannels’ bad-faith claims under Montana statutes and common law are preempted by FELA. The District Court denied BNSF’s motion. Dannels and BNSF ultimately agreed to a stipulated judgment that preserved BNSF’s right to argue on appeal that Dannels’ claims are preempted by FELA. This question of whether FELA preempts Dannels’ claims is the subject of this appeal.

DA 19-0680 - CITY OF BOZEMAN, Petitioner and Appellant, v. MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF NATRUAL RESOURCES AND CONSERVATION, an agency of the State of Montana, and UTILITY SOLUTIONS, LLC, Respondents and Appellees.

Oral Argument is set for Wednesday, June 17, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Joseph P. Mazurek Justice Building, Helena, Montana.

Utility Solutions submitted an application to change the place of use for a water use permit. Utility Solutions claimed there were properties that fell into gaps between current place of use permits and it wanted to extend services into those areas. The City of Bozeman objected, arguing that some of the areas affected by Utility Solutions’ application overlapped areas served by Bozeman’s 2017 Water Facility Plan. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) granted the application.

Bozeman petitioned the District Court to review DNRC’s decision. It maintained that Utility Solutions’ permit would adversely affect its plan to provide municipal water to these areas and that Montana law protected its Water Facility Plan against adverse effects.

The District Court denied Bozeman’s petition, ruling that Bozeman’s planning interest was not the type of interest the law protects from a change of place of use of an existing water right.

On appeal, Bozeman alleges that the DNRC’s decision to grant Utility Solutions’ application was based on false information that the permit would fill in service area gaps because no such gaps existed under Bozeman’s current Water Facility Plan. Further, the District Court erred when it concluded that the Montana Water Use Act did not protect Bozeman’s planned use of the water from the adverse effects of the permit allowing Utility Solutions to change the place of use.