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.
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.
DA 13-0644 THE ESTATE OF JUDITH K. GLEASON, and JAN GREGSON and JAMES GLEASON, as Personal Representatives of the Estate of Judith Gleason, Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CENTRAL UNITED LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, HELENA SCHOOL DISTRICT #1, GAIL MOONEY and DOES 1-10, Defendants, Appellees, and Cross-Appellant. ---------------------------------------------- CENTRAL UNITED LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Counter-Plaintiff, and Cross-Appellant, v. THE ESTATE OF JUDITH K. GLEASON, and JAN GREGSON and JAMES GLEASON, as Personal Representatives of the Estate of Judith Gleason, Counter-Defendants. ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Tuesday, November 18, 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 40 minutes for the Appellant and 30 minutes for the Appellees/Cross-Appellants.
Judith K. Gleason held a Central United Life Insurance (CUL) policy that included benefits for cancer treatment. In March of 2002, Gleason was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. Although the cancer went into remission, it returned in 2006 and took her life. Gleason never notified CUL of her diagnoses, nor did she submit any claims.
Gleason’s Estate notified CUL of her illness and death, and filed claims under the insurance policy. Citing a policy provision requiring notification within 15 months after a covered loss began, CUL paid only for medical expenses incurred within the previous 15 months. The Estate then filed this lawsuit, alleging that CUL had breached the insurance contract and violated the Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA). It also requested punitive damages. A jury found that CUL owed no additional contract benefits and that, while CUL had violated the UTPA, there was no damage. The court awarded CUL its costs of suit but also awarded the Estate its attorney fees and costs under the terms of the insurance contract.
The Estate raises 4 issues on appeal, and CUL raises 5 issues on cross-appeal. At issue are several of the District Court’s rulings on the UTPA claim, and its rulings regarding the notice condition, application of the statute of limitations to some claims, prerequisites for punitive damages, and the awards of costs and fees.
DA 14-0057 CLOUD PEAK ENERGY RESOURCES, LLC, Plaintiff, Appellee and Cross-Appellant, v. STATE OF MONTANA, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, Defendant and Appellant. ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Tuesday, November 25, 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 40 minutes for the Appellant and 30 minutes for the Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
A DOR audit resulted in a determination that Cloud Peak Energy owed an additional $1,925,074 in Montana coal production taxes for the years 2005-2007 for the Spring Creek Coal Mine in Big Horn County. Cloud Peak requested a declaratory judgment to the contrary from the First Judicial District Court.
Judge Sherlock determined that DOR had incorrectly imputed prices on non-arms-length coal sales transactions as of the dates of shipment, instead of as of the dates of the sales contracts. DOR appeals that determination. On cross appeal, Cloud Peak argues the District Court erred in allowing DOR to tax freeze-proofing and dust-suppressing additives to coal mined before June 30, 2009. Cloud Peak contends the tax on such additives should apply only to coal mined after that date.
DA 14-0183 ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. POSNIEN, INC., Defendant, Counterclaimant and Appellant. ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday, December 10, 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 Appellee.
Kalispell Allstate Insurance agent Posnien, Inc., sold its business to Baird 7 in 2007. As part of the deal, Baird 7 gave Posnien a security interest in the “book of business” (ongoing commissions on customer accounts). Allstate later terminated the agency after Baird 7 made a fraudulent insurance claim. Allstate brought this declaratory judgment action to have the District Court determine the rights to, and allocation of, ongoing commission payments.
The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Allstate on Posnien’s counterclaim of conversion of money for Allstate’s failure to pay Posnien the ongoing commissions. Posnien contends that was an error of law. Resolution of the issue hinges on the nature of Posnien’s security interest—did the security interest attach to the ongoing commissions, or to Baird 7’s interest in the commissions, which has terminated?