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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.

Click Here to see list of previous Oral Arguments
List of Audio Files 


APRIL 2014

DA 13-0472  LYLE PHILLIPS, ANNE DEE RENO, TURNER ASKEW, and BEN WHITTEN, Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. CITY OF WHITEFISH, Defendant, Third-Party Plaintiff, and Appellant, and THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF FLATHEAD COUNTY, Defendant, Third-Party Defendant and Appellee, and DAN WEINBERG and ED McGREW, individually and on behalf of LET WHITEFISH VOTE, a ballot committee lawfully organized under the laws of Montana; MARY PERSON and MARILYN R. NELSON, Intervenors and Appellants.    ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Friday,  April 11, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. at the George Dennison Theater, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:30 a.m.    Oral argument times shall be 40 minutes for the Appellants and 30 minutes for the Appellees.

This case arises from long-term issues between the City of Whitefish and Flathead County regarding land use regulation in a 2-mile-wide “donut” surrounding Whitefish city limits. In this case, the District Court invalidated a 2011 City referendum which repealed a city-county resolution on the subject. The City appeals, arguing that (1) the post-election challenge to the referendum was filed too late; (2) the District Court erred when it determined that the resolution was an administrative act that was not repealable through the referendum process; and (3) the effect of the repeal of the referendum should be to return the City and County to a 2005 interlocal agreement under which the City had zoning and planning jurisdiction for the “donut.”


OP 14-0096  STATE OF MONTANA, Petitioner, v. MONTANA NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, TETON COUNTY, THE HONORABLE ROBERT OLSON, DISTRICT JUDGE, Respondent.  ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Monday, April 28, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. in the Strand Union Building, Ballroom A on the campus of Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:30 a.m. Oral argument times shall be 40 minutes for the Petitioner and 30 minutes for the Respondent.

In this case, the State of Montana asks the Montana Supreme Court to take supervisory control over the 18th Judicial District Court in a pending deliberate homicide case. The defendant in that case, Martin Vincent Lau, has raised the defense of justifiable use of force in defense of self. The question is whether Lau may present that defense based on a written statement he has made, in conjunction with testimony of other witnesses or, as the State argues, he must personally testify in support of his defense.

The District Court has made a pretrial ruling that Lau may place his defense at issue by making an offer of proof to the court, outside the jury’s presence, and raising the issue in his opening statement. The court also has ruled that Lau may elicit information about his knowledge of the victim’s past specific acts of violence through cross-examination of a State investigator who interviewed him after the homicide. The defense argues these rulings reflect the enhanced rights of Montana citizens to defend themselves under changes made to Montana law in 2009 in HB 228, “An Act Preserving and Clarifying Laws Relating to Self-Defense and the Right to Bear Arms."


MAY 2014

DA 13-0610  TINA MALCOMSON, Petitioner and Appellee, v. LIBERTY NORTHWEST, Respondent and Appellant.    ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Tuesday,  May 6, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. at the Auditorium of the Library/Auditorium Building, Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Butte, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:30 a.m.    Oral argument times shall be 40 minutes for the Appellant and 30 minutes for the Appellee.

Section 39-71-604(3), MCA, allows a workers compensation insurer to communicate privately with an injured worker’s health care providers in relation to the worker’s claim for benefits, without prior notice to the injured worker. In this case, injured worker Tina Malcomson convinced the Workers’ Compensation Court the communication allowed under that statute violated her constitutional rights to privacy and due process of law.

The issues presented on appeal are whether, in declaring § 39-71-604(3), MCA, unconstitutional as applied in Malcomson’s case, the Workers’ Compensation Court (1) failed to apply the proper two-part test for determining whether Malcomson had a constitutionally-protected privacy interest and (2) failed to require Malcomson to prove unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt and to look to every possible legitimate legislative purpose that would support the statute’s constitutionality.


DA 12-0638  STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. KARLYLE STEVEN LEE PLOUFFE, Defendant and Appellant.  ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday,  May 14, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Justice Building, Helena, Montana.  Oral argument times shall be 30 minutes for the Appellant and 25 minutes for the Appellee.

Since 2005, Montana has used drug treatment courts to assist participants with ending their addictions to drugs and ceasing criminal behavior associated with drug use and addiction. This case concerns the extent to which information revealed in a drug treatment court setting may be used in bringing new criminal charges against a participant.

Plouffe, a drug treatment court participant, was charged with new criminal offenses based, in large part, on information he gave to a drug court team member. Plouffe moved to suppress that information on grounds that its use violated his right to counsel and his privilege against self-incrimination, and also disregarded Montana statutes regarding unlawful obtainment of incriminating evidence. The Fourth Judicial District Court denied Plouffe’s motion to suppress, and Plouffe was convicted of the criminal charges against him. He appeals.


DA 12-0742  STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. JAMES PILLER, Defendant and Appellant.   ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday,  May 28, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtroom of the Montana Supreme Court, Justice Building, Helena, Montana.  Oral argument times shall be 30 minutes for the Appellant and 25 minutes for the Appellee.