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Judicial Branch

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 

2015

APRIL

--DA 14-0260  MONTANA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. PRICELINE.COM, INC.; TRAVEL WEB, LLC; TRIP NETWORK, INC.; ORBITZ, LLC; EXPEDIA, INC.; HOTELS, COM, L.P.; HOTWIRE, INC.; TRAVELOCITY.COM, LP; SUITE59.COM, LLC; and DOES 1 through 1000, Inclusive, Defendants and Appellees.     ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Friday,  April 10, 2015, 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 Appellant and 30 minutes for the Appellees.

The First Judicial District Court granted summary judgment to Priceline and other online travel companies (OTCs) in this action for declaratory and injunctive relief concerning the Montana lodging facility use tax and sales tax on lodging and vehicle rentals. The Department of Revenue (DOR) appeals.

DOR raises the following issues on appeal:

  • Whether the District Court erred by upholding the OTCs’ calculation of taxes based on their wholesale cost, instead of on the total amount paid by a hotel guest or car renter.
  • Whether the District Court erred by disregarding the § 15-68-103(1), MCA, presumption of taxability.
  • Whether the District Court erred by treating the OTCs as taxpayers rather than as tax collectors.
  • Whether the District Court erred when it failed to rule on the OTCs’ practice of keeping all monies, including taxes, in “breakage” transactions (in which the guest or car renter paid for the room or car but then did not make the trip).

Friend-of-the-Court briefs have been filed by the Multistate Tax Commission (in support of DOR) and the Montana Chamber of Commerce and Montana Taxpayers’ Association (in support of the OTCs).

--DA 14-0089  STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. ROBERT E. SPADY, Defendant and Appellee.  ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Monday, April 27, 2015, 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 Appellant and 30 minutes for the Appellee.

Robert Spady was granted pretrial release on misdemeanor DUI and careless driving charges. Conditions of his release included that he undergo twice-daily breath testing under the 24/7 sobriety program codified at Title 44, chapter 4, part 12, MCA.

Spady was later charged with criminal contempt of court based on his failure to comply, on three occasions, with the breath testing requirement. He moved to dismiss the contempt charges on several constitutional grounds, including violation of his rights to substantive due process and equal protection, and violation of the excessive bail clause. The Lincoln County Justice Court rejected Spady’s constitutional challenges, and Spady and the State of Montana entered a plea agreement under which he pled nolo contendere to the contempt charges. Spady then appealed to the Nineteenth Judicial District Court. The District Court concluded the 24/7 statutes on which the breath testing requirement was based (1) are void for vagueness; (2) amount to an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority; and (3) impose pretrial punishment in violation of due process. The State appeals.

Bypassing several procedural arguments, the Court has agreed to review the constitutional challenges to the 24/7 program under its power of supervisory control. In addition to the arguments raised previously, Spady’s counsel in this appeal argues that pretrial breath testing amounts to an unconstitutional search.

MAY

DA 13-0763  CODY WILLIAM MARBLE, Petitioner and Appellant, v. STATE OF MONTANA, Respondent and Appellee.  ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Wednesday,  May 20, 2015, 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.

Cody Marble appeals the denial of his request for a new trial on his 2002 conviction of sexual intercourse without consent. The Fourth Judicial District Court dismissed Marble’s petition for postconviction relief after determining that the victim’s inconsistent statements following Marble’s conviction do not affirmatively and unquestionably establish Marble’s innocence, thus failing to meet the standard necessary to justify a new trial under this Court’s opinion in Beach II. The question on appeal is whether the District Court applied the correct test in its review of Marble’s request for a new trial.