Archive | January, 2015

In the Matter of JAB and LMF

In the Matter of JAB and LMF, 2015 MT 28 (Jan. 27, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (7-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion in terminating Mother’s parental rights to LMF; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion in terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to JAB without requiring reunification services.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) no.


Facts: Mother is the birth mother of LMF, born in 2008, and JAB, born in 2012. Father is the birth father of JAB. Mother and Father struggle with methamphetamine addiction. In 2009, DPHHS removed LMF from Mother’s care based on allegations she was caring for LMF while under the influence of meth. LMF was placed with her paternal grandparents, who have cared for her most of the past five years.…

Meine v. Hren Ranches, Inc.

Meine v. Hren Ranches, Inc., 2015 MT 21 (Jan. 27, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether estates must be contiguous to create an easement by prescription, and (2) whether substantial evidence supported the district court’s finding that the landowners had established a prescriptive easement over the canyon road.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) yes.


Facts: Hrens bought land in Small Horn Canyon in 1985 from Glenn Crampton, whose family originally homesteaded the land. The land is primarily used for summer grazing of livestock. Small Horn Canyon Road is a primitive route beginning north of Hrens’ property and traveling south for about 10 miles. Meines began using the road about 90 years ago. The road can accommodate logging trucks but not a tractor-trailer hauling cattle.…

State v. Byrd

State v. Byrd, 2015 MT 20 (Jan. 27, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in imposing $800 in public defender fees in the written judgment after imposing $500 in the oral pronouncement; and (2) whether the district court erred in denying Byrd credit for time served in a residential treatment facility.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) no.

Affirmed and reversed

Facts: Amanda Byrd was convicted of fraudulently obtaining dangerous drugs, a felony, in 2008. In January 2011 she was charged with a second offense of the same crime. In exchange for her guilty plea to a single count, the parties agreed to an 8-year sentence to the DOC, with 3 years suspended.…

In re SCB

In re SCB, 2015 MT 19 (Jan. 27, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether district court properly granted venue change in parenting plan action.

Short Answer: No.

Reversed & remanded

Facts: SCB was born in 2006. SCB and Burrington have lived with Burrington’s mother, Hovland, in Flathead County for most of SCB’s life. Hovland financially supports Burrington and SCB.

Burrington was convincted of her fourth DUI in December 2013 and sentenced to four years with the DOC, all suspended. She and SCB moved in March 2014 to Havre. In May 2014 Burrington’s probation officer conducted a home visit, found Burrington severely intoxicated, and called police. Burrington was arrested and detained for 20 days, and Hovland was contacted to pick up SCB in Havre.…

Milky Whey, Inc. v. Dairy Partners, LLC

Milky Whey, Inc. v. Dairy Partners, LLC, 2015 MT 18 (Jan. 27, 2015) (Baker, J.; McGrath, C.J., dissenting) (5-2, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether seller’s notice of appearance was responsive pleading barring it from subsequently raising lack of personal jurisdiction; (2) whether Montana had personal jurisdiction over seller.

Short Answer: (1) No; and (2) no.


Facts: Milky Whey (MW) is registered Montana corporation based in Missoula, supplying food manufacturers with dairy commodities. Dairy Partners (DP) is a dairy supply company in Minnesota that sells products to brokers like MW. From 2010-2013, MW and DP completed nine purchase orders via phone, fax, or email. Most involved DP contacting MW in Montana.

On Jan. 23, 2013, DP prepaid $12,500 to buy 10,000 lbs.…

City of Helena v. Heppner

City of Helena v. Heppner, 2015 MT 15 (Jan. 20, 2015) (Shea, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court properly held that Heppner’s speedy-trial rights were not violated.

Short Answer: No. 375 days from arrest to entry of plea triggers a constitutional speedy-trial analysis. The Court remands with instructions to take evidence and make findings and conclusions.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Heppner was arrested for DUI on April 29, 2012. He refused to comply with a search warrant for a blood sample. A complaint was filed the next day in justice court charging Heppner with DUI, a misdemeanor, and concealing or tampering with evidence, a felony.

On May 15, 2012, the state charged Heppner with DUI and tampering with evidence.…

State v. Thorpe

State v. Thorpe, 2015 MT 14 (Jan. 20, 2015) (Baker. J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court’s restitution order was proper.

Short Answer: No. The Court remands for a determination of a causal relation between the criminal conduct and the counseling.

Vacated and remanded

Facts: Erika, mother of then-four-year-old AL, sought an order of protection in 2009 to restrain Thorpe from being near AL based on AL’s statements suggesting Thorpe sexually abused her. A temporary order issued, and was made permanent in March 2012. From December 2009-December 2012, AL received counseling for the alleged abuse.

Several times in the spring of 2012, Erika saw Thorpe’s car parked outside a house near AL’s school, and called 9-1-1.…

Cloud Peak Energy Resources, LLC v. Dept. of Revenue

Cloud Peak Energy Resources, LLC v. Dept. of Revenue, 2015 MT 10 (Jan. 13, 2015) (Rice, J.) (7-0, aff’d & rev’d) 

Issue: (1) Whether the Department of Revenue incorrectly imputed revenue from non-arm’s length coal sales under § 15-35-107, MCA; and (2) whether coal additives used from 2005-2007 are subject to the coal tax.

Short Answer: (1) Yes. The “time of sale” was when coal contracts were negotiated, not when coal was shipped. (2) Yes. The plain language of § 15-35-102(5) was broad enough to include these costs.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part

Facts: Cloud Peak owns and operates Spring Creek coal mine. In 2008 the Department audited Cloud Peak’s coal tax payments for 2005-2007.…

Marriage of Edwards

Marriage of Edwards, 2015 MT 9 (Jan. 13, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in ordering Jim’s corporation to undergo a Divisive Reorganization to effect an equitable distribution of marital assets, and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion in valuing and distributing the marital estate.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) no.


Facts: Jim and Melinda Edwards divorced after 23 years of marriage. The majority of marital assets were held in Jim’s corporation, Bi Lo Foods, Inc. Based on considerable expert testimony about distributing corporate assets in a marital dissolution, the district court ordered Jim to proceed with a Divisive Reorganization (D Reorg) under IRS Rules to accomplish the division of assets ordered by the court and avoid immediate tax consequences to Bi-Lo or the parties.…

Woods v. State ex rel. Montana State Hospital

Woods v. State ex rel. Montana State Hospital, 2015 MT 8 (Jan. 13, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the Montana State Hospital had a duty to warn Catherine Woods of the risk of violent behavior by her former boyfriend after his release from involuntary commitment.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Justin Schiller was involuntarily committed to the Montana State Hospital in Jun 2008. He was released 12 days later, and his relationship with Catherine Woods ended thereafter. In July 2008, Schiller bought a handgun. In November 2008, Schiller saw Woods at a bar with a male friend. Schiller had been drinking. When Woods and the friend left the bar, Schiller followed. He assaulted Wood’s friend and fired multiple shots at Woods as she tried to drive away.…