Archive | July, 2015

State v. Spady

State v. Spady, 2015 MT 218 (July 30, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.) (7-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred when it granted Spady’s motion to dismiss and concluded the 24/7 Sobriety Program is unconstitutional.

Short Answer: The Court holds that the 24/7 program is constitutional, but that state law and due process require an individualized assessment to determine whetherae defendant is an appropriate candidate for the program. Because the justice court did not conduct such an assessment here, the Court affirms the district court’s decision to remand Spady’s case to justice court with instructions to dismiss the contempt charges against him.

Affirmed and reversed, remanded with instructions

Facts: The 2011 Legislature enacted the 24/7 Sobriety Program Act, §§ 44-4-1201 through -1206, MCA.…

Murray v. Motl

Murray v. Motl, 2015 MT 216 (July 28, 2015) (Cotter, J.; McKinnon, J., concurring) (7-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in dismissing Murray’s declaratory relief action for lacking a justiciable controversy.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Murray was an unsuccessful candidate for the Montana Legislature in the June 2010 primary. On Dec. 18, 2013, the Commissioner of Political Practices issued a decision finding sufficient evidence Murray had violated Montana’s campaign practice laws and that civil adjudication was warranted. The commissioner forwarded the decision to the Lewis & Clark county attorney for consideration, and the county attorney waived his right to participate.

In January 2014, Murray filed an action for declaratory relief in Gallatin County, where he resides, seeking a determination that the commissioner violated § 13-37-124, MCA, when he referred the sufficiency decision to the Lewis & Clark county attorney rather than the Gallatin county attorney.…

George v. Bowler

George v. Bowler, 2015 MT 209 (July 28, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court properly granted summary judgment to Bowlers on the basis of workers’ compensation exclusivity.

Short Answer: yes.


Facts: Robert George was a warehouse manager for Carpets Plus, a corporation whose sole shareholder and president is Curtis Bowler, and whose secretary and treasurer is Jean Bowler. Carpets Plus operates on rented property owned by the Bowlers individuals. In 20008, the Bowlers applied for a permit to build a warehouse on their property for use by Carpets Plus, and listed “owners” as the general contractors for the construction project.

In September 2008, Curtis asked Robert to assemble carpet racks in the uncompleted warehouse. While doing so, Robert fell and was injured.…

Teton Cooperative Reservoir Co. v. Farmers Cooperative Canal Co.

Teton Cooperative Reservoir Co. v. Farmers Cooperative Canal Co., 2015 MT 208 (July 28, 2015) (Wheat, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the Water Court applied an incorrect standard of law in deciding that FCCC’s reservoirs were included in its 1895 and 1897 water rights; (2) whether the Water Court’s findings regarding FCCC’s historical use were clearly erroneous; (3) whether the Water Court’s finding that FCCC’s water use did not increase after the reservoirs were constructed was clearly erroneous; (4) whether the Water Court erred in limiting FCCC’s diversion period in response to TCRC’s objections.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; (3) no; and (4) no.


Facts: FCCC was incorporated in June 1897 to appropriate, transport, and use irrigation water from the Teton River.…

Zinvest, LLC v. Anderson

Zinvest, LLC v. Anderson, 2015 MT 204 (July 21, 2015) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Carbon County properly complied with the procedural requirements of the tax statutes.

Short Answer: No. The procedural requirements in the tax deed statutes must be strictly observed. The documents in this transaction contain several errors that violated the statutes.


Facts: After Donna Anderson failed to pay taxes on her property in Carbon County, the county conducted a tax lien sale in July 2009 and acquired the property. On Aug. 30, 2011 Zinvest mailed a notice to Anderson informing her of its intent to buy the lien from the county if the taxes were not paid within two weeks. Anderson did not pay, and Zinvest bought the lien.…

In the Matter of EAL

In the Matter of EAL, 2015 MT 203 (July 21, 2015) (Wheat, J.; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (4-1, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court’s finding that EAL posed an imminent threat of harm was clearly erroneous; and (2) whether the district court erred in basing findings of fact on statements made in the state’s petition for commitment.

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


Facts: EAL, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and antisocial personality traits, was evaluated by a mental health professional in Libby, who opined that EAL posed an imminent risk of danger to himself and others and recommended detention at St. Patrick Hospital. A petition setting for these facts was filed on May 30, 2014, and on the same day the district court found probable cause and ordered EAL be detained and evaluated.…

State v. RSA

State v. RSA, 2015 MT 202 (July 21, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether RSA was subject to pretrial punishment in violation of his due process rights when the district court held a critical stage hearing at which RSA was not present; (2) whether sufficient evidence supports RSA’s conviction of felony robbery; and (3) whether the district court erred in ruling that RSA’s affirmative defense of justifiable use of force required RSA to testify at trial.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) yes; and (3) no.


Facts: RSA has a lengthy documented history of mental health issues, substantive abuse, and institutionalization. He has a juvenile record as well as an adult criminal history.

In September 2011, RSA stole a tool set from an Ace Hardware store.…

State v. Kebble

State v. Kebble, 2015 MT 195 (July 14, 2015) (Cotter, J.; Rice, J., dissenting) (4-2, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the justice court abused its discretion in denying Kebble’s challenge for cause of a prospective juror; (2) whether the justice court abused its discretion in granting the state’s motion in limine prohibiting Kebble for presenting evidence of the circumstances surrounding suspension of his outfitters license; and (3) whether the justice court erred when it sentenced Kebble under the statute in effect when he committed the crime rather than the one in effect when he was charged and convicted.

Short Answer: (1) Yes. When a potential juror works for the person or entity on whose behalf the prosecution was initiated, a challenge for cause must be granted; (2) no; and (3) no.…

Bos Terra, LP v. Beers

Bos Terra, LP v. Beers, 2015 MT 201 (July 14, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court properly found that the June 20, 1977 easement was an easement in gross; (2) whether the district court properly held that Bos Terra is a third party assignee rather than a successor to the easement; and (3) whether the district court erred in finding Bos Terra’s use of the ditch easement permissive rather than prescriptive.

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) yes; and (3) no.


Facts: In 1977, Barrett granted to Stevensons and Kolars a right of way easement for transporting water. Stevensons and Kolars installed a pipeline from the Judith River to the top of a hill, at which point a 100-foot-long ditch was dug to connect the pipeline to the Enterprise Ditch, which had been abandoned.…