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Citizens for a Better Flathead v. Bd. of County Comm’rs

Citizens for a Better Flathead v. Bd. of County Comm’rs, 2016 MT 256 (Oct. 11, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in striking Citizens’ expert report; (2) whether the district court erred in determining that the Commission substantially complied with the growth policy; (3) whether the district court erred in determining the Commission allowed meaningful public participation; (4) whether the district court erred in determining the Commission adequately incorporated public comments into its decision-making process; and (5) whether the final clause in part 6 of the revised growth policy survives constitutional scrutiny.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; (3) no; (4) no; and (5) yes.

Affirmed

Facts: The Flathead County Commission adopted the original Flathead County Growth Policy in March 2007.…

State v. Spottedbear

State v. Spottedbear, 2016 MT 243 (Oct. 4, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the improper influence statute is unconstitutionally overbroad; (2) whether the state presented sufficient evidence of improper influence; (3) whether the state presented sufficient evidence to convict Spottedbear of criminal trespass; (4) whether the district court properly admitted evidence of Spottedbear’s prior incident with Officer Walker; and (5) whether trial counsel was ineffective.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) yes; (3) no; (4) yes; and (5) no.

Affirmed and reversed

Facts: In late February 2014, Officer Walker responded to a disturbance between Spottedbear and another customer at Wal-Mart. After speaking to a staff person at the store, Walker told Spottedbear to leave the store.…

Matter of Estate of McClure

Matter of Estate of McClure, 2016 MT 253 (Oct. 11, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether widow has an interest in the trust assets, and (2) whether McClure’s children forfeited their interest in the trust.

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

Affirmed and reversed

Facts: Jack McClure and his wife, Dixie, established a revocable living trust in 1993, using a form they obtained from an out-of-state company, which also provided Jack and Dixie with a binder of documents. The trust agreement stated that the trust’s primary purpose was to provide for Jack and Dixie during their lifetimes. It further provided that upon the death of either Jack or Dixie, the living spouse was to divide the trust estate into two more separate trusts – a survivor’s trust, which would continue to be revocable, and a decedent’s trust, which would be irrevocable.…

Carbon County Resource Council v. Mont. Bd. of Oil & Gas Conservation

Carbon County Resource Council v. Mont. Bd. of Oil & Gas Conservation, 2016 MT 240 (Sept. 27, 2016) (Baker, J.; McGrath, C.J., concurring) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether Plaintiffs’ claims were ripe for judicial review.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed. 

Facts: In October 2013, Energy Corporation of America announced plans to develop oil and gas leases in the Beartooth Mountains. Energy Corp. filed an application with the Board for a permit to drill an exploratory oil and gas well in Carbon County, the Hunt Creek 1–H well. Carbon County Resource Council and Northern Plains Resource Council objected to the permit. The Board held a hearing, after which it approved the permit, stating that Energy Corp. did not propose hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at the site.…

Estate of Woody v. Big Horn County

Estate of Woody v. Big Horn County, 2016 MT 180 (July 26, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in holding that the estate’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Kenneth Woody IV was killed on December 16, 2011 after the vehicle in which he was a passenger crashed, following a high-speed chase by a Big Horn County sheriff’s deputy. On September 11, 2014, Woody’s estate submitted a claim letter to the county, seeking $750,000 for wrongful death and survivorship damages. The letter informed the county it had 120 days to resolve the claim without litigation. The county commissioners acknowledged receipt on September 15, 2014, but never responded.…

Rimrock Chrysler, Inc. v. State

Rimrock Chrysler, Inc. v. State, 2016 MT 165 (July 12, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred by assuming subject matter jurisdiction to review Lithia Motors’ administrative protest; and (2) whether the district court erred by dismissing Rimrock’s petition for judicial review on the grounds of mootness.

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

Affirmed (1), reversed (2), and remanded

Facts: Lithia Motors bought a Dodge franchise in Billings in 2003. At the time, Dodge was a division of Chrysler, LLC (Old Chrysler). Old Chrysler filed for bankruptcy in April 2009. AS part of its restructuring, Old Chrysler rejected 789 existing dealer agreements, including Rimrock’s in May 2009. Most of Old Chrysler’s assets were sold to Chrysler Group, LLC (New Chrysler.…

State v. Cheetham

State v. Cheetham, 2016 MT 151 (June 16, 2014) (Baker, J.; McKinnon, J., concurring) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion by failing to conduct an adequate inquiry into Cheetham’s request for substitute counsel; and (2) whether Cheetham was denied effective assistance of counsel.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) the record is insufficient to make this determination on direct appeal, and is better suited for a postconviction proceeding.

Affirmed

Facts: In January 2014, Cheetham was charged with sexual intercourse without consent, sexual assault, and sexual abuse of children, all of which were alleged to have occurred in 2004 when Cheetham and the victim, NS, were living with the victim’s grandmother. At the time of the offenses, Cheetham was 32 and NS was 5.…

Eldorado Coop Canal Co. v. Hoge

Eldorado Coop Canal Co. v. Hoge, 2016 MT 145 (June 14, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in denying Eldorado’s dissatisfied water user complaint.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: Basin 41O, the Teton River Basin, is currently being adjudicated by the Water Court, which has issued a temporary preliminary decree. Eldorado is a water supply entity that distributes water to shareholders.  Eldorado owns four water rights decreed in Perry, which have historically been administered by a water commissioner appointed by the district court.…

Brunette v. State

Brunette v. State, 2016 MT 128 (May 31, 2016) (Baker, J.; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (5-2, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in denying Brunette’s petition to reinstate his driver’s license. 

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: In April 2015, Officer Brotnov was on patrol in Cut Bank. Police department dispatch received a call form an unknown officer to run a license plat check on Burnette’s vehicle, parked on Central Avenue. Sometime later, Officer Brotnov drove past Brunett’e vehicle, at which point Brotnov turned around and drove in the opposite direction. Brotnov and another officer continued to patrol the area, discussing Brunette’s whereabouts. After observing Brunette pull over and change directions twice, officer Brotnov began to follow Brunette, saw him make a right-hand turn without using his turn signal, and initiated a traffic stop.…

Moe v. Butte-Silver Bow County

Moe v. Butte-Silver Bow County, 2016 MT 103 (May 10, 2016) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court properly granted partial summary judgment to the county on Moe’s claim that it violated Montana’s open meeting laws; (2) whether the district court properly granted partial summary judgment to the county on Moe’s claim that it violated Montana’s public participation laws; (3) whether the district court properly granted partial summary judgment to the county on Moe’s § 1983 claim; (4) whether the district court erred in holding as a matter of law that the county did not discharge Moe in violation of its own policies or for refusing to violate public policy; and (5) whether the district court erred in holding that Moe is entitled to a trial on her claim that the county terminated her employment without good cause.…