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Bitterrooters for Planning, Inc. v. Mont. Dept. of Envtl. Quality

Bitterrooters for Planning, Inc. v. Mont. Dept. of Envtl. Quality, 2017 MT 222 (Sept. 5, 2017) (Sandefur, J.) (7-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether MEPA requires DEQ to consider non-water-quality-related environmental impacts of the construction and operation of a retail store as secondary impacts of a groundwater discharge permit for an onsite wastewater treatment system; and (2) whether MEPA requires DEQ to identify the actual owner or operator of a wastewater treatment facility prior to issuing a groundwater discharge permit.

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

Affirmed and reversed

Facts: In April 2014, DEQ received an application for a Montana groundwater pollution control system permit to discharge wastewater into groundwater on the site of a contemplated commercial development near Hamilton.…

Blaine County v. Stricker

Blaine County v. Stricker, 2017 MT 80 (April 11, 2017) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d and rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether Judge Sherlock correctly concluded that the commission improperly modified the hearing officer’s findings; and (2) whether Judge Reynolds correctly concluded that Judge Sherlock erred.

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

Affirmed and reversed

Facts: Allen Longsoldier, Jr., an 18-year-old Native American, died from delirium tremens while in custody at the Hill County Detention Center. Longsoldier’s estate brought this case from the Human rights Bureau, alleging discrimination on the basis of race and disability. The hearing officer concluded the counties had not discriminated against Longsoldier. The estate appealed to the Human Rights Commission, which found clear error in the findings and concluded the counties had discriminated and remanded to the hearing officer to determine the appropriate relief.…

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.…

Peretti v. State Dept. of Revenue

Peretti v. State Dept. of Revenue, 2016 MT 105 (May 10, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in reversing the State Tax Appeal Board’s valuation order; (2) whether the district court erred in awarding administrative trial costs to the taxpayers; and (3) whether the district court erred in ordering DOR to return all taxes paid under protest. 

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) yes; and (3) yes.

Reversed with instructions to reinstate the STAB valuation order

Facts: Perettis own Flathead Lake property with lake frontage. DOR appraised the property in 2012, based on market value in July 2008, and Perettis appealed to the county board. The county board reduced the appraised values from $1,356,201 to $1,192,500 for the land, and $166,980 to $125,000 for the improvements.…

Mashek v. Dept. of Public Health & Human Svcs.

Mashek v. Dept. of Public Health & Human Svcs., 2016 MT 86 (April 12, 2016) (Rice, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the hearing officer and district court erred in holding that the statutory Broadband Pay Plan factors preempt the collective bargaining process.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed

Facts: Plaintiffs are compliance specialists for the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) of DPHHS, pay band 6, employed by the state and belonging to MEA-MFT Local 4573. The collective bargaining agreements to which 4573 and the state are parties have two-year terms beginning on July 1 of odd years and ending on June 30 two years later. In May 2011, while Local 4573 was negotiating for the 2011-2013 contract period, plaintiffs filed a complaint against the department alleging that their pay was not “internally equitable” in comparison with pay band 6 compliance specialists in other state agencies, in violation of § 2-18-301(4), MCA.…

In re Vaughn School Transfer Petition

In re Vaughn School Transfer Petition, 2015 MT 313 (Nov 3, 2015) (Rice, J.; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (4-1, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred by affirming a panel of county school superintendents’ decision to dismiss a school territory transfer petition.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: The Hillcrest Hutterite Colony Attendance Center in Cascade County was formed after several colony members petitioned the Vaughn School District’s Board of Trustees in February 2013. The school district and the colony entered into a contract under which the school district agreed to provide educational services in exchange for use of a colony facility. The parties agreed that the school would be operated as a public school of the Vaughn School District. The district employs a full-time teacher and a teacher’s aide at the center, and provides books, equipment and teaching supplies.…

Cruson v. Missoula Elec. Cooperative, Inc.

Cruson v. Missoula Elec. Cooperative, Inc., 2015 MT 309 (Oct. 27, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in affirming the Board of labor Appeals’ conclusion that Cruson was disqualified for unemployment benefits because his voluntary termination did not constitute good cause attributable to his employment.

Short Answer: No.

Affirmed

Facts: Missoula Electric Cooperative employed Cruson as a master electrician from October 2001 until May 2013. In 2009, shortly after Mark Hayden became general manager for MEC, Cruson complained that unqualified employees were doing work that only an electrician could perform, jeopardizing his license. In response, Hayden implemented a computer system that allowed employees like Cruson to review whether work orders were being assigned properly. MEC contacted the state electrical board in 2012 for guidance regarding the scope of practice of a lineman versus an electrician, and received an email from the board’s attorney confirming that certain electrical work exceeds the scope of a lineman’s practice.…

In re Poplar Elem. v. Froid Elem.

In re Poplar Elem. v. Froid Elem., 2015 MT 278 (Sept. 17, 2015) (Rice. J.; Shea, J., dissenting) (4-1, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in holding the county superintendent abused his discretion by receiving unsworn statements as evidence in the territory transfer hearing.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: In March 2013, Froid’s board of trustees and a group of Roosevelt County electors petitioned the Roosevelt County school superintendent to transfer territory from the Poplar school district to the Froid school district. Poplar opposed the transfer. By statute, the county superintendent was required to hold a hearing on the petition. She appointed Paul Huber to act as deputy superintendent to hold the hearing and decide the petition.…

Whitehall Wind, LLC, v. Montana Public Service Commission

Whitehall Wind, LLC, v. Montana Public Service Commission, 2015 MT 119 (May 5, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court properly reversed the PSC’s determination that Whitehall had not established a legally enforceable obligation to deliver energy to Northwestern.

Short Answer: No.

Reversed and remanded for reinstatement of the PSC’s June 2012 order

Facts: Federal law requires large electric utilities to buy available energy from qualifying facilities, which may provide energy, capacity or both pursuant to a contract or a legally enforceable obligation. Montana law requires the PSC to set rates and conditions if a qualifying small power production facility and a utility are unable to mutually agree to a contract for the sale of electricity.

Whitehall Wind is a qualifying facility, and Northwestern is a public utility subject to the PSC’s jurisdiction.…

Montanans Against Assisted Suicide v. Board of Medical Examiners

Montanans Against Assisted Suicide v. Board of Medical Examiners, 2015 MT 112 (April 28, 2015) (Wheat, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court properly dismissed MAAS’s petition as moot.

Short Answer: Yes.

Affirmed

Facts: The Montana Supreme Court issued its opinion in Baxter v. State, 2009 MT 449, on Dec. 31, 2009, holding that a terminally ill patient’s consent to physician aid in dying constitutes a statutory defense to a charge of homicide against the aiding physician when no other consent exceptions apply. At the request of two doctors, the Board of Medical Examiners drafted a position statement explaining the effect of Baxter on its discipline policy for physicians who aid patients in dying. The board notified interested persons of the final draft, and adopted an amended version of that draft in January 2012.…