Archive | June, 2016

State v. Charlo-Whitworth

State v. Charlo-Whitworth, 2016 MT 157 (June 28, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in not giving the defendant’s proposed jury instruction on accomplice liability.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Riley Charlo-Whitworth and Alexis Paul lived together with Paul’s 2-year-old child, MP. One evening in January 2013, Whitworth drove Paul to work around 7 pm, then returned home with MP. He put MP to bed around 8:30 pm, but the child awoke crying around 10 pm. Whitworth grew frustrated and shoved the child into a wall, spanked him and hit him. Because MP was bleeding, Whitworth gave him a bath.…

In the Matter of AS & AM

In the Matter of AS & AM, 2016 MT 156 (June 28, 2016) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion and violated Mother’s constitutional rights by terminating her parental rights; and (2) whether the district court lacked jurisdiction and abused its discretion in terminating Father’s parental rights to AS. 

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


Facts: AS was born in 2011, and AM was born in 2008. DPHHS became involved with the family in 2014 upon receiving reports that Father, Mother, and Mother’s boyfriend were involved with methamphetamine. The department found AS but did not find father. AS was placed into protective custody, and the parents were served by publication.

A few months later, Mother called the department and told a child protective specialist she was in Great Falls and wanted to pick up her daughter.  …

In re the Marriage of Healy

In re the Marriage of Healy, 2016 MT 154 (June 21, 2016) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court had jurisdiction to decide the CSED motion when there was no showing of changed circumstances making the existing child support obligation unconscionable; (2) whether the district court misapprehended the evidence when it made findings about John’s future income potential; and (3) whether the district court erred when it imposed a 10% interest penalty on the parents’ required college trust contributions.

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) no, but it abused its discretion in making it retroactive to February 2014; and (3) no.

Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded

Facts: The Healys married in 1998. They had a daughter in 199 and a son in 2000.…

Hanson v. State

Hanson v. State, 2016 MT 152 (June 21, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion in dismissing Hanson’s petition for postconviction relief as a sanction for failing to comply with discovery.

Short Answer:  No.


Facts: Hanson was convicted of sexual assault and deviate sexual conduct for offenses involving a young boy. His conviction was affirmed in 1997. He filed a petition for postconviction relief, which the district court denied for insufficiency in form. This Court affirmed in 1999. Hanson petitioned for habeas corpus, and his petition was demised as procedurally defaulted. Hanson appealed and the Ninth Circuit affirmed in 2003.…

City of Missoula v. Tye

City of Missoula v. Tye, 2016 MT 153 (June 21, 2016) (Shea, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in affirming the municipal court’s order denying Tye’s motion so suppress.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: A man called 911 at 1:37 am one night in May 2014 to report a drunk driver. He told the dispatcher where he was driving, what the car looked like, and what the driver was doing. He could not describe the driver because of the car’s tinted windows, and could not see the license plate. He gave his name and phone number, and said he could be contacted. He said he would possibly sign a complaint if necessary.

A Missoula police officer responded to the report, and passed a vehicle in the vicinity of the report that fit the description given.…

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.


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.…

Zabrocki v. Teachers’ Retirement System

Zabrocki v. Teachers’ Retirement System, 2016 MT 146 (June 14, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in affirming he decision of the Teachers retirement Board denying motions for summary judgment and remanding for an evidentiary hearing.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Edward Zabrocki began receiving Teachers Retirement System (TRS) benefits in 2007. In February 2012 TRS notified him that he did not qualify for those benefits and must reimburse TRS for the amounts it paid. Zabrocki requested an administrative review, and the TRS Board concurred. In January 2013 Zabrocki requested a contested case hearing with TRS.

TRS appointed a hearing examiner, who issued a scheduling order. In August 2013,before the hearing was held, Zabrocki and TRS filed summary judgment motions.…

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.


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.…

Petaja v. Montana Public Employees’ Association (MPEA)

Petaja v. Montana Public Employees’ Association (MPEA), 2016 MT 143 (June 8, 2016) (Rice, J.; McGrath, C.J., concurring) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether substantial evidence supported the jury verdict finding MPEA breached its duty of fair representation; (2) whether the jury verdict was contrary to the instructions and the law; (3) whether Petaja’s claim was barred by res judicata; and (4) whether the district court had authority to award attorney fees. 

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) no; (3) this claim was waived for purposes of appellate review; and (4) no.


Facts: Petaja was terminated from her position with Lewis and Clark County as the clinic coordinator of the WIC program. The county claimed Petaja was terminated due to reorganization; she claims she was terminated because of her age, 59.…

State v. Weber

State v. Weber, 2016 MT 138 (June 7, 2016) (Wheat, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion by refusing to admit the inventory list offered by defense counsel; (2) whether the district court abused its discretion by limiting defense counsel’s examination of defense investigator Peck; and (3) whether defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to admit the evidence.

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

Reversed and remanded for a new trial

Facts: Weber was a janitor at Sydney High School. He was working the night a tool used to cut metal and steel went missing from the high school shop classroom. The principal later identified Weber on surveillance video on the shop the night the plasma cutter disappeared.…