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Supreme Court Hearing

Montana Supreme Court Hearings

supreme court

The justices of the Supreme Court of Montana hold a hearing on campus each year at the invitation of the School of Law.

The hearing is open to students and the public.  The case is introduced by a member of the law faculty.


April 11, 2014
10:00 a.m.
George and Jane Dennison Theatre (formerly University Theatre)

LYLE PHILLIPS, ANNE DEE RENO, TURNER ASKEW, and BEN WHITTEN, Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. CITY OF WHITEFISH, Defendant, Third-Party Plaintiff, and Appellant, and THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF FLATHEAD COUNTY, Defendant, Third-Party Defendant and Appellee, and DAN WEINBERG and ED McGREW, individually and on behalf of LET WHITEFISH VOTE, a ballot committee lawfully organized under the laws of Montana; MARY PERSON and MARILYN R. NELSON, Intervenors and Appellants.

ORAL ARGUMENT has been set for Friday,  April 11, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. at the George Dennison Theater, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, with an introduction to the oral argument beginning at 9:30 a.m. Oral argument times shall be 40 minutes for the Appellants and 30 minutes for the Appellees.

Summary:  This case arises from long-term issues between the City of Whitefish and Flathead County regarding land use regulation in a 2-mile-wide “donut” surrounding Whitefish city limits. In this case, the District Court invalidated a 2011 City referendum which repealed a city-county resolution on the subject. The City appeals, arguing that (1) the post-election challenge to the referendum was filed too late; (2) the District Court erred when it determined that the resolution was an administrative act that was not repealable through the referendum process; and (3) the effect of the repeal of the referendum should be to return the City and County to a 2005 interlocal agreement under which the City had zoning and planning jurisdiction for the “donut.”

The Montana Supreme Court Docket and related information click here.

April 12, 2013
9:30 am
George and Jane Dennison Theatre (formerly University Theatre) 

Case introduction by Associate Professor Maylinn Smith

Citizens for Balanced Use; Sen. Rick Ripley; Valley County Commissioners, Dustin Hofeldt; Vicki Hofeldt; Ken Hansen; Jason Holt; Sierra Stoneberg Holt; Rose Stoneberg; United Property Owners of Montana; and Missouri River Stewards, Plaintiffs and Appellees, v. Joseph Maurier; Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks; and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission, and Defenders of Wildlife and National Wildlife Federation, Defendant Intervenors and Appellants.

The Montana Supreme Court Docket and related information click here.

April 13, 2012
9:30 am
University Theatre

Case introduction by Professor Anthony Johnstone

Donaldson & Guggenheim, et al. vs. State of Montana
Jan Donaldson and Mary Anne Guggenheim, and five other same-sex couples, bring a constitutional challenge against a variety of Montana laws under which same-sex couples cannot obtain the same public and private benefits provided to opposite-sex couples who marry.

The Montana Supreme Court's Docket and related documents and information (click here)

April 17, 2009

Michelle Kulstad vs. Barbara L. Maniaci 
Ms. Maniaci and Ms. Kulstad lived together as a couple for ten years, during which time Ms. Maniaci legally adopted two children. When the relationship between Ms. Maniaci and Ms. Kulstad dissolved, Ms. Kulstad sought joint custody of the children. The district court awarded Ms. Kulstad a parental interest in the children, with joint decision-making authority and regular visitation.

The Montana Supreme Court will review this decision of the district court as well as a district court decision to award Ms. Kulstad a portion of Ms. Maniaci’s property.


April 11, 2008

MTSupCt2008State of Montana vs. Rusty Lee-Ray Russell

Rusty Lee-Ray Russell and a co-defendant, during a night of excessive drinking, assaulted two homeless men, one of whom, John Gewanski, died from his injuries. Russell was convicted in Yellowstone County of four felony counts including Deliberate Homicide and Aggravated Assault.

The Montana Supreme Court will be deciding whether the conviction of Russell for both the homicide and the underlying aggravated assault violated the constitutional protections against double jeopardy.


April 20, 2007

Lori Oberson, Legal Guardian for Brian Musselman, et al. vs. United States of America, et al.
Brian Musselman suffered a catastrophic brain injury after being struck by a snowmobile coming over a hill in West Yellowstone. He sued the Forest Service for failing to correct or warn of the dangerous trail condition, and two fellow snowmobilers for driving too fast while drunk.

The Montana Supreme Court will be deciding which standard of care snowmobile area operators owe to users of their trails — "gross negligence," "willful or wanton misconduct" or "ordinary negligence" — by examining the Montana Constitution's guarantee of "equal protection" under the law.