Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the final agency decision issued by the Montana Human Rights Commission (HRC) finding that Jerry James Bright was subjected to racial discrimination in his employment KB Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Snappitz (KB), holding the district court correctly affirmed the final agency decision and dismissed KB's petition for judicial review. On appeal, KB argued that the hearing officer made numerous incorrect findings of fact and that the HRC and district court wrongly upheld the hearing officer's decision. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the hearing officer's findings of fact were not clearly erroneous and did not misapprehend the effect of evidence and that no mistake was made. View "KB Enterprises, LLC v. Montana Human Rights Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court convicting Defendant of evidence tampering and deliberate homicide, holding that investigating officers had a reasonable suspicion of exigent circumstances justifying a no-knock entry into Defendant's residence and that the forensic search of Defendant's computer was not constitutionally infirm. At issue on appeal were weather the district court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant that did not explicitly authorize a no-knock entry and whether the court properly denied Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained through a forensic search of his computer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) State v. Anyan, 104 P.3d 511 (Mont. 2004), is overturned insofar as it requires investigating officers to obtain authorization from a judge to execute a no-knock entry, and officers may execute a no-knock entry where they have a reasonable suspicion of exigent circumstances justifying it; (2) officers may seize an electronic device pursuant to a warrant where the type of evidence the officers are looking for could reasonably be found on the device, and where officers are lawfully in possession of property, they may subsequently search the property pursuant to a search warrant; and (3) the jury instructions in this case were proper. View "State v. Neiss" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's order denying Defendant's motion to dismiss for violation of his right to a speedy trial, holding that the 422-delay in resolving Defendant's felony driving under the influence (DUI) charge violated Defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial. Defendant pleaded guilty to felony DUI 422 days after he was arrested and charged, a delay stretching far beyond the 200-day threshold. After examining the speedy trial violation under the four-factor test set forth in State v. Ariegwe, 167 P.3d 815 (Mont. 2007), the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State violated Defendant's right to a speedy trial. The Court remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the charge. View "State v. Kurtz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to Child and remanded for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division (Department) to engage in reasonable efforts to reunify Mother with Child, holding that the Department failed to provide reasonable efforts to reunify Mother and Child. On appeal, Mother argued that the Department violated her fundamental constitutional right to parent and abused its discretion by failing to provide her with the required reasonable efforts to reunify her with Child. The Supreme Court agreed and remanded the case, holding (1) the Department failed to provide reasonable efforts to reunite Mother and Child; and (2) the district court erred in its determination that the Department established by clear and convincing evidence that the condition rendering Mother unfit to safely parent was not likely to change within a reasonable time. View "In re R.J.F." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's motions to suppress, holding that the district court reached the right result even if for the wrong reason. Defendant pled guilty to misdemeanor DUI per se, reserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss. On appeal, Defendant argued that prior to the stop of his vehicle, there was no particularized suspicion to investigate him for any potential driving offense. The district court concluded that the police officer had particularized suspicion to investigate Defendant pursuant to an analysis under State v. Pratt, 951 P.2d 37 (Mont. 1997), and denied Defendant's motions to dismiss on that basis. The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) the officer's approach to Defendant was a routine police encounter that did not require particularized suspicion; and (2) the officer acquired particularized suspicion for further investigation upon Defendant's voluntary participation in his questioning and testing. View "State v. Questo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding Defendant guilty of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), holding that the district court did not err. Specifically, the Court held that the district court did not err when it (1) denied Defendant's motion in limine to prevent the arresting officer from testifying at trial; (2) denied Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from his vehicle where probable cause existed to issue a warrant authorizing a search of his truck; and (3) denied Defendant's motion to dismiss the DUI charge due to the State's failure to preserve video evidence where there was no reasonable probability that the outcome of Defendant's DUI charge would be different had the video not been overwritten. View "State v. Robertson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld a district judge's order temporarily permitting qualified advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to perform outpatient early-term abortions while the APRNs challenge the constitutionality of a state law that restrictions abortion practice to physicians and physicians' assistants, holding that preliminary injunctive relief was appropriately granted. In 2005, the Montana Legislature amended Mont. Code Ann. 50-20-109(1)(a) to restrict the performance of pre-viability abortions to licensed physicians and physician assistants-certified. In 2018, Plaintiffs, a certified nurse practitioner and a certified nurse midwife, filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment that the statute violates Montana citizens' constitutional right of privacy, equal protection and dignity. Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction, and the district court granted that relief. The State appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence at this stage of the proceedings to establish a likelihood of irreparable injury during the pendency of the lawsuit to patients who would qualify for the lawful medical procedure. View "Weems v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of deliberate homicide and two counts of attempted deliberate homicide, holding that Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not appropriately considered on direct appeal. On appeal, Defendant argued that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to irrelevant, highly prejudicial evidence concerning his criminal past in two video interviews admitted at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment without prejudice to Defendant raising his ineffective assistance of counsel claim in a postconviction relief proceeding, holding that the record was not sufficient to address Defendant's claim on direct appeal. View "State v. Sawyer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of offense of partner or family member assault, holding that the district court abused its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to excuse a prospective juror for cause. In this case, a prospective juror spontaneously asserted that she would have a “hard time,” a personal “problem,” and a “real problem” with requiring the State to prove an essential element of the charged offense. The Supreme Court held that where the prospective juror’s multiple spontaneous statements were consistent, clear, unequivocal, and emphatic and where the record unequivocally manifested the juror’s bias, the district court abused its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to disqualify the prospective juror for cause. Further, the error was structural, requiring automatic reversal. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court upholding the denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss her driving under the influence (DUI) charge, holding that Montana’s statutory protections against double jeopardy did not bar Defendant’s charge. In 2016, Defendant pleaded guilty to careless driving. After reviewing Defendant’s toxicology report, the Helena Attorney’s Office additionally charged Defendant with DUI. Defendant moved to dismiss her DUI charge as a subsequent prosecution barred by Mont. Code Ann. 46-11-504(1). The municipal court denied the motion to dismiss. The district court upheld the denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Thereafter, Defendant pleaded guilty to negligent endangerment pursuant to a plea agreement, preserving her right to appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Mont. Code Ann. 46-11-503 applied in this case; but (2) because no probable cause existed to charge Defendant with DUI before resolution of her careless driving charge, section 46-11-503 did not bar the subsequent DUI charge from prosecution. View "City of Helena v. O'Connell" on Justia Law