Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The justice court did not err in concluding that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial when he failed to appear at his jury confirmation hearing. Defendant was found guilty by the justice court of driving while under the influence of alcohol and obstructing a peace officer. On appeal, Defendant argued that the justice court erred in determining that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial when he failed to appear at the jury confirmation hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, the justice court did not err in determining that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial by failing to attend his jury confirmation hearing. View "State v. Sherlock" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered in the course of a probationary search of the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger, holding that, under the facts of this case, Defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the vehicle or its contents. Therefore, there was no search. Defendant’s counsel moved to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the vehicle search on the grounds that there was no inquiry to determine if Defendant was the owner of or if he had control over the vehicle. The district court denied the motion, concluding that a probationer need not be a driver or owner of a vehicle in order for officers to initiate a probationary search of the vehicle, so long as the probationer was a passenger immediately prior to the search. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed to show he had an actual expectation of privacy as a passenger in the vehicle; and (2) even though the vehicle was not Defendant’s, the probation officer had the authority to search it. View "State v. Conley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered in the course of a probationary search of the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger, holding that, under the facts of this case, Defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the vehicle or its contents. Therefore, there was no search. Defendant’s counsel moved to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the vehicle search on the grounds that there was no inquiry to determine if Defendant was the owner of or if he had control over the vehicle. The district court denied the motion, concluding that a probationer need not be a driver or owner of a vehicle in order for officers to initiate a probationary search of the vehicle, so long as the probationer was a passenger immediately prior to the search. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed to show he had an actual expectation of privacy as a passenger in the vehicle; and (2) even though the vehicle was not Defendant’s, the probation officer had the authority to search it. View "State v. Conley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision upholding the decision of the hearing officer with the Montana Human Rights Bureau (HRB) in favor of All Star Painting on Plaintiff’s complaint alleging that the company’s owner had sexually harassed her at work. The Court held (1) the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s petition for judicial review because the hearing officer’s decision either ignored the testimony of four individuals, all of whom corroborated Plaintiff’s testimony, or misapprehended the effect of that evidence; and (2) the district court properly dismissed All Star Painting’s owner as a party to the action because he was never properly added as a party under Mont. R. Civ. P. 20. View "Jones v. All Star Painting Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s sentence for three separate cases involving partner or family member assault against three different women to a combined twenty years, with eight suspended. The district court included conditions in all three cases that restricted contact between Defendant and his victims. On appeal, Defendant argued that the condition prohibiting contact between him and his second victim was an unreasonable sentencing condition and an unconstitutional restriction on his common-law marriage. The Supreme Court held (1) the contested condition was not an unreasonable sentencing condition; and (2) Defendant’s general objection to the restricted contact conditions was insufficient to preserve his argument that the conditions unconstitutionally infringe upon his marriage, privacy, and due process rights. View "State v. Parkhill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of aggravated assault and reversed his conviction for violating a no-contact order. The Court held (1) the State did not present sufficient evidence for the jury to find Defendant guilty of violating a no-contact order; and (2) the prosecutor’s comment during rebuttal closing argument that the jury’s “job” was to ensure the alleged victim’s safety was improper, and the nature of the remark implicated Defendant’s right to a fair trial, but this isolated incident of alleged misconduct did not result in a miscarriage of justice or compromise the integrity of Defendant’s trial. View "State v. Ritesman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for operating a noncommercial vehicle with alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more (DUI per se) but reversed the district court’s order imposing the cost of legal counsel on Defendant. The court held (1) Defendant’s right to due process was not violated by a jury instruction that instructed the jurors, when choosing between two competing interpretations of circumstances evidence, to choose whichever interpretation was the “most reasonable”; but (2) the district court erred in imposing costs of legal counsel on Defendant given Defendant’s limited fixed income and disability status. View "State v. Iverson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court awarding summary judgment to the Missoula County Detention Facility and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office (collectively, the County) on Plaintiff’s claim that the County had illegally discriminated against him based on his disability. Plaintiff initially filed a complaint with the Human Rights Bureau (HRB), which found no reasonable cause to believe that the County had discriminated against Plaintiff. The district court agreed. The Supreme Court Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in declining to consider evidence arising after Plaintiff filed his HRB complaint; and (2) the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the County. View "Borges v. Missoula County Sheriff’s Office" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant’s request for substitution of counsel in this criminal proceeding. Appellant pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide. Thereafter, Appellant made a request for substitution of counsel. After a hearing, the district court deemed the representation matter resolved because the Office of the State Public Defender denied Appellant’s request for new counsel and Appellant had not appealed that decision. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the district court failed adequately to inquire into Defendant’s complaints regarding his counsel, which necessitated a remand. On remand, the district court issued an order again denying Appellant’s request for substitution of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err when it inquired into Appellant’s complaints of ineffective assistance of counsel and in denying his request for substitution of counsel. View "State v. Schowengerdt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court wherein Defendant pled guilty to felony driving under the influence of alcohol, fourth or subsequent offense, and three misdemeanors. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court violated his right to due process during sentencing and erred in sentencing him, and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel during sentencing. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded for entry of an amended judgment, holding (1) the district court did not deprive Defendant of his right to due process during sentencing; (2) the district court did not err in imposing a condition on Defendant’s suspended sentence; (3) Defendant was not deprived of effective assistance of counsel during sentencing; and (4) the sentencing conditions in the written judgment should be amended to conform to oral pronouncement of the conditions. View "State v. Lafield" on Justia Law