Articles Posted in Government Law

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In 1980, the Montana Board of Livestock (Board) adopted the 12-Day Rule, which prohibits the sale of milk in Montana more than twelve days after pasteurization. In 2008, Core-Mark International, Inc. filed a petition with the Board seeking to amend or repeal the 12-day Rule. The Board held an administrative proceeding regarding Core-Mark’s petition, part of which involved a formal evidentiary hearing conducted by an independent hearing examiner. The hearing examiner issued a proposed decision recommending that the Board consider repealing the 12-day Rule. However, the Board voted unanimously to retain the 12-day Rule without modification. The district court denied Core-Mark’s petition for judicial review. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err (1) in concluding that the administrative proceeding was not a contested case proceeding and therefore not subject to judicial review; (2) by applying the arbitrary and capricious standard of review and in determining that the Board’s decision did not violate that standard; and (3) in concluding that the 12-day Rule is a valid exercise of the Board’s authority. View "Core-Mark Int’l, Inc. v. Mont. Bd. of Livestock" on Justia Law

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Appellant was an officer with the Glacier County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) from 1995 to 2010 and occasionally investigated the deaths of people he knew. In 2010, Appellant pled guilty to two misdemeanors and resigned from the GCSO. In 2011, Appellant applied for disability retirement benefits from the Sheriffs’ Retirement Systems, alleging that he was permanently disabled due the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) he developed while working at the GCSO. The Montana Public Employees’ Retirement Board (PERB) denied Appellant’s disability claim, concluding that Appellant’s PTSD was not permanently disabling. The district court affirmed PERB’s decision to deny benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not misapprehend the effect of the evidence presented and properly determined that the findings of PERB were not clearly erroneous.View "Fauque v. Mont. Pub. Employees Ret. Bd." on Justia Law

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In 2010, the City of Whitefish passed Resolution 10-46, which authorized the City to enter into an interlocal agreement with Flathead County concerning planning and zoning authority over a two-mile area surrounding the City. In 2011, voters in Whitehead passed a referendum repealing the Resolution. Plaintiffs, residents of the City and the County, filed the present lawsuit claiming that the citizens’ power of referendum and initiative did not extend to the Resolution. The district court agreed with Plaintiffs and granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs and the County. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err by not dismissing the suit as untimely based upon the doctrine of laches; and (2) did not err by determining that the Resolution was not subject to the right of voter initiative and referendum because the Resolution was an administrative act by the City.View "Phillips v. City of Whitefish" on Justia Law

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This matter comprised two joined cases, both involving claims to water diverted from the South Fork of Dupuyer Creek in Two Medicine River Basin, into Gansman Coulee, for irrigation in the Teton River Basin. Two sets of claimants (“Duncan” and “Skelton”) filed statements of claim for existing rights. A canal and reservoir company (“Pondera”) appeared in the adjudication of Duncan’s and Skelton’s claims. The Montana Water Court amended the Water Master’s Report and adopted it as amended. Duncan and Skelton appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Chief Water Judge properly admitted historical documents prepared by Pondera in anticipation of litigation under the ancient document exception to the hearsay rule; (2) the Chief Water Judge correctly rejected the Master’s findings regarding certain variables used to determine the historical capacity of a flume on the Thomas ditch; (3) the Chief Water Judge correctly determined that portions of the claimants’ water rights had been abandoned or never perfected; and (4) the Chief Water Judge correctly adopted the Master’s conclusion that the claimants did not acquire any water rights by adverse possession. View "Skelton Ranch, Inc. v. Pondera County Canal & Reservoir Co." on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute over the water rights to a well (“disputed well”). In 1982, Carl Kambich filed a statement of claim for existing water rights. In 1990, Kambich filed a notice of transfer of water right to Randall and Ila Mae Brooks. The current Water Court case involved the claim originally filed by Kambich and amended by the Brooks. Ernest Nelson objected to the claim, arguing that he was the owner of the disputed well. After a hearing, the Water Master found that the claim belonged to the Brooks and that, although Nelson had presented some valid questions regarding the history of the well, he had failed to overcome the prima facie proof in the statement of claim. The Water Court dismissed Nelson’s objections to the water rights claim by the Brooks. The Supreme Court affirmed the Water Court’s order, holding that the Brooks’ well claim was valid. View "Nelson v. Brooks" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation (MBOGC) adopted special statewide temporary spacing units for certain wells. Petitioners = filed a petition for judicial review of MBOGC’s order, stating that it was filed pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 82-11-144 and Mont. Code Ann. 2-4-702. The district court dismissed Petitioners’ proceeding, stating that the “sole remedy for a person aggrieved by an order of the MBOGC was a challenge under Montana Code Ann. 82-11-144.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in dismissing the action, as Petitioners’ allegations, coupled with their express reliance upon section 82-11-144 as a legal basis for their petition, should have been sufficient to save their petition from dismissal on the ground that they had not pursued their “sole remedy” of proceeding under that statute. View "Ostby v. Bd. of Oil & Gas Conservation" on Justia Law