Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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In 1993, Defendant pled guilty to three felony offenses in Cause No. 10893. Defendant’s resulting sentence required, among other things, that he pay restitution to his assault victim and pay the uninsured portion of his detox treatments. In 2012, Defendant was sentenced for probation violations stemming from an unrelated 2002 felony drug possession conviction. Since Defendant’s most recent incarceration, the Department of Corrections (DOC) had been garnishing Defendant’s prison wages and applying the garnished funds to his restitution obligation. In 2013, Defendant filed a motion to compel DOC to stop garnishing his account, claiming that he owed no further restitution because he had discharged his sentence in Cause No. 10893 in 2001. The district court denied Defendant’s motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s restitution obligations did not extinguish at the time he discharged his prison sentence. View "State v. Ferre" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Joe Scanlon and Lona Carter-Scanlon divorced. The district court subsequently granted Joe’s motion to modify his child support obligations, concluding that Joe had been unemployed and expected to earn $52,000 at a new job, thus reducing Joe’s monthly child support obligation from $1,381 to $814 per month. In 2008, Joe filed a second motion to modify child support. Before a hearing on the motion, Joe had a child with Joann Buer. Joann opened a case with the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) to obtain child support from Joe. An administrative law judge for the CSED determined that Joe received an average actual income of $24,957. In 2012, Joe filed a motion, in his case with Lona, to take judicial notice of the CSED’s income determination. After a hearing in 2013, the district court noted the CSED’s income determination but imputed income to Joe of $52,000 per year, and determined Joe’s monthly child support obligations would remain at $814 per month. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in its manner of taking judicial notice of the prior CSED determination; and (2) the district court’s calculation of Joe’s imputed income was not clearly erroneous. View "In re Marriage of Scanlon" on Justia Law

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In two separate cases, Appellants were injured in the course and scope of their employment. Montana State Fund (SMF) paid Appellants indemnity and medical benefits. Appellants were subsequently incarcerated for various crimes, after which MSF terminated or denied payment of permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. Appellants each appealed their ineligibility to receive PPD benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) granted MSF’s motions for summary judgment as to both Appellants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the WCC properly determined that Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-744 rendered incarcerated claimants ineligible for disability or rehabilitation compensation benefits; and (2) section 39-71-744 did not violate Appellants’ constitutional rights to equal protection, to substantive due process, to procedural due process, or to be from excessive fines. View "Goble v. Mont. State Fund" on Justia Law

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The municipal court found Defendant guilty of disorderly conduct after Defendant and her daughter directed profane ad abusive language toward a thirteen-year-old boy from their vehicle on a public street. The district court affirmed Defendant’s conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that (1) the disorderly conduct statute does not require proof that the peace of more than one person was disturbed; (2) Defendant’s speech constituted “fighting words” and was not constitutionally protected; (3) Defendant’s constitutional rights were not violated by the responding officer’s initial report of his investigation; and (4) the municipal court did not err by considering the victim’s age during sentencing. View "City of Billings v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere to driving under the influence. Defendant appealed, arguing that the municipal court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained by a blood draw following the DUI stop and in denying his subsequent “request for hearing.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by (1) affirming the municipal court’s determination that law enforcement properly withdrew Defendant’s blood against his will after obtaining a valid search warrant, as probable cause existed to issue the search warrant, and Defendant’s constitutional challenge to the forced blood draw was without merit; and (2) affirming the municipal court’s decision to deny Defendant’s “request for hearing” as untimely. View "State v. Giacomini" on Justia Law

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Aspen Trails Associations, LLC, d/b/a Windermere Real Estate, entered into two contracts with Empire Office Machines, Inc. for the lease of copy machines. Windermere and Empire later entered into a revised agreement that was signed by Kevin Demaray on behalf of Windermere. The signature line, however, did not specify that Demaray was signing as an agent of Aspen. Aspen failed to make the payments as agreed, and Empire repossessed the two copiers. Empire subsequently commenced an action for breach of contract against Aspen, Demaray personally, and others. The district court granted Demaray’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Empire had no contract with Demaray personally. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly granted summary judgment in Demaray’s favor, where, in light of the longstanding business relationship between Empire and Aspen d/b/a Windermere, Empire had reason to know that Aspen was Demaray’s principal. View "Empire Office Machines, Inc. v. Demaray" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty in justice court to DUI and reckless driving, second offense, after driving off the road and colliding with Barbara Turcotte’s garage. After a restitution hearing at which the justice court considered a victim’s loss statement as evidence, the court ordered that Defendant owed an additional $1,911 in restitution above the amount covered by his insurance. The district court affirmed. At issue on appeal was whether the district court erred in affirming the award of restitution, where there was a difference between Defendant’s insurance company’s estimate of the damage to the garage and Turcotte’s estimate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that substantial evidence did not support the award of restitution in this case, where the evidence before the court was conflicting and no other testimony or evidence was available to be examined or reviewed as to the discrepancy. Remanded. View "State v. Aragon" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed a combined petition challenging the legal sufficiency of Initiative No. 171 (I-171), a proposed ballot measure that would prohibit the state and its political subdivisions from using funds, resources, or personnel to administer or enforce the federal Affordable Care Act, among other things. Petitioners sought an order enjoining the Secretary of State from approving petitions for circulation to the electorate for signatures or otherwise submitting the measure for approval by the voters and further sought a declaration that I-171 was unconstitutional and void. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding (1) the Attorney General correctly determined that I-171 was legally sufficient; and (2) the ballot statements for I-171 satisfy the requirements of law. View "Hoffman v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with felony burglary in 2007. The Flathead County District Court issued a warrant for Defendant’s arrest, but shortly afterward, Defendant was arrested and sentenced on unrelated federal charges. Defendant was subsequently committed to a federal correctional institution. In 2013, Defendant filed a pro se motion to dismiss the Flathead County arrest warrant, arguing that the county attorney’s failure to take action on his pending burglary charge violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. The county attorney argued in response that Defendant’s motion must be denied because an inmate may invoke the provisions of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act (IAD) only after a detainer is filed. The District Court denied Defendant’s motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant’s motion was premised on an alleged denial of his constitutional right to a speedy trial, not the IAD; and (2) the district court improperly denied Defendant’s motion without addressing his speedy trial rights. Remanded. View "State v. Nickerson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a constructive discharge claim naming the Musselshell County Sheriff’s Office as the sole defendant. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that it was not an independent legal entity subject to suit. Plaintiff subsequently moved for leave to amend the complaint to add Musselshell County as a defendant. The district court denied Plaintiff’s motion to amend and granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court’s order was appealable; and (2) under the circumstances, the district court’s refusal to allow Defendant to add the correct party constituted an abuse of discretion and resulted in substantial prejudice to Defendant. Remanded. View "Seamster v. Mussellshell County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law