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After the Montana Department of Justice informed employees of the Deer Lodge office of the Department’s Title and Registration Bureau (TRB) that the office would be formally closed, Plaintiffs filed suit, alleging violations of the public’s rights to know and participate. Plaintiffs ultimately sought an order setting aside the Department’s decision to close the TRB office. The district court entered judgment in favor of the Department. Plaintiffs appealed but did not move to stay the district court’s judgment, and the Department relocated the TRB functions to its Helena offices. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that Plaintiffs’ claims were moot because the circumstances of this case precluded effective relief that would meaningfully remedy the department’s alleged disregard of the public notice and participation requirements of Title 2, chapter 3, Mont. Code Ann. View "City of Deer Lodge v. Fox" on Justia Law

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The district court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of aggravated DUI, agreeing with the justice court that evidence of Defendant’s prior DUI convictions proved an element of the charged crime of aggravated DUI that must be determined by the jury. On appeal, Defendant argued that it was impermissibly prejudicial to his interests to allow the jury to know that he was twice convicted of DUI. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because proof of the prior DUIs was required as an element of the offense of aggravated DUI, the evidence of prior DUIs was not erroneously admitted. View "State v. Meyer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Montana Public Service Commission, which requires that certain regulated telecommunications companies publicly disclose the salary information of their executive or managerial employees earning more than $100,000 per year, denied the motions for protective orders filed by Southern Montana Telephone Company and Lincoln Telephone Company to keep the salary information confidential. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission’s “rubric,” by which the Commission judged companies’ motions for protective orders of employee compensation information, constituted a de facto rule within the meaning of the Montana Administrative Procedure Act (MAPA) and that the Commission was obligated to comply with MAPA’s rulemaking procedures before implementing the rubric. View "Southern Montana Lincoln Telephone Co. v. Montana Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The district court did not err in ruling that Defendant’s federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine did not bar a subsequent state prosecution for possession of dangerous drugs on double jeopardy grounds. Defendant pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to distribute in federal court. Thereafter, Defendant moved to dismiss the State’s drug-related charges, arguing that the State prosecution violated Montana’s double jeopardy prohibition. The district court denied the motion to dismiss. Thereafter, Defendant entered an Alford plea to one count of felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s possession of methamphetamine for his personal use was a distinct and separate prosecutable offense pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 45-9-102(1). View "State v. Glass" on Justia Law

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Richland Aviation filed this proceeding to determine whether it was a “scheduled airline” and therefore subject to central tax assessment by the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR). The district court concluded that Richland Aviation was not a scheduled airline because it “does not hold out to the public that it operates between certain places at certain times[.]” Therefore, the district court concluded that Richland Aviation was not subject to central assessment. Applying the definitions found in Montana Department of Revenue v. Alpine Aviation, Inc., 384 P.3d 1035, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Richland Aviation does not engage in “regularly scheduled flights” required for central assessment. View "Richland Aviation, Inc. v. State, Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

Posted in: Aviation, Tax Law

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The Montana Supreme Court reversed the district court's order of a refund to Mountain Water and assessment of property taxes against the City of Missoula. The court held that section 70-30-315, MCA, selects a different date for purposes of designating the person who shall be assessed the property taxes in condemnation situations, requiring the condemnor to be assessed earlier in time than the general tax statutes would normally require, thus effectuating a unique proration of taxes as between condemnation parties. The statute simply established a tax proration date that is more favorable to condemnees than under general law, and provided no additional or alternate process to accompany this simple adjustment. In this case, Mountain Water retains responsibility for actual payment of the property taxes for the period it possesses the property, until the taking occurs. View "Mountain Water v. Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the district court's finding that particularized suspicion existed to support an investigatory stop was clearly erroneous. The Supreme Court of Montana held that, based on the totality of the circumstances, a witness's 911 report contained sufficient indicia of reliability to form the basis for the highway patrol trooper's particularized suspicion. Furthermore, the trooper independently formed particularized suspicion that defendant was drinking under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress evidence and motion to dismiss. The court affirmed the judgment. View "State v. Foster" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Mother appealed an amended parenting plan issued by the district court, arguing that it was contrary to the best interests of her child and that the court failed to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law. The district court found that it was “in the best interest of the child to spend Fall and Spring in school in Columbia Falls and Summer in Missoula.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court’s order contained insufficient findings of fact related to the child’s best interest, and the findings it did contain were clearly erroneous; and (2) the district court abused its discretion in amending the parenting plan. View "In re Parenting of G.M.O." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this criminal case, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s imposition of criminal defense fees and other costs in the judgment against Defendant. On appeal from his convictions for felony driving under the influence, negligent endangerment, and six other driving offenses, Defendant argued that the district court erred in imposing fees, costs, and surcharges in the written judgment because they were not imposed in the oral pronouncement of the sentence or following a consideration of Defendant’s ability to pay. The Supreme Court held that the imposition of fees and costs was not unlawful because Defendant had notice and an opportunity to respond to the presentence investigation report conditions relating to fees, costs, and surcharges being included in his sentence and because Defendant did not object when the district court failed to inquire into his ability to pay those costs. View "State v. Thompson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After a hearing, the district court terminated the parental rights of Mother to her two children, C.B.D. and P.M.P. Mother appealed this order only as it pertained to the P.M.P.’s placement, not the termination of her parental rights. Specifically, Mother argued that the Department of Health and Human Services violated her due process rights when the child was moved into the home of R.W. and J.A. without affording her ten days of notice and an opportunity to participate, as required by the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Supreme court affirmed, holding that Mother lacked standing in the matter because she failed to show an injury to her civil or property rights or that her injury would be alleviated by successfully maintaining her action. View "In re C.B.D." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law