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With the exception of an incorrectly imposed user surcharge, the Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for sexual intercourse without consent and burglary. The court held (1) the district court correctly balanced the four factors in a speedy trial analysis and correctly determined that Defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated; (2) the court did not err when it allowed officers to read out loud from a transcript of Defendant’s statements to refresh the witnesses’ recollection; (3) Defendant’s argument that the the district court erred in its jury instruction for burglary was not preserved for review; and (4) the district court erred the court erred in imposing more than one user surcharge. View "State v. Bullock" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Clark Fork Coalition and four individuals (collectively, the Coalition) challenged the validity of an administrative rule promulgated by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation concerning groundwater appropriations exempt from permitting requirements. The district court invalidated the rule, and the Supreme Court affirmed. The Coalition moved for fees under the private attorney general doctrine. The district court granted the motion, concluding that the private attorney general doctrine applied because the Coalition vindicated important constitutional interests. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Coalition failed to show that the litigation vindicated constitutional interests, and therefore, the district court abused its discretion in concluding that the Coalition could recover fees under the private attorney general doctrine. View "Clark Fork Coalition v. Tubbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court in this family dispute regarding once commonly held property that was subdivided and jointly used, then fenced. Plaintiffs, Ashlee Ganoung and Amber Mason, owned the southern half to he property (Ganoung and Mason property) and Defendants owned the northern half of the property (Stiles property). The Supreme Court held (1) the district court correctly determined the location and scope of the Stiles express easement over the Ganoung and Mason property, but the court erred by limiting the easement to only one, rather than two, roadways; (2) the district court did not err by requiring the Stiles to pay for fencing a new road should the Stiles choose to relocate their easement; and (3) the district court did not err in failing to determine the location, width, and scope of the Ganoung and Mason easement across the Stiles property. View "Ganoung v. Stiles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s conviction motion to set aside his 2008 conviction for partner or family member assault (PFMA) and revocation of his suspended sentence. The attorney’s office sought to revoke Defendant’s suspended sentence after Defendant was again arrested for PFMA. Defendant filed a motion to set aside his 2008 conviction, arguing that the pre-2013 PFMA statute was unconstitutional. The district court denied Defendant’s motion, and Defendant admitted to the violations set forth in the petition to revoke. The Supreme Court held that Defendant forfeited his constitutional challenge to the PFMA statute when he voluntarily pleaded guilty in 2008. View "State v. Torres" on Justia Law

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The properties at issue were owned by Cole until 1954, when Cole sold an acre to Evjene’s grandparents. The Tripp Survey was recorded, but its description “does not close.” The Tripp Survey relied on the Tobacco River and a road to set the western, southern, and eastern boundaries. A fence constructed in 1950 may have anticipated the northern boundary. Evjene’s grandparents built a house. In 1988, Sacrisons acquired their property, to the north and west of the Evjene property. In 2005, Evjene replaced the 1950 fence and built a new house. Evjene commissioned the Cordi Survey, which relied upon monuments cited in the Tripp Survey, and the fence, but determined the western boundary ran through Evjene’s home, and that the correct boundary of Evjene’s property partially encroached into Sacrisons’ property. Evjene entered a boundary agreement with other neighbors, stipulating that the boundary line was the fence. Sacrisons did not agree and commissioned “the Block Survey,” which determined the boundary of the Sacrisons’ property partially overlapped Evjene’s property and placed a boundary line through Evjene’s house. Sacrisons sought declaratory judgment and quiet title. Evjene submitted an affidavit detailing his family’s statements about the fence. The district court entered summary judgment, holding that the fence should be declared an artificial monument denoting the boundary. The Montana Supreme Court reversed, reasoning that there were material questions of fact. Evjene’s affidavit constituted hearsay. To rely on a fence as the correct dividing line, the fence must be supported by testimony or parol evidence indicating the fence was built on the correct original line. View "Sacrison v. Evjene" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of sexual assault against R.W., the eight-year-old daughter of Defendant’s former girlfriend. The jury acquitted Defendant of sexual intercourse without consent against K.W., R.W.’s twin sister. The Supreme Court held (1) even if improper, the prosecutor’s statement during closing argument that, in order for the jury to find Defendant not guilty it would have to conclude that R.W. and K.W. had lied during their testimony, did not prejudice Defendant; (2) the district court did not commit plain error when it did not sue sponte give a specific unanimity instruction to the jury on the sexual assault charge after R.W. testified to two alleged sexual assaults; and (3) the district court’s failure to disclose to the defense information from the medical and counseling records that it reviewed in camera did not warrant a new trial. View "State v. Stutzman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief, holding that Appellant’s petition was not timely and that Appellant’s claims of newly discovered evidence were unsubstantiated. Appellant entered Alford guilty pleas to five felonies and a misdemeanor for a violent assault and kidnapping of a woman he had been dating. Appellant filed the present petition for postconviction relief approximately five years later, asserting that he was effectively coerced into making his Alford pleas and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the petition on the merits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court erred in measuring the deadline for Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief but nevertheless ultimately reached the right result in denying the petition. View "Peterson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Dawn McGee, who was receiving public assistance in the form of SNAP benefits, and Helge Naber were an unmarried couple living together with their five collective children. When the Department of Health and Human Services learned that Naber was living with McGee it sent McGee a notice requesting income information for Naber. McGee did not send the requested information, and the Department terminated McGee’s benefits. The Board of Public Assistance and district court upheld the Department’s determination. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Department was required to terminate McGee’s SNAP benefits when the household, including Naber, refused to provide the income information that the Department requested. View "McGee v. State Department of Public Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment entered by the district court convicting Defendant of the deliberate homicide of his infant daughter and sentencing Defendant. The court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence about Defendant’s prior partner or family member assault conviction under Mont. R. Evid. 404(b); and (2) the district court erred by issuing a nonconforming written judgment that omitted credit for 318 days of time Defendant served pending trial. The court remanded the case for entry of an amended judgment. View "State v. Blaz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s judgment convicting Defendant of felony aggravated burglary and misdemeanor criminal mischief, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it refused to instruct the jury on the offense of misdemeanor assault as a lesser-included offense of aggravated burglary. The district court refused to give Defendant’s proffered instruction on the grounds that it misstated the law and that the State had agreed to drop a misdemeanor assault charge. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant properly preserved his argument for appeal that the district court erred in failing to give his proposed instruction; and (2) the evidence at trial did support Defendant’s proposal for the lesser-included offense instruction. View "State v. Daniels" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law