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Montana Supreme Court

Pro Government
Total Judgeships: 

7 (0 vacancies)

Political Makeup: 

Non-Partisan

Location(s): 
Helena
Caseload: 

600

Recent Cases

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Court Mandates "Parenting Plan"

Tue, 05/27/2014

In re marriage of Woerner: Mr. and Mrs. Woerner were married and had one child. The couple got divorced and one parent moved to Arizona. Their son, who is still a toddler, was being fought between them in court so the district court ordered a parenting plan evaluation to take place. The evaluation resulted in the report that it would be acceptable for the child to be co-raised by each parent. As a result, the district court mandated that the child will be raised by both parents on a 6 week rotating term until the child reaches school age.

Decision

The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court. The Supreme Court ruled that the lower court acted within its jurisdiction when determining what actions would best foster proper development for the child and that its decision of the child being moved between parents every 6 weeks is justified. This decision by the court, mandating how a child will be raised regardless of the parents’ approval of the “parenting plan” is both noteworthy and concerning when considering legal precedent.

Read the full decision here
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A 'Taking' Without Compensation?

Fri, 04/25/2014

Lyndes v. Green: Lyndes owns a large portion of rural property, part of which is a section of old road that is used by Green 10 to 12 times a year in order to move his cattle. Lyndes and Green got into an argument ending with Lyndes filing suit against Green on trespassing charges. Green found the suit on the basis that his family has been moving cattle on the track of land for years, that the road was always treated as if there was an easement on it, and that Lyndes did not have the right to deny Green passage onto this land for herding purposes.

Decision

The Supreme Court of Montana affirmed the decision of the lower courts by ruling in favor of Lyndes. Even though there was never a spoken agreement with Lyndes or the property owner before Lyndes, and even though the road is not a public road, the Court decided that tradition has created a “prescriptive easement” across that section of Lyndes’ property and thus Green can have access to it for herding purposes. Although the facts of this case can be seen as justifiable for this decision, the concept behind the decision and the fact that Green does not have to pay Lyndes for use of his previously believed to be private property leads one to be reminded of a private property taking without compensation.

Read the full decision here
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Hold-Over Senators Threaten Suffrage Rights

Wed, 03/26/2014

Willems v. State: In 2013 the Montana Legislature redistricted the state. The representation for these districts were assigned through the election committee appointing “hold-over senators” who are those elected by the old districts but have not completed their terms. The plaintiffs filed suit against the state on the grounds that the senators were assigned in violation of the citizens’ suffrage rights and that the commission violated the citizens’ “right to know.”

Decision

The Montana Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the lower courts by granting summary judgment to the State. The Court ruled that the commission is a legislative body, not an agency, and thus cannot violate the “right to know” standard. In addition, since the commission is a legislative body, it is exempt from the statutes promulgating the right of participation in elections and thus the complaint concerning the violation of suffrage rights is without grounds.

Read the full decision here