Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court ruling that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had illegally renewed a permit allowing Western Energy Company to discharge rain and snow water into surrounding ditches and creeks from its Rosebud Coal Mine in Colstrip, Montana, holding that further fact-finding was required. In 2012, DEQ renewed a permit, which was modified in 2014, for Western Energy to discharge pollutants contained in waters that were created by ongoing precipitation-driven events. Plaintiffs brought this action alleging that the DEQ's permit renewal violated the Montana Water Quality Act and federal Clean Water Act. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Montana Board of Environmental Review was not required to make a new stream classification for the Yellowstone River drainage; (2) DEQ can lawfully allow the mine to monitor a sample of the discharges that are representative of the precipitation water being released, but the district court must determine whether those releases are actually representative of the mining and discharge activities that are taking place at the mine; and (3) remand was required to determine whether a "pollutant-impaired stream" should be monitored with a higher environmental standard than the current permit requires. View "Montana Environmental Information Center v. Western Energy Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Vision Net, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment and granting summary judgment to the Montana Department of Revenue (DOR), holding that the district court did not err by holding that the DOR properly centrally assessed Vision Net's property. Vision Net filed a petition for declaratory judgment challenging the DOR's decision to reclassify its property. The district court held that the DOR could properly centrally assess Vision Net's property, resulting in a significant increase in Vision Net's state tax liability. On appeal, Vision Net argued that DOR's central assessment violated its statutory rights and its constitutional rights of equal protection and equalization under Mont. Const. art. II, 4 and art. VII, 3. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly held that Vision Net was subject to central assessment and that Vision Net's constitutional challenge was without merit. View "Vision Net, Inc. v. State, Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's order enjoining the Montana Department of Public Service Regulation (PSC) from propounding discovery in a dispute between Republic Services of Montana and North Valley Refuse (collectively, Petitioners), removing the PSC from the matter and ordering appointment of an independent hearing examiner to preside over the case, holding that the district court erred in requiring the PSC to appoint an independent hearing examiner. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err by issuing a writ of prohibition barring the PSC from propounding discovery because the standards were satisfied for issuance of a writ of prohibition; but (2) the district court erred by issuing a writ of mandate requiring the PSC to appoint an independent hearing examiner. Because the authority for removal of the entire PSC based upon the independent actions of a staff member were insufficient, and the remedy under the circumstances was overbroad, the Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Allied Waste Services of N.A., LLC v. Montana Department of Public Service Regulation" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Court (WCC) granting summary judgment to Indemnity Insurance Company of North America on Brian Richardson's petition arguing that he was entitled to have Indemnity accept his claim for workers' compensation benefits, holding that the WCC correctly held that Richardson had not timely filed a written claim for benefits under Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-601. Richardson filed his claim for benefits almost four years after the alleged work-related accident. Indemnity denied Richardson's claim on the grounds that Richardson had failed to provide his employer with timely notice and that he had failed timely to file his claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Richardson failed to file a timely written claim under section 39-71-601. View "Richardson v. Indemnity Insurance Co. of N.A." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Landowners' petition for writ of review asserting that the Ravalli County Board of County Commissioners exceeded its jurisdiction to grant or deny Landowners' petition for abandonment, holding that Landowners failed to meet the statutory requirement for issuance of a writ of review. Landowners erected a gate that obstructed a portion of a county road. Landowners petitioned the Board to abandon that portion of the road, but the Board denied the petition for abandonment and ordered the gate removed. Landowners later filed their petition for a writ of review. The district court denied Landowners' petition for a writ of review and accompanying application for preliminary injunction on the basis that the Board did not exceed its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Landowners failed to show that the Board exceeded its jurisdiction. View "Bugli v. Ravalli County" on Justia Law

by
In this case challenging the approval of a permit to build a bridge on certain property the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court entering judgment in favor of Community Association for North Shore Conservation, Inc. (CANSC) and the order denying CANSC's request for attorney fees, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. Intervenor Jolene Dugan, who owned a peninsula-shaped parcel of land on the shore of Flathead Lake, sought to build a bridge on her property to connect what was sometimes an intermittent island to the mainland. The Flathead County Board of County Commissioners approved the permit, and Dugan built the bridge. CANSC sought to overturn the approval of Dugan's permit. The district court entered an order requiring Dugan to take down the bridge and restore the area. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) CANSC had standing to bring this lawsuit; (2) the Board's approval of the bridge permit was arbitrary and capricious; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered Dugan to restore the lake to its original state; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing CANSC's request for attorney fees. View "Community Ass'n for North Shore Conservation, Inc. v. Flathead County" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the final agency decision issued by the Montana Human Rights Commission (HRC) finding that Jerry James Bright was subjected to racial discrimination in his employment KB Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Snappitz (KB), holding the district court correctly affirmed the final agency decision and dismissed KB's petition for judicial review. On appeal, KB argued that the hearing officer made numerous incorrect findings of fact and that the HRC and district court wrongly upheld the hearing officer's decision. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the hearing officer's findings of fact were not clearly erroneous and did not misapprehend the effect of evidence and that no mistake was made. View "KB Enterprises, LLC v. Montana Human Rights Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to Child and remanded for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division (Department) to engage in reasonable efforts to reunify Mother with Child, holding that the Department failed to provide reasonable efforts to reunify Mother and Child. On appeal, Mother argued that the Department violated her fundamental constitutional right to parent and abused its discretion by failing to provide her with the required reasonable efforts to reunify her with Child. The Supreme Court agreed and remanded the case, holding (1) the Department failed to provide reasonable efforts to reunite Mother and Child; and (2) the district court erred in its determination that the Department established by clear and convincing evidence that the condition rendering Mother unfit to safely parent was not likely to change within a reasonable time. View "In re R.J.F." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Montana Water Court holding that Appellants failed to prove a long period of continuous nonuse and therefore failed to show Claimant or his predecessors' presumed intent to abandon the water rights, holding that the Water Court did not err. Specifically, the Court held (1) the Water Court did not err in concluding that Appellants failed to establish a continuous period of nonuse; (2) the failure to assert water rights through the water commissioner is not the equivalent of nonuse; (3) the Water Court did not commit clear error in not addressing the issue of partial abandonment; and (4) the Water Court did not err in concluding that the appropriate remedy for Appellants would be to file a dissatisfied water use complaint or pursue contempt proceedings. View "Klamert v. Iverson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying summary judgment for Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, granting the cross-motions for summary judgment of Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the City of Billings, and affirming DEQ's decision to issue a Montana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (the General Permit), holding that the DEQ's decisions in issuing the General Permit were not unlawful, arbitrary, or capricious. Specifically, the Count held (1) the General Permit complied with public participation requirements; (2) the DEQ's decision to incorporate construction and post-construction storm water pollution controls into the General Permit was not unlawful, arbitrary, or capricious; (3) the DEQ's decision incorporating Total Maximum Daily Loads into the General Permit was not unlawful, arbitrary, or capricious; and (4) DEQ's decision to incorporate pollution monitoring requirements into the General Permit was not unlawful, arbitrary, or capricious. View "Upper Missouri Waterkeeper v. Montana Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law