Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the Public Service Commission's final order granting L&L Site Services, Inc.'s application for a Class D motor carrier certificate of public convenience and necessity, holding that the Commission properly exercised its discretion in considering competition in determining whether public convenience and necessity required the authorization of additional garbage collection service. In affirming the Commission's final order, the district court concluded that the Commission properly considered competition in determining whether public convenience and necessity required the authorization of additional garbage collection service. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not err in considering competition in determining public convenience and necessity under Mont. Code Ann. 69-12-323(2); (2) substantial evidence supported the Commission's decision to grant a Class D permit to L&L; and (3) the Commission is not required to go through rule making under the Montana Administrative Procedure Act to exercise its statutorily granted discretion to consider competition when determining public convenience and necessity. View "McGree v. Montana Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court assumed original jurisdiction over the issue presented in this case and held that the plain and ordinary meaning of “land acquisition” per Mont. Code Ann. 87-1-209(1) does not encompass conservation easement acquisition and that the statute does not require the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) to finalize its conservation easement transactions with the Board of Land Commissioners (Land Board). Steve Bullock, in his official capacity as Governor of Montana, and Martha Williams, in her official capacity as Director of the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, invoked the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to declare whether section 87-1-209(1) requires FWP to bring conservation easement transactions of more than 100 acres or $100,000 in value before the Board of Land Commissioners for final approval. The Supreme Court held (1) the issue presented is justiciable; (2) the Governor and FWP Director have standing to petition the Court; (3) the Court is within the sphere of its constitutional authority to interpret the statutory meaning of section 87-1-209(1); and (4) acquisitions of interests in land do not require Land Board approval, and therefore, FWP is not statutorily required to take its conservation easement transactions before the Land Board. View "Bullock v. Fox" on Justia Law

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In this workers’ compensation case, the Supreme Court held that the Workers’ Compensation Court (WCC) erred in holding that Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-407(14) did not apply for purposes of determining liability for the exacerbation of Kim Wiard’s occupational disease (OD). Wiard was an employee at Tricon Timber, LLC. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corporation accepted liability for Wiard’s bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) as an OD. Liberty later ceased providing workers’ compensation insurance for Tricon, and State Fund became Triton’s workers’ compensation insurance provider. When Wiard filed an OD claim for left CTS with State Fund, State Fund denied the claim on the basis that Wiard’s OD diagnosis preceded State Fund’s coverage. Liberty also denied liability. The insurers filed cross-motions for summary judgment in the WCC on the issue of liability. The WCC granted summary judgment in favor of Liberty, concluding that Wiard had reached maximum medical improvement for her earlier CTS diagnosis and that her later job duties materially aggravated her OD. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the WCC erred when it held that section 39-71-407(14) did not apply in this case; and (2) under the statute, liability for the OD diagnosis remained with the insurer providing coverage at the time the OD was first diagnosed. View "Montana State Fund v. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision quashing Appellant’s petition for writ of mandate seeking an order directing that Park County rescind its order instructing him to cease construction of his septic system. Appellant was issued a permit to construct and install a permitted septic system on his property. Thereafter, the Park County Sanitarian found several deficiencies in Appellant’s application that would, in the Sanitarian’s determination, allow the proposed septic system to be operated in violation of the Park County Water Onsite Treatment Regulations and potentially create a threat to public health. The Sanitarian informed Appellant that the permit issued to him was voided and instructed him to cease construction of the septic system. Appellant filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for libel. The district court quashed the petition, concluding that a writ of mandate was inapplicable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) mandate was not available in this case because the petition sought an order to direct Park County to undo an action already taken and because the Sanitarian’s voiding of the permit was a discretionary action; and (2) Appellant was not denied due process of law. View "Boehm v. Park County" on Justia Law