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State v. Jeffries

State v. Jeffries, 2018 MT 17 (Feb. 6, 2018) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the municipal court a used its discretion by denying Jeffries’ motion to exclude breath evidence.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Jeffries was stopped by Missoula police early one morning while driving with no tail lights. Jeffries’ vehicle had a large portion of its front bumper missing, only one working headlight, and was dripping fluid. Investigation revealed recent property damage along Jeffries’ route with pieces of her vehicle left behind. The officer noticed Jeffries’ speech was slurred. Jeffries admitted to having two or three mixed drinks several hours earlier. A second police officer also noticed Jeffries’s speech was slurred and that her eyes were bloodshot, she was unsteady on her feet, and her breath smelled strongly of alcohol.…

Tyrrell v. BNSF Railway Co.

Tyrrell v. BNSF Railway Co., 2016 MT 126 (May 31, 2016) (Shea, J.; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (6-1, aff’d & rev’d) (consolidated appeals)

Issue: (1) Whether Montana courts have personal jurisdiction over BNSF under FELA, and (2) whether Montana courts have personal jurisdiction over BNSF under Montana law.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) yes.

Affirmed (denial of BNSF’s motion to dismiss) and reversed (granting BNSF’s motion to dismiss)

Facts: In March 2011, Nelson, a North Dakota resident, sued BNSF in Montana to recover damages for injuries sustained in his employment with BNSF. BNSF is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Texas. Nelson does not allege that he ever worked in Montana or was injured in Montana.…

In re the Parenting of CMR

In re the Parenting of CMR, 2016 MT 120 (May 24, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in denying father’s motion to change venue; (2) whether the district court erred in granting mother’s motion to dismiss the modification of the parenting plan; and (3) whether the district court violated father’s due process rights.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; and (3) no.


Facts: CMR was born in November 2009 to Ray and Amber. They lived together until May 2010, and have been litigating the terms of their parenting plan as CMR has gotten older. Amber is CMR’s primary care provider. The parents signed a mediation parenting plan in February 2015, which is the basis of this appeal.…

State v. Graves

State v. Graves, 2015 MT 262 (Sept. 1, 2015) (Shea, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred by revoking Graves’ suspended sentence before it began; (2) whether Graves was required to sign his conditions of probation before he was subject to those conditions; (3) whether the district court erred in denying the admission of Graves’ out-of-state court records; (4) whether the district court could impose a sentence to the MSP when revoking a 1995 sentence to the DOC; (5) whether the district court erred by denying Graves credit for time served while incarcerated in Oregon after the revocation petition had been filed but before he was transferred to Montana.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no, as the reason he didn’t sign was that he escaped; (3) yes; (4) no; (5) yes.…

State v. Spady

State v. Spady, 2015 MT 218 (July 30, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.) (7-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred when it granted Spady’s motion to dismiss and concluded the 24/7 Sobriety Program is unconstitutional.

Short Answer: The Court holds that the 24/7 program is constitutional, but that state law and due process require an individualized assessment to determine whetherae defendant is an appropriate candidate for the program. Because the justice court did not conduct such an assessment here, the Court affirms the district court’s decision to remand Spady’s case to justice court with instructions to dismiss the contempt charges against him.

Affirmed and reversed, remanded with instructions

Facts: The 2011 Legislature enacted the 24/7 Sobriety Program Act, §§ 44-4-1201 through -1206, MCA.…

In the Matter of AH, LM, & JM

In the Matter of AH, LM, & JM, 2015 MT 75 (March 10, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, affirmed)

Issue: (1) Whether Mother’s due process rights were violated by delays in holding the show cause, adjudicatory and dispositional hearings; and (2) whether the district court erred in finding that Mother failed to complete her treatment plan and that the condition rendering her unfit to parent was unlikely to change in a reasonable time.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) no.


Facts: Mother has three children, JM (2006 – father is TT), LM (2009 – father is AA) and AH (2010 – father is FH). DPHHS received several reports of bruises and bite marks on the children in July 2011. It removed the children from Mother’s care in August 2011.…

Truck Insurance Exchange v. O’Mailia

Truck Insurance Exchange v. O’Mailia, 2015 MT 42 (Feb. 17, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court properly granted summary judgment to the insurer on the basis that no property damage occurred during the policy period; and (2) whether the district court violated O’Mailia’s right to due process by dismissing his counterclaims with prejudice.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) no.


Facts: O’Mailia was hired to install a water heater on the premises of the newly built Famous Dave’s restaurant in Kalispell in 2007. O’Mailia was covered by a commercial general liability policy from TIE, which he held from July 2006 – November 2009, when he terminated coverage. In March 2010, a fire broke out in Famous Dave’s and was eventually traced to installation and maintenance of the water heater, which heated wood framing near the heater to the point where it eventually caught fire.…

State v. Betterman

State v. Betterman, 2015 MT 39 (Feb. 10, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Betterman was denied due process by virtue of the delay between conviction and sentencing.

Short Answer: No, overruling State v. Mooney.


Facts: Betterman was sentenced for family member assault in March 2012, and remanded to the Butte-Silver Bow detention center for arraignment on bail jumping charges. In December 2012, the district court scheduled sentencing for January 17, 2013. On that day, Betterman moved to dismiss, alleging a speedy-trial violation based on the delay in his sentencing. No hearing was held, and the district court issued an order denying the motion on April 29, 2013.

On May 6, Betterman filed an affidavit setting forth several facts, including that he had spent at least 442 days in jail for partner of family member assault and would be eligible for conditional release if he was an inmate with DOC, that he was suffering from the delay, and was not receiving medical attention for physical ailments.…