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The Current State of Court Operations in Montana
March 17, 2020


HOW MONTANA COURTS ARE REACTING

  1. The federal www.mtd.uscourts.gov/news/us-courts-restrict-access-and-limit-operations-response-covid-19-public-health-emergency and state https://covid19.mt.gov/ courthouses remain open but with modified operations.  Lawsuits can still be filed, and clerks will be answering phones during business hours.
  2. Each litigant with a state district court civil jury trial that is set to begin before April 30, 2020, is encouraged to seek a continuance or to request a bench trial. Courts are encouraged to use video-conferencing and telephonic conferencing as much as possible.
  3. All federal jury trials set to begin on or before May 1, 2020, are vacated and will be reset by the presiding judge. All non-trial-related deadlines will proceed as normal.
  4. Each court will be reevaluating the above procedures and modifying as needed.  Modified operations and procedures due to coronavirus that are posted on any court’s website may change daily. Check the links above for the most updated information.

WHAT LITIGANTS ARE ABLE TO DO

  1. Parties can still send out and answer written discovery, including requests for documents.  If a responding party faces delays in accessing and gathering responsive documents due to business disruptions, the parties should, consistent with the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct, work to agree on reasonable extensions.
  2. Depositions can still occur. Court reporters can administer oaths via video or telephone. Depositions can take place on a completely remote basis. 
  3. If a trial is being postponed but a speedy adjudication is important to any or all parties, parties should consider agreeing to arbitrate or mediate in lieu of trial. As with depositions, if all parties stipulate, there are alternatives to entirely in-person alternative dispute resolutions. 

 To discuss these or other related matters with Liz Mellem, call (406) 333-0520 or send an email to amellem@parsonsbehle.com.

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