In the fall of 2022, the Montana Supreme Court was thrust into the national spotlight in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Political commentators around the country closely watched the election for one of two seats on the highest court in the Treasure State, speculating as to whether the balance would tip in favor of justices likely to follow the direction of the United States Supreme Court and overturn Montana’s constitutional protection of abortion. The judicial election raised questions of partisan influence among the members of Montana’s highest bench as liberal and conservative officials endorsed incumbent Justice Ingrid Gustafson and her challenger, James Brown, respectively. Much of the media coverage focused on the right to privacy as codified in the Montana Constitution, and the question of whether the Montana Supreme Court would continue to construe that provision as protecting the right to obtain an abortion. Since 2020, the Montana Law Review has regularly published a discussion of cases likely to affect the attorney practicing law in Montana. Several decisions within this edition of Significant Montana Cases show further examples of the Court considering the right to privacy, including Rogers v. Lewis & Clark County (pertaining to inmate strip searches) and State v. Mefford (warrantless cell phone searches). The Court in 2022 also grappled with election law, as detailed in the below summaries of McDonald v. Jacobsen and Montana Democratic Party v. Jacobsen. While space did not allow a summary of all impactful Montana Supreme Court decisions from the previous term, the authors hope that the recapitulations included prove useful to the Montana legal community.
Paul Dougherty et al., Legal Short, Significant Montana Cases, 84 Mont. L. Rev. 2 (2023).