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Smith v. Montana Fourth Judicial District Court

Supreme Court of Montana

October 30, 2013

TY MICHAEL SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
MONTANA FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, THE HONORABLE JOHN W. LARSON, DISTRICT JUDGE, and MONTANA TWENTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, and the HONORABLE DEBORAH KIM CHRISTOPHER, DISTRICT JUDGE, Respondents.

ORDER

Petitioner Ty Michael Smith asks this Court to exercise supervisory control in relation to the assumption of jurisdiction by the Honorable John W, Larson over Lake County Cause No. DC 13-3. Smith maintains that Judge Larson has acted contrary to both (1) the directives of the Honorable C. B. McNeil, who was initially assigned the case; and (2) the statute governing substitution of district judges, § 3-1-804, MCA. Smith asks us to void past actions by Judge Larson in the case and to prohibit Judge Larson's assertion of trial jurisdiction. It appears that Judge Larson has conducted a hearing on Smith's motions to suppress blood test results and evidence seized without a warrant from Smith's vehicle—and denied both of those motions—and has set trial and pretrial scheduling dates.

Supervisory control is an extraordinary remedy that is sometimes justified when urgency or emergency factors make the normal appeal process inadequate, the case involves purely legal questions, and the other court is proceeding under a mistake of law causing a gross injustice, constitutional issues of state-wide importance are involved, or the court has granted or denied a motion for substitution of a judge in a criminal case. M. R. App. P. 14.

Having reviewed Smith's petitions and the relevant documents from the District Court record, we are not convinced that supervisory control is warranted in this case. Although Smith contends that the substitution of Judge Larson for Judge Christopher is outside the authority granted to Judge Christopher by Judge McNeil, the documents attached to Smith's petition for supervisory control do not support that claim. Judge McNeil's August 1, 2013 order authorized Judge Christopher to exercise jurisdiction over all matters assigned to Department 1 requiring judicial action, including authority to call in any other district judge. Thereafter, Smith filed a motion for substitution of judge and Judge Christopher invited Judge Larson to assume jurisdiction. Her invitation, signed on September 11, 2013, was served on counsel of record.

Smith is correct that Judge Larson's acceptance apparently was not served on counsel; accordingly, the requirement in § 3-1-804(7), MCA, that a certificate of service must be attached to assumption of jurisdiction form in the court file has not yet been met in this case. Smith has cited two cases—both decided under previous versions of the rule concerning substitution of district judges—in which this Court reversed judgments on direct appeal for failure to provide notice to counsel that the action had been transferred to another judge. Here, Smith does not claim to have lacked notice of Judge Larson's assumption of jurisdiction. He filed briefs and appeared at the hearing before Judge Larson on his motions to suppress. Smith has not identified any way in which he has been prejudiced by the procedural irregularity. We are not convinced that the normal appeal process is inadequate as to this claim.

Therefore,

IT IS ORDERED that the petition for writ of supervisory control is DENIED.

The Clerk is directed to provide copies of this Order to all counsel of record in Lake County Cause No. DC 13-3, and to the Honorable John W. Larson.


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