Submitted on Briefs: June 6, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Ninth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Teton, Cause No. DR 17-030 Honorable Robert
G. Olson, Presiding Judge
Appellant: J.R. Casillas, Greg McDonnell, Datsopoulos,
MacDonald & Lind, P.C., Missoula, Montana
Appellee: Jennifer M. Stutz, Attorney at Law, Choteau,
Shoshon Edith Anderson obtained a final order of protection
from the Justice Court against Bryan Wayne Larson in 2015.
Larson filed a motion to dissolve the final order of
protection nearly two years later. The Justice Court denied
his motion, and Larson appealed. The District Court ruled
that Larson's appeal was an untimely appeal of the order
of protection. Larson argues that the District Court was
incorrect because he sought to dissolve the order, not to
appeal it. We reverse and remand to the District Court for
consideration of the appeal on the merits.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Anderson and Larson were married in 2014 and divorced in
2015. After the decree was entered, Anderson filed for a
temporary order of protection in the Justice Court, alleging
that Larson was stalking her. The Justice Court issued a
temporary order of protection, which it made permanent
following a hearing on November 23, 2015. The final order of
protection against Larson expires on November 23, 2019.
On October 19, 2017, Larson filed a "Combined Motion and
Brief to Dissolve Final Protection Order" in the Justice
Court. Larson argued that the order of protection had not
been based on evidence that implicated a potential threat to
Anderson, that he had never made threats against her either
before or after the issuance of the order of protection, that
he had complied with the provisions of the order of
protection during the nearly two years since it had been
granted, that the order of protection negatively affected his
employment and his ability to travel outside the United
States, and that Anderson was no longer living in Montana and
had no need for an order of protection. Larson stated that
despite being charged by Teton County with stalking Anderson,
he had entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, and
that the charges had been dismissed with prejudice in 2017.
He stated that Anderson opposed "a stipulation to
dissolve the order despite the absence of any threat to her
safety or wellbeing." He cited Albrecht v.
Albrecht, 2011 MT 316, 363 Mont. 117, 266 P.3d 1275, for
the proposition that the Justice Court has the authority to
either continue or terminate the order of protection apart
from Anderson's wishes.
On October 30, 2017, Anderson's attorney moved for
additional time to respond to Larson's motion and brief.
On October 31, 2017, without Anderson's response, the
Justice Court denied Larson's motion to dissolve the
order of protection, stating in its order that there was
"no basis" to dissolve it before the specified
termination date. On November 22, 2017, Larson filed a notice
of appeal. Larson's appeal stated that he "hereby
appeals to the District Court from all orders and judgments
entered herein, including the Justice Court's Order
entered in this action on the 31st day of October 2017, and
appeals all appealable issues in this matter."
Anderson moved to dismiss Larson's appeal on December 4,
2017. Without awaiting response, the District Court issued an
order denying Larson's appeal on December 6, 2017. The
District Court's order stated:
A review of the transmitted file provides that the final
judgment was rendered on November 23, 2015. As provided by
Montana Code Annotated § 40-15-302, the Respondent had
the right to appeal the final Order of Protection issued
November 23, 2015. Appeals from Justice Court are governed by
Montana Code Annotated § 25-33-102, which requires the
appeal to be filed within 30 days of the judgement [sic].
Respondent failed to timely file an appeal on that Order. The
Teton County Justice Court's sua sponte order denying
Respondent's Motion for relief of said judgement [sic]
nearly two years after it was rendered does not constitute an