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State v. Huffine

Supreme Court of Montana

July 17, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
LEWIS ELDON HUFFINE, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: January 3, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: DISTRICT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT, IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF PARK, CAUSE NO. DC 15-21 HONORABLE DAVID CYBULSKI, PRESIDING JUDGE

          For Appellant Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Koan Mercer, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Jonathan M. Krauss, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Bruce E. Becker, Park County Attorney, Kathleen Carrick, Deputy County Attorney, Livingston, Montana

          OPINION

          DIRK M. SANDEFUR JUSTICE.

         ¶1 Lewis Eldon Huffine appeals the judgment of conviction of the Montana Sixth Judicial District Court, Park County on four counts of felony violation of a protective order. Huffine collaterally challenges the validity of the underlying 2006 protective order and further asserts that pretrial delay denied him a speedy trial in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 24 of the Montana Constitution. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

         ¶2 Huffine presents the following issues for review:

         1.Did the District Court err by failing to analyze Huffine's speedy trial claim?

         2.Did the District Court err by denying Huffine's motion to dismiss in which he collaterally challenged the constitutional validity of the 2006 protective order?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 In 2006, Toba Lord filed a petition in the Montana 18th Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, for a permanent order of protection against Huffine. The petition alleged that Huffine stalked Lord and her family and sent numerous unwanted communications causing her to fear for their safety. Huffine failed to appear at the show cause hearing on the petition on November 16, 2006, and the court granted the petition and issued a permanent protective order enjoining Huffine from having contact with Lord and her family. On December 22, 2006, Huffine timely appealed and challenged, inter alia, the validity of the protective order on the asserted ground that he did not receive notice of the November 2006 hearing upon which the District Court issued the order. He subsequently filed numerous rambling related pro se motions and petitions. On November 14, 2007, we dismissed the appeal on procedural grounds pursuant to M. R. App. P. 12(1)(f) (2007) due to failure to cite to relevant legal authorities and the pertinent portions of the District Court record upon which he asserted error.

         ¶4 In spring 2007, while his appeal was still pending, Huffine again sent numerous letters to Lord's address. In June 2007, the State charged him in the Montana Eighteenth Judicial District Court with one count of stalking and two counts of violating a protective order. At Huffine's request, the court appointed a public defender to represent him. After the State amended the charges to eight counts of violating a protective order in violation of § 45-5-626, MCA, the matter proceeded to jury trial on January 29, 2009. On the morning of trial, Huffine alleged that the District Court did not have jurisdiction over him, that the court was biased and prejudiced against him, that he had the right to represent himself, that the court unlawfully denied him the right to depose Lord and file legal documents in the case, and that the State failed to provide him with requisite discovery. Later that same day, the court allowed Huffine to leave the courtroom[1] and observe the trial via closed-circuit television from another room. On the second day of trial, Huffine returned to the courtroom but the court later excluded him after he ignored repeated warnings to be quiet and allow his counsel to represent him. Huffine did not challenge the validity of the 2006 protective order in the 2007 criminal proceeding. After the jury convicted him on all eight counts of violating a protective order, Huffine timely appealed, asserting only that his 2009 conviction was invalid on the ground that the District Court denied him his constitutional rights to be personally present and represent himself at trial. In March 2010, we affirmed his 2009 conviction. State v. Huffine, 2010 MT 67N.

         ¶5 Between 2013 and 2015, in continued disregard of the 2006 protective order, Huffine sent four additional letters to Lord. On March 4, 2015, the State charged Huffine in Park County Justice Court with four counts of attempted violation of a protective order in violation of § 45-5-626, MCA. Upon dismissal in Justice Court, the State refiled the charges in District Court on March 19, 2015. After the District Court continued the original April 21st hearing date, Huffine appeared on June 9, 2015, for initial appearance and arraignment. Huffine subsequently filed hundreds of rambling pro se documents challenging the validity of the underlying 2006 protective order due to lack of notice and opportunity to be heard. Lacking pertinent legal citation, cogent legal analysis, and supporting evidentiary showing, Huffine's filings, liberally construed, are best characterized as motions to ...


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