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Jorgensen v. Stubbs

Supreme Court of Montana

October 2, 2018

TODD A STUBBS, Respondent and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: September 12, 2018

          APPEAL FROM District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DV 16-568C Honorable John C. Brown, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: William Jorgensen, self-represented, Williston, North Dakota

          For Appellee: Denny K. Palmer, Wall, McLean & Gallagher, PLLC, Helena, Montana


          JIM RICE, JUDGE

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section 1, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Appellant William Jorgensen (Jorgensen) challenges the entry of summary judgment herein by the Eighteenth Judicial District Court in favor of Appellee Todd A. Stubbs (Stubbs), on all claims, on the ground that Jorgenson's action was time barred.

         ¶3 The factual and procedural history of this matter dates back over 14 years, including a previous appeal to this Court. Jorgensen v. Gallatin County, 2011 MT 158N, 264 P.3d 519 (Jorgensen I). In April 2004, Jorgensen's son, Christopher Jorgensen (Christopher), died of a gunshot wound to the head after taking a former girlfriend, A.G., hostage in her Gallatin County home and assaulting her, leading to a standoff with police. Jorgensen I, ¶ 3. A law enforcement investigation concluded that Christopher's death was a suicide. Jorgensen I, ¶ 6. Jorgensen did not believe Christopher committed suicide, but had been murdered, and after his own investigation, became even more convinced. Jorgensen I, ¶ 8.

         ¶4 In March 2007, Jorgensen filed a lawsuit against Gallatin County, including the Gallatin County Sheriff and Coroner, which sought a reopening of the investigation into Christopher's death to consider the additional information gathered by Jorgensen, an order changing the cause of Christopher's death from suicide to homicide, and an award of damages to Jorgensen and Christopher's Estate.

         ¶5 Stubbs, an attorney, represented the Gallatin County Defendants in Jorgensen I, which was heavily litigated. Stubbs filed numerous pre-trial motions in limine to exclude evidence at trial, including Jorgensen's expert testimony, Jorgensen's non-expert opinion testimony, and other irrelevant evidence. Then, during trial, which was held in January 2010 and lasted nine days, Stubbs moved for and obtained an order from the District Court preventing A.G., who was subpoenaed by Jorgensen to testify, from invoking her Fifth Amendment privilege in front of the jury, on the ground that it would be prejudicial to Gallatin County. The order was issued over Jorgensen's objection. On January 21, 2010, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Gallatin County Defendants, specifically finding that Christopher's death was a result of suicide. Jorgensen I, ¶ 10. Jorgensen appealed, and on June 28, 2011, this Court issued its opinion affirming the verdict and judgment, concluding there was no reversible error. Jorgensen I, ¶ 14.

         ¶6 In February 2014, Jorgensen filed an informal ethics complaint against Stubbs with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC). ODC dismissed the complaint and the dismissal was upheld by the Commission on Practice, and by this Court, upon requests for review by Jorgensen. Jorgensen was advised on at least two occasions that all matters related to the ethics proceeding were required to remain confidential.

         ¶7 In July 2016, Jorgensen filed the present action against Stubbs. The complaint alleged that Stubbs was part of a conspiracy "with State Officials at the highest level" to keep evidence from the jury during the trial in Jorgensen I, defrauding the court. Jorgensen's complaint sought civil rights and criminal investigations of Stubbs, disbarment of Stubbs, and payment of $24 million in damages. In its summary judgment order, the District Court noted that Jorgensen's complaint "does not assert or identify any specific cause of action," but asserted civil conspiracies, civil rights violations, and violations of the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure, the Montana Code of Ethics, and several Montana statutes.[1]

         ¶8 Starting in September 2016, Stubbs filed motions seeking to prohibit Jorgensen from introducing, in this proceeding, evidence related to the ethics proceeding Jorgensen had attempted to initiate against Stubbs, because the complaint herein referenced claims Jorgensen had made in that proceeding. The District Court granted Stubbs' motion in limine, which Jorgensen challenged in a petition for writ of supervisory control filed with this Court in February 2017. We denied the writ, stating we were "not persuaded that the District Court has committed a legal error to warrant supervisory control," and that Jorgensen would have the remedy of appeal following final judgment. Jorgensen v. Mont. Eighteenth Judicial Dist. Court, No. OP 17-0114, 387 Mont. 537, 391 P.3d 733 (table) (March 7, 2017).

         ¶9 Stubbs moved the District Court for summary judgment on the ground that all of Jorgensen's claims were time barred. What followed was the filing of numerous motions and responses regarding the evidence and arguments that were properly before the court for purposes of the court's consideration of summary judgment, concluding with the District Court ...

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