Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Crites v. Lewis and Clark County

Supreme Court of Montana

July 16, 2019

CONNIE CRITES, in her capacity as the Personal Representative of the Estate of John Michael Crites, Petitioner and Appellant,
v.
LEWIS AND CLARK COUNTY, by and through its County Attorney, Respondent and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: January 23,

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the First Judicial District, In and For the County of Lewis and Clark, Cause No. BDV-2018-193 Honorable Michael F. McMahon, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Jesse C. Kodadek, Worden Thane P.C., Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, J. Stuart Segrest, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Leo Gallagher, Lewis and Clark County Attorney, Melissa Broch, Deputy County Attorney, Helena, Montana

          OPINION

          JAMES JEREMIAH SHEA JUSTICE

         ¶1 Appellant Connie Crites, in her capacity as the Personal Representative of the Estate of John Michael Crites (Estate), appeals the Order of the First Judicial District Court, Lewis and Clark County, denying the Estate's Complaint and Petition (Petition) for Release of Confidential Criminal Justice Information (CCJI). We address the following issue on appeal:

Whether the District Court erred when it denied the Estate's Petition for Release of Confidential Criminal Justice Information without conducting an in camera review.

         ¶2 We affirm.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 In late May 2011, John Michael Crites was sued by his neighbors Dennis Shaw, John Mehan, and Katy Wessel. Shaw, Mehan, and Wessel sought compensatory and punitive damages after Crites allegedly threatened and accosted his neighbors in their neighborhood in Lewis and Clark County (County).

         ¶4 On June 28, 2011, Crites was reported missing. On October 8, 2011, Crites's dismembered remains were found in black plastic trash bags near MacDonald Pass. Crites's skull was later found on the west side of MacDonald Pass. To date, nobody has been charged with Crites's murder.

         ¶5 On March 27, 2012, the County issued a death certificate for Crites. On April 19, 2012, Crites's sister, Connie Crites, was appointed personal representative of his Estate. On January 9, 2018, the Estate requested that the County release Crites's investigative file for the purposes of defending itself in the ongoing lawsuit and to pursue a civil wrongful death action. On January 19, 2018, the County responded to the Estate's request with a letter from County Attorney Leo Gallagher that it could not release Crites's investigative file because release "would jeopardize the State's ability to prosecute someone for the homicide and the investigation is ongoing."

         ¶6 On March 9, 2018, the Estate filed a Petition in District Court, seeking release of the investigative file. The Estate requested, pursuant to § 44-5-303, MCA, the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act, and Article II, Section 9 of the Montana Constitution that the District Court conduct an in camera review of the CCJI associated with Crites's file and to release information under seal that is relevant to the Estate's claims and defenses in the ongoing lawsuit. The County opposed the Estate's request and argued that releasing CCJI to the Estate would compromise its investigation. In its response, the County submitted an affidavit from Detective Dan O'Malley that stated the Crites homicide investigation was active and ongoing. The affidavit further specified that the investigative file contained: ninety-five reports regarding Crites's homicide investigation, totaling ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.