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.

Burns v. County of Musselshell

Supreme Court of Montana

December 17, 2019

RONNIE BURNS, Individually, as an Elector, and a Write-in Candidate for Musselshell County Sheriff, Petitioner and Appellee,
v.
COUNTY OF MUSSELSHELL, STATE OF MONTANA ELECTION ADMINISTRATOR CHERYL TOMASSI, COUNTING BOARDS, CANVASSING BOARD, and RECOUNT BOARD, Respondents and Appellees, and SHAWN L. LESNIK, elected candidate, Intervenor and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: October 23, 2019

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Musselshell, Cause No. DV 18-73 Honorable Katherine M. Bidegaray, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Lisa A. Speare, Speare Law Firm, PC, Billings, Montana.

          For Appellee Ronnie Burns: Chris J. Gallus, Gallus Law, Helena, Montana.

          For County Appellees: Peter Michael Meloy, Meloy Law Firm, Helena, Montana.

          OPINION

          INGRID GUSTAFSON, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Shawn L. Lesnik appeals from the order of the Fourteenth Judicial District Court, Musselshell County, denying his motion for attorney fees under either the private attorney general doctrine or § 13-36-205, MCA. Lesnik argues both theories for attorney fees on appeal. Because we agree the District Court abused its discretion in denying fees under the private attorney general doctrine, we decline to consider Lesnik's arguments under § 13-36-205, MCA. We reverse the District Court and remand with instructions for further proceedings in accordance with this Opinion.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Ronnie Burns and Lesnik both sought the Republican nomination for Sheriff of Musselshell County in the 2018 primary election. Lesnik won the primary and his name appeared on the general election ballot in November 2018 as the Republican nominee. After the primary, Burns filed his intention to run as a write-in candidate for the race with the election administrator for Musselshell County, Cheryl Tomassi, pursuant to § 13-10-211, MCA. Burns included fourteen different variations of his name with his declaration.

         ¶3 After the official canvass of the vote on November 19, 2018, Lesnik was declared the winner, defeating Burns by forty-one votes. Burns filed a petition for a court-ordered recount with the District Court on November 26, 2018. Burns asserted votes cast for him were not correctly counted and Tomassi failed to follow the correct statutory procedures. Burns served his petition on the County but did not serve his petition on Lesnik.

         ¶4 On November 30, 2018, Burns filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent the County from seating a Sheriff candidate before the resolution of Burns' recount petition and attached affidavits from himself and election judges, asserting irregularities in the counting process. The District Court issued an order for preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order that same day and set a show cause hearing for December 7, 2018. Once again, Burns did not serve Lesnik.

         ¶5 On December 6, the County and Burns stipulated to stay the show cause hearing. They stipulated probable cause existed for a court-ordered recount and requested the court order one. They agreed to negotiate the legal parameters and framework for conducting the recount and that Burns should not be required to post a bond for the costs of the recount. The court entered an order the same day, approving the stipulations.

         ¶6 On December 19, the County and Burns stipulated that Tomassi should relinquish all access and control over any and all ballots related to the election and give them to the County attorney. They agreed to conduct a recount to begin at 9 a.m. on December 21, 2018. On the morning of December 21, Burns filed a motion to set parameters for the recount. The motion stated the County did not oppose the proposed parameters. The court signed an order approving the parameters set forth by Burns, which included:

1. The Court directs that the Board shall count any of the 14 variations contained in the application, which ...

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.