Montana Adopts Simplified Procedure for Civil Cases
On May 2, 2019, the Montana Uniform District Court Rules Commission (Commission) submitted proposed revisions to the Montana Uniform District Court Rules to draft a simplified procedure process in civil actions across all 22 of Montana’s judicial districts. The seven-member Commission, comprised of experienced trial lawyers, district court judges, and one professor of the Montana School of Law, incorporated simplified procedures in civil actions into Montana’s Uniform District Court rules After public comment and hearing on the proposed rules, the Montana Supreme Court issued an Order amending and adopting the Simplified Procedure for Civil Cases Rule 6, effective January 1, 2020.
Montana’s simplified procedure—outlined in Uniform District Court Rule 6—applies to all civil actions in which a jury trial has been requested. Rule 6 requires:
- Attorneys educate and consult with their clients about the simplified process and prepare to either elect or decline the simplified procedure process at the initial scheduling conference;
- The judge set trial within six months of the scheduling order’s issuance or “as soon as the court’s schedule allows,” with the trial not to exceed three days;
- Mandatory initial disclosures for information about witnesses, documents, damages, and insurance contracts, lay witness statements, and expert reports with no expert depositions;
- Discovery is limited to 25 interrogatories, 25 requests for production, and three depositions with a prohibition on discovery motions. Instead, the parties may argue their position during a hearing before the court;
- Similarly, motions for summary judgmentare not allowed absent leave of court.
The goals of the simplified process are to protect the right to trial by jury in civil actions; provide maximum access to the district courts and opportunity for citizens to participate in the civil justice system in civil actions; enhance the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of civil actions; facilitate limited discovery to decrease expenses, and to provide opportunities for counsel to train in civil trial practice.