General information about the Court
The Montana Workers' Compensation Court provides a fair, efficient, and effective forum for the resolution of disputes arising under the Montana Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Disease Act.
- History of the Workers' Compensation Court
- Court's Jurisdiction
- Workers' Compensation Judge
- Court Personnel
- Contacting The Court
- Trial Dates and Deadlines
- Court Goals and Accomplishments
- Settlement Conference/Mediation Services
- Representing Yourself Before the Court
- Americans With Disabilities Act
History of the Court [Return to top]
The Forty-Fourth Legislative Assembly created the Office of the Workers' Compensation Court on July 1, 1975, to provide an efficient and effective forum for the resolution of disputes arising under the Workers' Compensation Act, § 39-71-101, MCA, et seq., and the Occupational Disease Act, § 39-72-101, MCA, et seq. Subsequent Legislatures have increased the Court's exclusive jurisdiction to include matters such as disputes involving independent contractor exemptions and enforcement of the Department of Labor and Industry's investigatory powers.
Jurisdiction [Return to top]
Except for specified regulatory matters, the Court has original (trial) jurisdiction over issues arising under the Workers' Compensation Act and under the Occupational Disease Act. The Court's exclusive jurisdiction also extends to disputes involving independent contractor exemptions under both the Workers' Compensation and Unemployment Insurance Acts, civil penalties for theft of workers' compensation benefits, and the two-year return to work preference specified in section 39-71-317(2), MCA. Trials are conducted statewide in five major Montana cities. All proceedings and hearings before the Court are governed by the appropriate provisions of the Montana Administrative Procedure Act. The Court is bound by common law and the statutory rules of evidence. In workers' compensation regulatory matters over which the DLI has original jurisdiction, the Court acts as an appellate court, conducting judicial review. The rules of the Court can be found in the Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM) at 24.5.301, et seq.
Workers' Compensation Judge [Return to top]
The Montana Workers' Compensation Judge serves a six-year term and is appointed by the Governor from a list of nominees submitted by the Judicial Nomination Commission. The Workers' Compensation Judge must have the same qualifications necessary to hold the office of district court judge. Statute grants the judge all of the privileges and other emoluments afforded a district judge.
Judge James Jeremiah Shea was born and raised in Butte, Montana. He was sworn in as the fourth Judge of the Montana Workers’ Compensation Court on September 7, 2005, after being appointed by Governor Brian Schweitzer. At the time of his appointment, Jim was a partner with the law firm of Paoli & Shea in Missoula. From 1994 until taking the bench, Jim’s practice was devoted almost exclusively to the representation of injured railroad workers under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. During his career, Jim represented employees of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway, Montana Rail Link, and the Union Pacific Railroad throughout Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, and Utah. Immediately after graduating from law school, Jim clerked for Chief Judge Paul G. Hatfield of the United States District Court for the District of Montana. He then spent four years practicing law in Oregon before moving home to Montana in 1996. While living in Oregon, Jim worked as a trial lawyer with the Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland and was a member of the Portland law firm of Bricker, Zakovics & Querin. He is a graduate of Butte Central Catholic High School and received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Montana. In his spare time, Judge Shea enjoys camping and other activities with his family, Grizzly athletics, playing handball, hunting, and fly fishing.
Court Personnel [Return to top]
The Court consists of the judge, law clerks, a clerk of court, and deputy clerks of court who also serve as legal secretaries and/or court reporters.
Please address all general inquiries to the Workers' Compensation Court.
1625 11th Ave.
P.O. Box 537
|FILINGS VIA E-MAIL:||email@example.com|
Trial Dates and Deadlines [Return to top]
The Court has statewide jurisdiction and holds regular trial terms in five Montana cities – Billings, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Week long trial terms are held in each city four times a year. In the past, the Court has also held trials in Red Lodge, Big Fork, Miles City, Malta, Columbus, Bozeman, and Sidney.
Annually, the Court publishes a scheduling calendar setting
forth the deadlines for the filing of petitions for each venue, the dates
of pretrial conferences, and the weeks of trial. The Court calendar including
filing deadlines can be found at http:// wcc.dli.mt.gov/schedule.asp.
Court Goals and Accomplishments [Return to top]
The overall objective of the Court is to provide prompt, courteous, and consistent treatment of all those who appear before the Court and to issue prompt, concise, accurate, consistent, understandable, well reasoned and researched decisions, thereby increasing predictability and decreasing the need for litigation.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES:
- Goal #1: Continue flexible policy of trying cases when and where the parties wish.
The Court has statewide jurisdiction and holds regular trial terms in five Montana cities: Billings, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Week-long trial terms are held in each city four times a year. In the past, the Court has also held trials in Butte, Red Lodge, Big Fork, Miles City, Malta, Columbus, Bozeman, Sidney, and Plains.
- Goal #2: Continue to maintain the average time between trial and decision to within 90 days of trial or submission.
The Court has law clerks on staff, who attend the trials. The law clerks are law school graduates who conduct legal research and assist with drafting and finalizing decisions and interim Orders. The Court maintains an in-house submitted list which prioritizes cases by date of trial or submission of motions and is reviewed weekly by the law clerks and Judge.
The Court has been encouraging parties practicing before the Court to have all motions fully briefed and depositions filed on their due date so that the matter can be finally submitted at the conclusion of the trial. In addition, recent procedures have been implemented to facilitate rulings on motions to assist matters proceeding to trial in a timely manner. The clerk of court and deputy clerk I also act as pretrial hearing examiners. The pretrial hearing examiners facilitate the pretrial process to ensure the matter will be submitted at the conclusion of trial.
The Court endeavors to issue bench rulings whenever possible, thus expediting decisions. In order to facilitate this goal, the Court has a court reporter/deputy clerk on staff. This facilitates the issuance of bench rulings which could not otherwise be issued immediately upon the conclusion of a trial.
- Goal #3: Continue to manage common fund and related cases efficiently.
The Court has implemented procedures to allow for the dismissal of parties who are not properly within the common fund. The Court has also appointed a Special Master to address the numerous pretrial matters which allows common fund cases to be handled efficiently and not negatively impact the Court’s regular docket. The Court continues to strive toward managing the common fund and related cases in an efficient, effective manner. Each document filed in a common fund or related case is posted on the Court's website for the public’s perusal, enabling everyone access to the status of each case. A weekly e-mail is sent to parties of common fund and related cases as a reminder to keep the parties apprised of recent filings and events.
- Goal #4: Reporting of interim conferences readily available.
The Court has a court reporter/deputy clerk on staff. This allows any interim conferences to be reported should the Court or parties request, while maintaining an efficient Clerk’s office within budget constraints.
- Goal #5: Continue to post final, published decisions on the Court’s website and provide efficient search tools and a topics index for research purposes.
The Court will continue to post its published decisions and any substantive Orders on its website. The law clerks compose topics in each published decision for research purposes. The topics are then input into the topics indexes and uploaded onto the Court's website. The Court endeavors to refine its search engine by partnering with IT personnel and encourages attorneys practicing before the Court to utilize the topics index and search engines in conducting legal research.
- Goal #6: Continue to maintain the Workers’ Compensation Court website.
The Workers’ Compensation Court has an extensive website with helpful information for parties practicing before the Court. The court clerks are proficient in uploading information on the website to ensure current data and information for its users. Workers’ Compensation Court decisions are published on the website dating back from 1993 to the present. Additionally, a topics index is available which is useful for legal research. Links to Montana Supreme Court decisions and other state agencies are also provided on the website. Court personnel are readily accessible through e-mail address links located on the website. The website contains the Court’s calendar, which is continually updated. The website also contains the Court rules, legal forms, general information, and helpful hints.
- Goal #7: Continue to support easy accessibility by pro sé (unrepresented) parties.
The Workers’ Compensation system is intended to be primarily self-administering. In furtherance of this goal, the Court is designed to make navigating through the system as easy as possible for pro sé (unrepresented) parties. One of the ways this goal is accomplished is by keeping our extensive website updated. Additionally, the Court provides helpful assistance with any procedural question a pro sé party may have. Along with the Court’s rules, the website contains forms and an informational brochure specifically geared toward pro sé parties. Hard copies of these materials are also available upon request.
- Goal #8: Continue to support settlement conferences and mediation services.
The Court urges parties to engage in settlement discussions and offers settlement conference and mediation services with a staff law clerk on a case-by-case basis.
(1) The Court hires law clerks who are law school graduates to attend trials, conduct legal research, and to assist with drafting and finalizing decisions and interim Orders. The law clerks also facilitate settlement conferences upon request and agreement of the parties, resulting in reduction of the Court’s trial calendar.
(2) The Court has a court reporter/deputy clerk on staff. This allows the Court to continue to meet its clerical needs while improving the Court's ability to expedite cases through on-record interim conferences and bench rulings.
(3) The Court purchased wireless internet access. This enables parties to access the internet on their personal laptop computers for legal research during trials and conferences.
(4) The Court implemented standardized procedures to address common fund litigants and allow for dismissal of insurers and self-insured employers via affidavit process.
(5) The Court hired an additional full-time deputy clerk. In addition to assisting with the clerical needs of the Court, the incumbent assists in the administrative rule-making process by drafting and preparing revisions to the Court's rules for publication and adoption.
(6) The Court implemented changes to allow for the electronic filing of pleadings in PDF format.
Settlement Conference/Mediation Services [Return to top]
The Workers’ Compensation Court offers settlement conference/mediation services on a case-by-case basis. The Court’s law clerks conduct settlement conferences in Billings, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. For more information please contact the Court.
Representing Yourself in Court [Return to top]
The Court has published an informational brochure for anyone representing themself before the Court. It can be accessed at http://wcc.dli.mt.gov/tools/prose_guide.asp.
The Court utilizes PDF and HTML format which can be read by common screen-reading programs.