The Montana Supreme Court heard arguments Friday morning in the University Center Ballroom from both parties in the Mountain Water condemnation case. 

First to address the court was Brad Luck of Garlington, Lohn and Robinson, speaking for the defendants, Mountain Water Company and Carlyle Partners.

photo by Todd Goodrich - UM
Supremes 1

Luck began by telling the court that the purpose of his arguments.

"That the preliminary order of condemnation should be reversed, and remanded, with directions that the city's condemnation case be dismissed," Luck said. "The district court committed error in approving the city's strategy to limit financial evidence, thereby making it impossible for the city meet the more necessary standard. Second, the city erred in adopting the general preference for municipal over private ownership, thereby creating a judicial preference that is unsupportable in the law of the State of Montana. We would respectfully submit that the record requires reversal."

Labor attorney Gary Zadick addressed the court on behalf of the Mountain Water employees.

"When government takes a private business by force, the law should not allow the employees to be harmed," Zadick said. "The city has to pay fair value for the chattels, but it wants to cram down the employees wages and benefits by 32 percent."

Responding for the city of Missoula was Harry Schneider.

"Appellants would have you believe that Judge Townsend applied philosophy over proven fact," Schneider said. "She decided by generalities about municipal ownership rather than by facts.That's not what should happen in any Montana courtroom, and that's not what happened in this one."

Following the hearing, Luck said the city, and even the mayor, repeatedly remarked on the 'great job' Mountain Water was doing.

"The record indicated through the mayor that on repeated occasions that Mountain Water was doing a great job," Luck said. "Mountain Water and Carlyle were great stewards of the precious water asset, and that the Clark Fork Coalition and even the DEQ were all satisfied with the present situation. This was simply a situation where the city wanted the water system. They didn't need it, they didn't need to take it, and our hope is that the Supreme Court will reverse the decision of the district court."

Both Luck and Zadick said the Supreme Court should hand down a decision sometime this summer. Zadick indicated that because the issue before the court primarily dealt with the Montana Constitution, that the loser would probably not attempt to appeal to a federal court, or even the U.S. Supreme Court.

The hearing was streamed by MCAT , and will soon be available to view on their YouTube channel.

More From KMMS-KPRK 1450 AM