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CITY OF MISSOULA v. LEUCHTMAN (2020)

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Supreme Court of Montana.

CITY OF MISSOULA, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Stephen LEUCHTMAN, Defendant and Appellant.

DA 18-0452

Decided: February 18, 2020

For Appellant: Stephen Leuchtman, Self Represented, Hamilton, Montana For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Roy Brown, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Jim Nugent, City Attorney, Doug Schaller, Deputy City Attorney, Missoula, Montana

¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

¶2 Stephen Leuchtman appeals a Fourth Judicial District Court order affirming two City of Missoula Municipal Court orders denying his motions to dismiss. We affirm.

¶3 In January 2016, Leuchtman was cited for violating an Order of Protection in Missoula Municipal Court. On April 13, 2016, the Municipal Court released Leuchtman on conditions of bond requiring he comply, inter alia, with GPS monitoring. On September 8, 2016, Leuchtman was convicted by a jury for violating the Order of Protection. The Municipal Court sentenced Leuchtman to three days jail time and imposed a GPS tracking requirement until January 10, 2017. Leuchtman filed an appeal with the District Court, seeking to stay the execution of his sentence. The District Court affirmed. Leuchtman next appealed to this Court, which also affirmed.  1 City of Missoula v. Leuchtman, No. DA 17-0155, 2017 MT 303N, 2017 Mont. LEXIS 702.2

¶4 While Leuchtman's case was on appeal, the Municipal Court continued previously set conditions of bond, including the GPS monitoring requirement. In April 2017, Leuchtman was charged with Criminal Contempt in Municipal Court for violating the GPS bond condition. On May 17, 2017, Leuchtman pleaded not guilty and indicated he would retain a private attorney.3 At a July 18, 2017 omnibus hearing, Leuchtman appeared without counsel. Leuchtman requested he be appointed a public defender but stated he might wish to proceed pro se in the future. Leuchtman also indicated that he wished to file motions to disqualify Judge Beal. Judge Beal transferred the matter to Judge Jenks and continued the omnibus hearing for August 2017.

¶5 At the August 14, 2017 omnibus hearing, Leuchtman appeared with counsel appointed from the Office of the Public Defender (“OPD”). Leuchtman confirmed at the hearing that he still wanted OPD to represent him so long as he could change his mind later. Leuchtman also voiced his intent to move for Judge Jenks’ disqualification. The court set a September 5, 2017 date for defense to file any motions to disqualify Judge Jenks. Leuchtman's counsel then moved to continue the omnibus hearing. Judge Jenks granted the motion, continuing the omnibus hearing for October 3, 2017.

¶6 On September 5, 2017, Judge Jenks issued a bench order, ruling that a substitute judge would be assigned to the case and reset the omnibus hearing for September 27, 2017. At the September omnibus hearing, the court set a trial date of December 14, 2017. Leuchtman informed the court that he would proceed pro se. Leuchtman also filed his second motion to dismiss, again arguing the GPS monitoring bond condition was improperly imposed.4

¶7 On November 17, 2017, Leuchtman filed a third motion to dismiss based on an alleged speedy trial violation. On December 8, 2017, the court denied the motion, determining the delay beyond six months was caused by Leuchtman. On December 13, 2017, Leuchtman pleaded no contest to criminal contempt, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his speedy trial motion. Leuchtman was sentenced to 180 days jail time, with 180 days suspended. On December 15, 2017, Leuchtman appealed to the District Court, arguing, inter alia, that the Municipal Court improperly denied his motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial.5 On July 12, 2018, the District Court affirmed. Leuchtman appeals.

¶8 On appeal from a municipal court of record, the district court functions as an intermediate appellate court. City of Helena v. Parsons, 2019 MT 56, ¶ 5, 395 Mont. 84, 436 P.3d 710. On appeal of a lower court judgment following intermediate appeal, we review the case as if the appeal had originally been filed in this Court, applying the appropriate standard of review. State v. Luke, 2014 MT 22, ¶ 9, 373 Mont. 398, 321 P.3d 70. We review a trial court's denial of a motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial to determine whether the trial court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous. State v. Heath, 2018 MT 318, ¶ 11, 394 Mont. 41, 432 P.3d 141. Whether factual circumstances establish a speedy trial violation presents a question of law which we review de novo. State v. Steigelman, 2013 MT 153, ¶ 10, 370 Mont. 352, 302 P.3d 396. A trial court's interpretation of a statute presents a conclusion of law which we review for correctness. Heath, ¶ 11.

¶9 Leuchtman argues on appeal that: (1) the GPS bond condition violates the United States and Montana constitutions and is invalid as a matter of law; (2) the contempt charge is invalid as a matter of law because the sentence in the prior case was served in full; and (3) the motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial was improperly denied as a matter of law. We previously determined that Leuchtman waived his right to challenge his GPS condition in the direct appeal of the Order of Protection violation because he did not raise the issue in District Court. Leuchtman, ¶ 10. Likewise, Leuchtman's argument that the contempt charge is punitive in nature is raised for the first time on appeal and is barred. See Jones v. Mont. Univ. Sys., 2007 MT 82, ¶ 23, 337 Mont. 1, 155 P.3d 1247. Accordingly, the sole issue we address is Leuchtman's speedy trial claim.

¶10 Leuchtman contends that the District Court improperly affirmed the Municipal Court's order denying his motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds because he did not ask for a continuance or seek to delay the proceedings and the City exceeded the six-month statutory requirement in which to try his case. Section 46-13-401(2), MCA, provides, “After the entry of a plea upon a misdemeanor charge, the court, unless good cause to the contrary is shown, shall order the prosecution to be dismissed, with prejudice, if a defendant whose trial has not been postponed upon the defendant's motion is not brought to trial within six months.” (Emphasis added.) Dismissal is mandated if a misdemeanor is not brought to trial within six months only if: (1) the defendant has not asked for a postponement; and (2) the State has not shown good cause for the delay. City of Red Lodge v. Pepper, 2016 MT 317, ¶ 14, 385 Mont. 465, 385 P.3d 547. A delay in trial beyond a six-month time limit due to a defendant's request to continue an omnibus hearing falls within the “good cause to the contrary” exception to § 46-13-401(2), MCA. State v. Pollack, 1998 MT 105, ¶ 13, 288 Mont. 436, 958 P.2d 75.

¶11 Any delay in the Municipal Court was prompted by Leuchtman's multiple requests to substitute judges, equivocation between whether to be represented by counsel or proceed pro se, and filing of multiple pretrial motions, including a motion to continue the second scheduled omnibus hearing. Because these delays constitute “good cause” sufficient to extend the statutory six-month speedy trial requirement, the District Court did not err in affirming the Municipal Court's denial of Leuchtman's November 2017 motion to dismiss.

¶12 We have determined to decide this case pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c) of our Internal Operating Rules, which provides for memorandum opinions. In the opinion of the Court, the case presents a question controlled by settled law or by the clear application of applicable standards of review.

¶13 Affirmed.

FOOTNOTES

1.   On appeal to this Court, Leuchtman argued: (1) the Municipal Court imposed unreasonable bond revocation conditions that prejudiced his ability to assist in his own defense; (2) the conditions of his release violated his right to access the courts; and (3) ineffective assistance of counsel claims. We declined to address Leuchtman's claims regarding bond revocation and conditions of release because they were not raised in the District Court. We affirmed the District Court on the two ineffective assistance of counsel claims because Leuchtman did not establish that his counsel was ineffective or that he was prejudiced by counsel's conduct.

2.   Following remittitur, the Municipal Court reimposed the 2016 sentencing order. Leuchtman's second appeal in the order of protection case is simultaneously pending before this Court.

3.   On May 15, 2017, Leuchtman filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the GPS monitoring bond condition was improperly imposed. In June 2017, the motion was denied.

4.   On October 6, 2017, the Municipal Court denied Leuchtman's motion.

5.   Leuchtman further argued: (1) the GPS monitoring condition is unconstitutional; (2) the GPS monitoring condition constituted excessive bail; and (3) The Municipal Court violated its own order in having an associate judge hear the motion to dismiss.

Chief Justice Mike McGrath delivered the Opinion of the Court.

We Concur: LAURIE McKINNON, J. JAMES JEREMIAH SHEA, J. BETH BAKER, J. INGRID GUSTAFSON, J.

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