State Supreme Court to hear Kalispell case

April 3, 2019 GMT

MISSOULA : The Montana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the City of Kalispell versus Thomas Salsgiver case at 9:30 a.m. Friday, April 5, in the Dennison Theatre at the University of Montana.

An introduction to the hearing begins at 9 a.m. with Professor Jordan Gross of the Alexander Blewett III School of Law. The hearing is expected to last an hour and a half. The public is invited to attend, along with students from area schools and UM, according to a UM press release.

Thomas Salsgiver of Deer Lodge was arrested in March 2015 and charged with partner family-member assault and criminal mischief. Kalispell Municipal Court ordered Salsgiver to personally appear for all court proceedings, with boilerplate language warning that failure to appear would result in a waiver of his right to trial by jury. He was informed the next hearing would be May 5.

Salsgiver did not appear for his omnibus hearing, although his attorney did. Defense counsel filed a motion for jury trial, arguing that he did not voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waive his right to a jury trial.

The Montana Constitution includes a provision that cases may be tried without jury if a person defaults on their appearance. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains no such provision. On appeal to the Montana Supreme Court, Salsgiver contends his Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury was violated, and that the municipal court erred by relying on case law referencing the Montana court’s jury trial provisions. The State disagrees, arguing Salsgiver knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his right to a jury trial by failing to personally appear at the May 5 hearing.

For more information call Sara Kryder, Blewett School of Law’s director of communications and events, at 406-243-5730 or email sara.kryder@umontana.edu.