Al Smith

William Marcus

Montana’s proposed rules for political campaigns need rewriting. That was the opinion of several public interest groups that testified during two days of public hearings Wednesday and Thursday at the state capitol. The rules proposed by Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl, define when a public interest group qualifies as a "political committee".

William Marcus

The issue of health care was in play again today in the Montana Legislature. On the day when three Republican health-care proposals were voted down on the floor of the Montana House, yet another proposal got its first hearing in the Senate Health Committee.

Last month seven former Montana Supreme Court justices had an opinion piece published in the Missoulian. The title of the piece was Will Montana Judges Be For Sale?

Gun Safety - Get Your Remington Repaired

Sep 24, 2014

It happens every year for me, those crisp early mornings, the angle of the light, even the smell, tell me, in a way that no calendar can, that hunting season is upon us. Hunting is a family tradition in Montana, a higher percentage of our population hunts than in any other state, and it is common to see hunting parties of two or three generations in the woods and on the prairies throughout Montana. In my experience, the stories from hunting trips are not primarily about the kill, but rather about the experience of being with family and friends in Montana's wild country.

Justice At Risk

Aug 27, 2014

When we think of America's legal system, it seems we most often think of our criminal justice system and the protections it offers to hold criminals accountable while also shielding innocent citizens from governmental abuses. In some ways, the more remarkable part of our legal system may be our civil justice system and the contributions it and our constitutional right to trial by jury have made to consumer health and safety.

Corporate Religion

Jul 2, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court ended its term yesterday with a bang, again. We've just seen the Hobby Lobby case that grants some corporate entities the right to religious freedom under the First Amendment. I'm not sure the many people who decried the Court's granting personhood rights to corporate entities for political campaign spending in Citizens United saw this one coming – you could kind of understand a corporation speaking through its wallet, but a corporation gaining personhood to express a religious tenet based on the beliefs of its majority owners?

Court Secrecy Kills, Again

Jun 5, 2014

Al Smith, Montana Trial Lawyers Association.

In April I spoke about GM, its problem ignition switches and the lax federal regulatory system. GM hid dangerous defects from the public and federal regulators, and as a result Americans have needlessly died. Last month, federal regulators fined GM and further investigations are underway.

Pride In Our Legal System

May 7, 2014

May 1st was Law Day, America's yearly recognition of and reflection upon the unique role our legal system plays in our democracy. Law Day was first proposed by ABA president Charles S. Rhyne in 1957. It was envisioned as a day to honor our strong heritage of liberty, justice and equality under law. A heritage traced back to the English noblemen who met in May 1215 to prepare the Magna Carta, signed by King John in June 1215.

GM, oh GM, what to do about you? You hid dangerous defects from the public and federal regulators, you determined 57 cents was too high a cost, to you, to fix the problem, and as a result Americans have needlessly died. If it weren't for those pesky family members who lost a loved one seeking accountability from you, and the trial lawyers that represent them, you wouldn't be the butt of late night comedy sketches. But, you have somewhat of an explanation, it wasn't all your fault.

Civil Justice System - Protecting All Citizens, Even Hypocrites

Work Comp – You Can Help

Feb 12, 2014

Workers' compensation, pretty boring stuff, until you need its benefits.  So, this is for all you workers out there – from desk jockeys and burger flippers, to firefighters – and for you employers who want the best for your workers.  What do you do if you are injured on the job and are unable to work for several weeks, months or years?  How will you keep a roof over your head, make your car payments, buy clothes for your kids or put food on the table?  If you are like most Montanans, you would have to rely upon the Workers' Compensation system. 

Corporate Paid Umpires?

Jan 16, 2014

The L.A. Times has an editorial today on a subject I've spoken about before – arbitration. It opens with a “what if” - what if the L.A.

Dodgers have “just won the pennant and are going to play the New York Yankees in the World Series. But the rules have changed: All games will be played in Yankee Stadium. And, there are new umpires, hired and paid for by the Yankees.” The opening concludes with the observation that 'with rules like that, the Dodgers wouldn't stand much of a chance.'

Holiday Cheer - Mandatory Arbitration Fixes?

Dec 18, 2013

It's that time of the year when when many of us are out buying gifts as part of our holiday celebrations.  The vast majority of those will be purchased with debit or credit cards.  Later this month and continuing next month the statements for those cards will be arriving – in mailboxes or in-boxes across the state.  And, if you have a dispute with the bank – such as additional fees being tacked on that you didn't know about that caused you to go over your limit and incur even more charges – you will likely find that buried in the fine print of your account agreement is a provision requiring

Holiday Safety

Nov 21, 2013

We're quickly approaching the holiday season, a festive time for gathering with family and friends.  It is a time for celebrating and for giving thanks.  Every year it seems that we are urged to get into the holiday spirit earlier and earlier,  at least the buying part.  So, here are some tips to keep your holiday season and gifts joyful, and safe. 

What's The Cause of Rising Health Care Costs?

Oct 23, 2013

Well, the rhetoric over the Affordable Care Act, Obama Care, is heating up. Amazing that a private health insurance plan that Republicans touted as a solution not so long ago, is now being attacked by those same Republicans as being “socialist,” while Democrats who supported a national single payer system, now defend a private insurance plan. We even have disagreement as to whether it is a good idea for every citizen to have insurance coverage.

Gun Safety - Get Your Remington 700 Repaired

Oct 1, 2013

For me, these crisp autumn mornings mean the big game hunting season is near.  Right now hunters are out sighting in their rifles.  The general rifle season for elk, deer, and antelope opens next month.  Hunting is a family tradition in Montana, a higher percentage of our population hunts than in any other state, and it is common to see hunting parties of two or three generations in the woods and on the prairies throughout Montana.  Unfortunately, a Montana family may lose a loved one to a hunting accident.  While any loss of life is tragic, we are doing better with safety training and safe

Regulating Corporate Behavior

Jul 31, 2013

Is Congress doing it's job? Most of us would agree that the answer is no – Congress's approval ratings are at an all time low for good reason. But that doesn't mean they aren't busy.

The House will be voting on 10 bills this week to highlight their headline grabber “Stop Government Abuse Week.” Now, if the name makes you think this might be a renewed effort to rein in the NSA's surveillance program, you'd be wrong. Maybe the name conjures up hope that Congress is looking at how to rein in the TSA before every air traveler is irradiated, no such luck.

US Supreme Court's Fireworks

Jul 3, 2013

With so many things happening in Montana and across the country affecting the civil justice system, I had a hard time picking a topic for tonight. The U.S. Supreme Court ended it's term in June with a bang. There was the Windsor case striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the Perry case that the Court sidestepped but in effect allowed the nullification of California's Propisition.

US Supreme Court's Balls and Strikes Count

Jun 5, 2013

Last month I spoke about how mandatory, pre-dispute arbitration clauses in consumer and employment contracts can never be fair, because the parties do not have equal bargaining power, equal experience in arbitration, equal ability to understand contract language, particularly the ramifications of the rights being waived, and an equal ability to insist on clauses being included or excluded in the contract.