We the People of Montana

1884 Preamble

1884 Montana Constitution

This is my favorite quote from the 1889 Montana Constitutional Convention transcripts:

I must say that the ladies are very fond of this smoky city, as [Butte] is sometimes called, because there is just enough arsenic there to give them a beautiful complexion, and that is the reason the ladies of Butte are renowned wherever they go for their beautiful complexions. (Laughter). … Now talking about this smoke, I believe there are times when there is smoke settling over the city, but I say it would be a great deal better for other cities in the territory if they had more smoke and less diphtheria and other diseases. It has been believed by all the physicians of Butte that the smoke that sometimes prevails there is a disinfectant, and destroys the microbes that constitute the germs of disease. … [I]t would be a great advantage for the other cities, as I have said, to have a little more smoke and business activity and less disease.

I can’t claim to have read the entire 974-page transcript, but this is such a gem I can’t help but declare it my favorite passage. It actually is a very small part of a wonderfully funny speech by the mining-magnate William A. Clark, who is not generally regarded by history as being funny. This passage is part of a debate about where the capitol should be located during which he extolled the virtues of Butte, then a bustling hub of mining activity.

Montana has had only two constitutions, the 1889 Constitution that established our statehood, and the 1972 Constitution. Montanans had also adopted earlier constitutions, one in 1884 in support of a bid for statehood, which was denied by Congress for political reasons, and one in 1866, the only copy of which was lost before it was even printed. One legend is that it fell out of a saddle bag on its way to Minneapolis where the closest printing press was.

The 1972 Montana Constitution has been touted for its progressive ideas that protect Montana ideals: privacy, public participation, liberty, human dignity, and environmental protection. This makes the Constitution an interesting document to research, both for the lawyers and politicians who apply its provisions and scholars who look to it as both a historical and modern legal document.

Constitutional researchers are usually trying to answer one (or both) of these questions: 1) how has a certain provision been interpreted and applied; or 2) what is history of this provision? Here are some helpful sources and research hints for researching the Montana Constitution.

  1. Start by looking up the provision in the Montana Code Annotated/Montana Code Annotated Annotations in print or on Lexis or Westlaw. The “annotations” (called “notes of decisions” in the electronic versions) are summaries of the cases that apply and interpret the provision you are looking at. If you are on Lexis/Westlaw, also look at the “credits” at the end of the provision. They will show which provisions originated in the 1889 Constitution which will help if you are going to look more into the background of the provision.
  2. Look for law review articles. Law review articles will provide a scholarly discussion of the provision. Montana Law Review is an especially good source for Montana constitutional issues, but look broader as well to see how the Montana Constitution is being discussed by scholars elsewhere. However, you have to be especially aware of the scope of your source. Westlaw only has Montana Law Review back to 1994 (with selected coverage back to 1985); Lexis only has it back to 1999. If you are trying to determine the contemporary discussion– what were scholars writing about the Montana Constitution when it was new– Lexis and Westlaw are not good sources. Instead, try the Scholarly Forum @ UM Law, which has full-text of all issues of the Montana Law Review back to the first and everything (almost) published by UM Law faculty regardless of where it was published.
  3. Read the debates in the transcripts of the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention. Researchers are fortunate that there is a complete record of the Montana Constitutional Convention. The 8 volume set contains delegate proposals, committee reports, verbatim transcripts and an index that allows you to locate relevant portions of the debate by article and section. The Jameson Law Library has several copies of the print set and it is online courtesy of the State Law Library of Montana. In addition to the transcripts, the Library also has copies of the the memos, studies and occasional papers the delegates used as they were drafting and debating. These sources may provide insight into some of the sources and issues underlying the discussions.
  4. Research the ratification. When we research the “legislative history” of a statute, we are most often looking for the intent of the legislators who enacted the statute. Constitutions, however, are not enacted by a legislature– they are ratified by the people. Although the transcripts can provide insight into what the delegates discussed and what their concerns were and even what their intent was, the intent that may be most relevant is the intent of the people who ratified the Constitution. What did they think a particular provision meant? This is tricky (but really interesting) research. The Convention published a newspaper insert with the official text and brief explanations of the new new Constitution. This would have been widely distributed and likely was the document that would have been read by the largest number of people. Editorials and letters to the editors will provide great insight into what people were talking about and concerned with, but the discussions will be more localized. A historical newspaper database like the Access Newspaper Archive (available on the UM campus through Mansfield Library) is a good way to conduct this type of research. For coverage from Missoula, the Missoula Public Library has a searchable index to the Missoulian and both the Missoula Public Library and Mansfield Library have issues of the newspaper back to the earliest issues on microfiche.

A few other sources for your research:

  • 1889 Montana Constitution. The transcripts of the proceedings are available in print at the Jameson Library and the State Law Library but they aren’t online. The index to the Proceedings is online from the State Law Library.
  • 1884 Montana Constitution. The transcripts of the proceedings of the 1884 constitutional convention are available in print, but they are handwritten and not indexed.
  • Larry M. Elison & Fritz Snyder, The Montana Constitution: A Reference Guide (Greenwood Press 2001). This book is an excellent resource covering both the constitutional drafting & debates and constitutional interpretation.
  • Jameson Law Library Montana Legal Research webpage. The Montana Constitution section of this website links to many of the resources discussed above.
  • University of Montana Mansfield Library. Use the “Search library resources” search box to search for additional books and journals that discuss the Montana Constitution from other academic viewpoints.
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Legislative Intent Part 2 – 1987-1995

In the last blog we learned that some of the most valuable documents in determining legislative intent are the committee hearing notes. The methods of accessing these hearing notes depend on the legislative year in question. Here is a breakdown of access methods for various legislative sessions:

Prior to 1987 – Contact the State Law Library or the Montana State Historical Society – no materials are available at the Jameson Law Library.

1987 to 1995 – Microfiche available at the Jameson Law Library (and at the Montana State Law Library).

1997 – Electronic access at the Jameson Law Library (and at the Montana State Law Library).

1999 to the present – Online.

We have already covered 1999 to the present. 1997 represents a special case where the documents are available at the law library – the best thing to do if you need committee hearing notes from 1997 is to contact a Jameson law library staff member.

Because we will no longer be dealing with documents that are available online, the following discussion will be limited to the holdings of the Jameson Law Library on the UM Campus. Other documents and other means of access are available from the State Law Library of Montana as outlined in The Montana Legislative History Research Guide.


Accessing committee hearings through microfiche uses many of the tools that we learned about in the last blog: committee names, hearing dates, and bill numbers. The difference is in how these items are located and how the documents are accessed. Here is an example of a law that was amended in 1987, 1995, 1997. Let’s look into the 1995 amendment.

16-2-301. Retail selling price on table wine — tax on certain table wine. (1) The retail selling price at which table wine is sold at an agency liquor store is as determined by the agent.
(2) In addition to the tax on wine assessed under 16-1-411, there is a tax of 1 cent a liter on table wine sold by a table wine distributor to an agent as described in subsection (1). This additional tax must be paid to the department by the distributor in the same manner as the tax under 16-1-411 is paid. The department shall deposit the tax paid under this section in the general fund.
(3) For the purposes of this section, “table wine” does not include hard cider.

History: En. Sec. 9, Ch. 699, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 629, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 27, Ch. 530, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 399, L. 1997.

The first step is to determine the bill that amended this law. To locate the bill information we consult the Legislative Review 1995 (REF KFM9015 L43 1995) and look at the “Summary of Provisions by Chapter” section. Chapters are listed in numeric order so looking at chapter 530 tells us that HB574 was the bill that amended this law in 1995.

1995 leg review

The next step is to look at the history of HB 574 located in the “House Bills and Resolutions” section of 1995 History and Final Status (REF KFM9015 A24 1995).     The History and Final Status will provide us with the committee names, and hearing dates that we need to navigate the microfiche.

1995 hist and final status

From the History and Final Status of HB 574, we learn that the bill was referred to the House Business and Labor Committee and that a hearing was held on 3/2/95. HB 574 was then referred to the Senate Committee on Business and Labor and a hearing was held on 3/21/95. A complete search for indications of legislative intent would include looking at all available testimony, exhibits, discussions, committee reports and executive actions. In practice many people limit their search to the committee hearings and executive actions (often contained in the committee report).

We now have what we need to begin navigating the microfiche. The microfiche is organized by year, then by House or Senate, then by committee name. On any given piece of microfiche, documents are arranged in chronological order and roughly grouped by bill number. The microfiche and reader at the Jameson Law Library are located on the north wall.

For example, looking at the House Business and Labor Committee fiche that covers 3/2/95, we find the following hearing notes (plus six more pages of discussion and testimony not reproduced here).

house hearing march 2

Looking at the Senate Committee on Business and Industry fiche that covers 3/21/95 we find the following hearing notes (plus nine additional pages of discussion and testimony not reproduced here).

senate hearing march 22

To see the executive actions on this bill from these committees, we would simply move through the microfiche to the Committee Report dates provided in the History and Final Status entry: March 7 for the House committee, and March 21 for the Senate committee.

In conclusion, although some people shy away from microfiche based legislative intent questions, it’s really not that bad. It takes a little longer and you have to come to the library to do a fiche based search for legislative intent but the procedure is essentially the same as a web based search.

In the Jameson Law Library the microfiche is located on the north wall. The Montana Legislative Committee Reports are in the light blue cabinet. The microfiche reader instructions are on top of the  microfiche reader.

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Legislative Intent – part 1 1999-2015

What does “legislative intent” mean? Generally it refers to what the legislature meant or  intended when they passed a law and specifically it refers to what the committee members of the House or Senate said when they discussed a bill before it became a law.

The method of accessing documents that help determine legislative intent varies depending on the year that a law was enacted or amended.   Part 1 of our series on legislative intent will cover 1999 to 2015.

In the Montana Code Annotated the history of each statute is provided at the end of the statute. We are told when the law was enacted and when, if ever, it was amended.

For example, imagine that we wanted to know about the legislative intent of  MT 39-2-904.  Here is the statute as it appears in the Montana Code Annotated:

39-2-904. Elements of wrongful discharge — presumptive probationary period. (1) A discharge is wrongful only if:
(a) it was in retaliation for the employee’s refusal to violate public policy or for reporting a violation of public policy;
(b) the discharge was not for good cause and the employee had completed the employer’s probationary period of employment; or
(c) the employer violated the express provisions of its own written personnel policy.
(2) (a) During a probationary period of employment, the employment may be terminated at the will of either the employer or the employee on notice to the other for any reason or for no reason.
(b) If an employer does not establish a specific probationary period or provide that there is no probationary period prior to or at the time of hire, there is a probationary period of 6 months from the date of hire.

History: En. Sec. 4, Ch. 641, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 583, L. 2001

The history is provided at the bottom of the statute. It tells us that the law was originally enacted in 1987 and amended in 2001. Specifically it was amended in Section 2, of Chapter 583 of Laws of Montana  2001. We will focus on the legislative intent of the 2001 amendment. The crucial things to catch here are the chapter number and the year. With these two items we can find the bill number, the committee name, dates of the hearing and, usually but not always, the committee meeting notes. From 1999 to the current year this information will be online. The easiest way to proceed through the next few sections is to open two browser windows: one to follow the links and one to read my instructions. Here’s how it works.

First take note of the year and chapter (2001, chapter 583). Go to the Montana legislature website .

Montana Legislature_Page_1

and click on  “Session”, then “Past Sessions”

Montana Legislature_ Sessions

Then select “2001 Regular Session”  Scroll down to and select “2001 LAWS Session Information

Now select “Look Up Bill Information”  from the very top of the page.

LAWS Current Session Home Page

At this page you can enter the chapter number that you noted earlier (chapter 583).

LAWS Look Up Bill Information Page_Page_1

The result of searching for chapter 583 is a new page that provides the history on the bill that amended the original law.   What you will need from this page are the bill name, the committee names, and the committee hearing dates. In our current example  we are looking at the history of Senate Bill 4 (SB 4).

LAWS Detailed Bill Information Page_Page_1

Although there are many links on this page, none will take you to the transcribed committee hearing notes – Although beginning in 2011, there is a link on this page that will take you to the audio/visual versions of the committee hearings. The critical items to get from this page are the bill number (SB4), the committee name (Senate  Conference Committee), and  the hearing dates (3/23/2001 and 4/19/2001). Note that there was  also a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on January 8, 2001 and a House Judiciary Committee hearing on March 1, 2001.

We have clicked through many  screens to get these three vital facts : the names of the committees, the hearing dates, and the bill number.

Now with these three facts we can return to the 2001 Regular Session Homepage 

Montana Legislature_ Sessions57

Now we click on the link “Committee Minutes”

Montana Legislature_ Sessions57 committee minutes_Page_1

All that remains is to scroll down to “Conference Committees” and then select “Senate Conference Committees”.  Then click on “SB 4 –March 23″ to access the committee meeting notes.  There is also a Senate Conference Committee hearing  entry for April 19. Lastly, check the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on the dates noted above (January 8, 2001 and March 1, 2001)  to see  how these committees dealt with SB4.

This brings part 1 to a conclusion. In part 2 we will look at accessing documents that may indicate legislative intent  from 1987-1997.

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Oh Christmas Tree

I don’t know if it’s holiday magic, the spirit of the season, the creativity of librarians, or all of the above, but this is the time of year when ordinary stacks of books turn in to book trees in libraries everywhere. Librarians ponder which sets are the right shade of green, which title should be featured at the top, how many books you need so it’s tall enough. Just as every tree in the forest is unique, so is every library book tree. They can be elegant or fun, statuesque or miniature, colorful or the more traditional green. They can be library fundraisers or a sustainable option to more traditional Christmas trees. The trees can be freestanding or built on shelves. They can be stacks of books or intricately folded pages.

Here is a wonderful collection of some of the book trees gracing law libraries this holiday season.

Tall, colorful Christmas tree build of law books.

Dee J Kelly Law Library, Texas A&M University School of Law. Photo courtesy of Joan Stringfellow.

Tall green Christmas tree build of law books.

Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes, PLLC, Jackson, MS. Photo courtesy of Lee Ann Robertson.Constructed using CJS and the Mississippi Code Annotated.

Tall green book tree.

Supreme Court of Ohio. Photo courtesy of Erin Waltz.Constructed from volumes of the National Union Catalog. Decorated with old library cards and a microfiche garland. Topper made of pages from the Ohio Revised Code and Ohio Official Reports.

The Supreme Court of Ohio Library also constructed a fireplace using Page's Ohio Revised Codes. Photo courtesy of Erin Waltz.

The Supreme Court of Ohio Library also constructed a fireplace using Page’s Ohio Revised Codes. Photo courtesy of Erin Waltz.


Colorful book tree.

2012 book tree at Phelps Dunbar, LLP in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Dabbs. Ornaments are pictures of the firm’s attorney; the managing partner is the star at the top.















Tall colorful Christmas tree constructed from books.

University of South Dakota, McCusick law Library. Photo courtesy of Sarah Kammer. This year the library hosted the NALSA student group’s annual toy drive near the tree.

Tall colorful Christmas tree constructed of books.

James Hunter III Law Library, 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Camden, NJ. Photo courtesy of Kristin Schroth

University of Nebraska College of Law Schmid Law Library. Photo courtesy of Marcia Dority Baker.  Constructed from books that were boxed on a loading dock, waiting to be recycled. "It takes more books than it looks." Brian Striman.

University of Nebraska College of Law Schmid Law Library. Photo courtesy of Marcia Dority Baker. Constructed from books that were boxed on a loading dock, waiting to be recycled. “It takes more books than it looks.” Brian Striman.

Tall green and red Christmas tree constructed from books.

Tulane University law School. Photo courtesy of Amanda Watson. Constructed of Tulane Law Journal and LC Subject Headings.

Small book tree on a table.

Franklin County Law Library, Columbus, OH. Photo courtesy of Angela Baldree

Alaska Court System, Fairbanks. Photo courtesy of Susan Falk. Tree constructed by law clerks.

Alaska Court System, Fairbanks. Photo courtesy of Susan Falk. Tree constructed by law clerks.

Tall green Christmas tree constructed of books.

Beeson Law Library, Cumberland School of Law, Samford University. Photo courtesy of Grace Simms.

Top view of tall green Christmas tree constructed from books.

San Diego County Public Law Library. Photo courtesy of Benita Ghura. Constructed from 672 superseded books.

Tall green Christmas tree constructed of books.

St. Louis University Vincent C. Immel Law Library. Photo courtesy of Corie Dugas.

Tall green Chritsmas tree constructed from books.

UNT Dallas College of Law. Photo courtesy of Edward Hart.

New Mexico Supreme Court Library. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Wilson. Tree constructed from about-to-be recycled New Mexico Reports and Federal Rules Digest.

New Mexico Supreme Court Library. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Wilson. Tree constructed from about-to-be recycled New Mexico Reports and Federal Rules Digest.

New Mexico Supreme Court Library. Wreath made from reporter pages. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Wilson.

New Mexico Supreme Court Library. Wreath made from reporter pages. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Wilson.

O'Melveny & Myers, LLP, San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Holly Riccio.

O’Melveny & Myers, LLP, San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Holly Riccio.

Elf on a Shelf and Librarian Action Figure, Nancy Pearl, research whether Santa is real at O'Melveny & Myers.

Elf on a Shelf and Librarian Action Figure, Nancy Pearl, research whether Santa is real at O’Melveny & Myers.













































































Baker, Manock and Jensen, PC in Fresno, CA. Photo courtesy of Lori Sanders. This tree is constructed mostly from USCCAN with US Tax Court Reports sprinkled around the top. The tree is 6 feet tall and contains 374 books.

Baker, Manock and Jensen, PC in Fresno, CA. Photo courtesy of Lori Sanders. This tree is constructed mostly from USCCAN with US Tax Court Reports sprinkled around the top. The tree is 6 feet tall and contains 374 books.












Supreme Court of Alabama Law Library. Photo courtesy of Tim Lewis.

Supreme Court of Alabama Law Library. Photo courtesy of Tim Lewis.











If you’re inspired to build your own book tree, there are a couple of resources to get you started. Kate Krause from the Texas Medical Center Library has written an illustrated article, How to Build a Library Bookmas Tree. There is also a youtube video, How to Make Your Very Own Christmas Tree Out of Books. Or if you’re inspired beyond Christmas, see Mari Cheney and Rob Truman’s article in WestPac News (beginning on p. 5) about the Boley Law Library’s “book art” endeavors encompassing Christmas and beyond.

Jameson Law Library Tree

Photo courtesy of Ed Wrzesien.

The staff of the William J. Jameson Law Library wishes you happy holidays. Our book tree this year was constructed from Halsbury’s Laws of England and the Revised Code of Washington. It is decorated with glittery snowflakes and battery-powered candles. The tree topper was handcrafted from a copy of Educating Lawyers.

The Jameson Law Library blog will be taking a break until January 30. Look for us in the new year.

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December Survival


It’s a very difficult time of year. The stress of final exams is thick in the air and anxiety and exhaustion are apparent on the faces I see around me. Oddly mingling with the toxic atmosphere are Christmas songs with messages of joy, but they also remind that the holidays have their own stresses that are bearing down. For you students, life is rather unpleasant right now.

It is only logic (since you feel stuck in the logic mode these days) that if you’re going to survive, you’ll have to take care of yourself. Your survival plan should include sleeping whenever possible, occasional meals instead of constant quick junk food, and stretching/walking breaks built into your study schedule. Though your brain and how much you can pack into it seems to be the only thing that exists right now, you still have a body to take care of, and that body has to carry you through this.

You may still remember when you had a life, and you should make it your goal to get back to it as soon as possible. Before you are a lawyer, you have to be a person. To be a person, you have to find joy and meaning in your life. Too often, being a person gets lost in the process of becoming a lawyer.

It is important to foster your final exam survival skills not only for the next round of exams but for the long run as well. There will always be stress, deadlines, and the tendency to get lost in the work. You will need to find ways to balance your life and let life inform your work instead of work destroy your life. Be a person first and a lawyer second.

With that, I wish you good luck with finals and happy holidays with lots of sleep and some serious fun!


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New Books Libguide

Our new library guide, New Books at The Jameson Law Library provides a new and improved way to present new books, book review resources, and student, staff, and faculty reading recommendations.

This Libguide is so new that there are hardly any books in it yet! I’ve added a few new titles and will add a page for recommended books just as soon as I receive some recommendations.

Consider this announcement a solicitation for recommended titles. You don’t have to review a book for me to include it. Just send me the title, author, and a sentence or two about your response to the book and I’ll do the rest. A recommendation can be positive or negative. Nearly any topic or subject will be covered.

Send your recommendations to:


And check out the New Books at the Jameson Law Library libguide at


There will also be a link to the new books lib guide on the Jameson Law Library website.

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New Kid in Town

Montana attorneys have a new option for conducting electronic legal research, and this one is free, making it a game-changer for many attorneys who have had limited access to electronic legal research until now. The State Bar of Montana recently contracted with Fastcase to provide research services for Montana attorneys. This week University of Montana Law School students and faculty also gained access to Fastcase.

The Fastcase library contains cases, annotated codes, administrative regulations, constitutions and court rules from all 50 states and federal jurisdictions. In addition, through a partnership with Hein Online, Fastcase users can also research law review articles.

Fastcase has some unique features that set it apart. Fastcase’s relevancy results make sure the most relevant documents are always listed at the top of the results. The results screen weighs the relevancy of each document and in one glance shows how many times each has been cited, making it easy to find both the most relevant and most cited cases at the same time. For researchers who prefer visual cues to numbers, an interactive results map allows researchers to see both most relevant and most cited cases in one visual display. Fastcase’s authority checker doesn’t analyze how citing cases have treated a particular case, but it does show the context in which the case was cited and the language surrounding the citation. In addition, Fastcases’s new Bad Law Bot flags cases that have been treated negatively.

Twenty-five state bar associations now subscribe to Fastcase for their members. If you are a UMSL student or faculty member, you should have received your Fastcase password via email this week; if you didn’t, contact the law library. There will be training opportunities early next semester, but if you want to start trying it out now, there are some video tutorials you can use.

Two pumpkins surrounding a Happy Thanksgiving sign.


The Jameson Law Library Blog will take a break Friday, November 28 for the Thanksgiving Weekend. Look for us again on December 5.

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