General information about the Court

The Montana Workers' Compensation Court provides a fair, efficient, and effective forum for the resolution of disputes arising under the Montana Workers' Compensation Act and the Occupational Disease Act.

History of the Court      [Return to top]

The Forty-Fourth Legislative Assembly created the Office of the Workers' Compensation Court on July 1, 1975, to provide an efficient and effective forum for the resolution of disputes arising under the Workers' Compensation Act, § 39-71-101, MCA, et seq., and the Occupational Disease Act, § 39-72-101, MCA, et seq. Subsequent Legislatures have increased the Court's exclusive jurisdiction to include matters such as disputes involving independent contractor exemptions and enforcement of the Department of Labor and Industry's investigatory powers.

Jurisdiction          [Return to top]

Except for specified regulatory matters, the Court has original (trial) jurisdiction over issues arising under the Workers' Compensation Act and under the Occupational Disease Act. The Court's exclusive jurisdiction also extends to disputes involving independent contractor exemptions under both the Workers' Compensation and Unemployment Insurance Acts, civil penalties for theft of workers' compensation benefits, and the two-year return to work preference specified in section 39-71-317(2), MCA. Trials are conducted statewide in five major Montana cities. All proceedings and hearings before the Court are governed by the appropriate provisions of the Montana Administrative Procedure Act. The Court is bound by common law and the statutory rules of evidence. In workers' compensation regulatory matters over which the DLI has original jurisdiction, the Court acts as an appellate court, conducting judicial review. The rules of the Court can be found in the Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM) at 24.5.301, et seq.

Workers' Compensation Judge          [Return to top]

The Montana Workers' Compensation Judge serves a six-year term and is appointed by the Governor from a list of nominees submitted by the Judicial Nomination Commission. The Workers' Compensation Judge must have the same qualifications necessary to hold the office of district court judge. Statute grants the judge all of the privileges and other emoluments afforded a district judge.

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David M. Sandler was appointed as Workers' Compensation Court Judge by Governor Steve Bullock on August 20, 2014. Judge Sandler's effective start date was Monday, September 8, 2014.

The Hon. David M. Sandler was born and raised in Billings and currently resides in Kalispell.  Judge Sandler graduated from high school at Billings Senior High School; received his B.S. and Psychology degrees at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon; and received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Montana School of Law in Missoula in 1998. In law school, Judge Sandler was awarded the Albin S. McCulloh Scholarship and also earned membership in the Order of Barristers for participation in moot court.  He clerked for the Honorable James C. Nelson at the Montana Supreme Court from 1998-99, and practiced law at several prominent Montana law firms throughout his career.

Judge Sandler’s law practice included insurance defense of workers’ compensation claims from 1999 to 2006 and from 2007 through his appointment to the Court in August 2014, a portion of his practice was representing claimants’ workers’ compensation claims.  Judge Sandler was in partnership with Amy Eddy from 2013 until his appointment to the Court. 

Judge Sandler has been a member of the State Bar of Montana from 1998-present; the Northwest Montana Bar Association from 1999-present; and the Montana Trial Lawyers Association from 2006-present.

Judge Sandler is an active member of his community and believes in the importance of volunteering for community service.  He coaches two youth leagues as well as being involved with the Flathead Land Trust and Trout Unlimited.

Judge Sandler spends as much time with his family as possible -- his wife, Erika, who is also a lawyer, a son Kjell (pronounced "Shell"), and a daughter Kenna.  Judge Sandler is an avid golfer, enjoys fly fishing and fly tying, camping, rafting, skiing, and running.

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Court Personnel           [Return to top]

The Court consists of the judge, law clerks who also function as mediators, a clerk of court and a deputy clerk of court who also serve as pretrial hearing examiners, a receptionist/deputy clerk of court, and a court reporter.

Judge - Hon. David M. Sandler

Law Clerk/Mediator- Jeanine M. Blaner

Law Clerk/Mediator - Richard Bach

Clerk of Court/ Pretrial Hearing Examiner - Jackie Poole

Deputy Clerk of Court/ Pretrial Hearing Examiner -Wendy Cash

Deputy Clerk/Receptionist - Michele Cottrill

Court Reporter - David E. Hix

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Contacting the Court         

Please address all general inquiries to the Workers' Compensation Court.

LOCATION

1625 11th Ave.
Helena, Montana 

   
MAILING ADDRESS:

P.O. Box 537
Helena, MT 59624-0537

   
PHONE

(406) 444-7794

FAX:

(406) 444-7798

FILINGS VIA E-MAIL: dliwccfilings@mt.gov


Trial Dates and Deadlines              [Return to top]

The Court has statewide jurisdiction and holds regular trial terms in five Montana cities – Billings, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Week long trial terms are held in each city four times a year. In the past, the Court has also held trials in Red Lodge, Big Fork, Miles City, Malta, Columbus, Bozeman, and Sidney.

Annually, the Court publishes a scheduling calendar setting forth the deadlines for the filing of petitions for each venue, the dates of pretrial conferences, and the weeks of trial. The Court calendar including filing deadlines can be found at http:// wcc.dli.mt.gov/schedule.asp.

Court Goals and Accomplishments          [Return to top]

The overall objective of the Court is to provide prompt, courteous, and consistent treatment of all those who appear before the Court and to issue prompt, concise, accurate, consistent, understandable, well reasoned and researched decisions, thereby increasing predictability and decreasing the need for litigation.

GOALS AND OBJECTIVES:

- Goal #1: Ensure court cases progress during the period of transition to the new Workers’ Compensation Judge.
On May 5, 2014, Governor Steve Bullock appointed Hon. James Jeremiah Shea to the vacant Associate Justice Position on the Montana Supreme Court.  In the fall of 2014, Governor Bullock will appoint the next Workers’ Compensation Judge per statutory procedures.  Workers’ Compensation Court staff will accommodate parties practicing before the Court to the extent possible.  In order to keep the Court’s cases progressing through the system, the Court’s law clerks, Jeanine M. Blaner and Richard E. Bach, have been appointed Hearing Examiners/Standing Masters to conduct trials/hearings and to issue rulings on pending motions in all cases before this Court pursuant to ARM 24.5.340, § 2-4-611, MCA, and Mont. R. Civ. P. 53.  In 2013, Ms. Blaner and Mr. Bach were granted the authority to issue all orders on settlement petitions so settlements would not be held in abeyance pending signature of the judge.
- Goal #2:  Improve and Revise the Court’s Rules.
Court staff have drafted revised and improved Rules which are proceeding through the proofing and publication process with the Montana Secretary of State.  The Rules, once finally approved and published, will be clearer and easier to decipher for unrepresented parties.
- Goal #3: Continue flexible policy of trying cases when and where the parties wish.
The Workers’ Compensation Court has statewide jurisdiction and holds regular trial terms in five Montana cities: Billings, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Week-long trial terms are held in each city four times a year. In the past, the Court has also held trials in Butte, Red Lodge, Big Fork, Miles City, Malta, Columbus, Bozeman, Sidney, and Plains.
- Goal #4: Continue to maintain the average time between trial and decision to within 90 days of trial or submission.
The Court has law clerks on staff, who attend the trials. The law clerks are law school graduates who conduct legal research and assist with drafting and finalizing decisions and interim orders. The Court maintains an in-house submitted list which prioritizes cases by date of trial or submission of motions and is reviewed weekly by the law clerks and Judge.
The Court encourages parties practicing before the Court to have all motions fully briefed and depositions filed on their due date so that the matter can be finally submitted at the conclusion of the trial. In addition, procedures have been implemented to facilitate rulings on motions to assist matters proceeding to trial in a timely manner.  The clerk of court and deputy clerk I also act as pretrial hearing examiners. The pretrial hearing examiners facilitate the pretrial process to ensure the matter will be submitted at the conclusion of the trial.
The Court endeavors to issue bench rulings whenever possible, thus expediting decisions. In order to facilitate this goal, the Court has a court reporter. This facilitates the issuance of bench rulings which could not otherwise be issued immediately upon the conclusion of a trial.
- Goal #5: Continue to manage common fund and related cases efficiently.
The Court has implemented procedures to allow for the dismissal of parties who are not properly within the common fund. The Court continues to strive toward managing the common fund and related cases in an efficient, effective manner. Each document filed in a common fund or related case is posted on the Court's website for the public’s perusal, enabling everyone access to the status of each case. A weekly e-mail is sent to parties of common fund and related cases as a reminder to keep the parties apprised of recent filings and events.
- Goal #6: Reporting of interim conferences readily available.
The Court has a court reporter on staff. This allows any interim conferences to be reported should the Court or parties request.
- Goal #7: Continue to post final, published decisions on the Court’s website and provide efficient search tools and a topics index for research purposes.
The Court will continue to post its published decisions and any substantive orders on its website. The law clerks compose topics in each published decision for research purposes. The topics are then input into the topics indexes and uploaded onto the Court's website. The Court endeavors to refine its search engine by partnering with information technology personnel and encourages attorneys practicing before the Court to utilize the topics index and search engines in conducting legal research.
- Goal #8: Continue to maintain the Workers’ Compensation Court website.
The Court has an extensive website with helpful information for parties practicing before the Court. The court clerks are proficient in uploading information on the website to ensure current data and information for its users. Court decisions are published on the website dating back from 1993 to the present. Additionally, a topics index is available which is useful for legal research. Links to Montana Supreme Court decisions and other state agencies are also provided on the website. Court personnel are readily accessible through e-mail address links located on the website. The website contains the Court’s calendar, which is continually updated. The website also contains the Court rules, legal forms, general information, and helpful hints.
- Goal #9: Continue to support easy accessibility by pro sé (unrepresented) parties.
The Workers’ Compensation system is intended to be primarily self-administering. In furtherance of this goal, the Court is designed to make navigating through the system as easy as possible for pro sé (unrepresented) parties. One of the ways this goal is accomplished is by keeping our extensive website updated. Additionally, the Court provides helpful assistance with any procedural question a pro sé party may have. Along with the Court’s rules, the website contains forms and an informational brochure specifically geared toward pro sé parties. Hard copies of these materials are also available upon request.
- Goal #10:  Continue to support settlement conferences and mediation services.
The Court urges parties to engage in settlement discussions and offers settlement conference and mediation services with a staff law clerk on a case-by-case basis.
- Goal #11:  Continue to maintain wireless internet access.
The Court purchased and will continue to maintain wireless internet service to enable parties access to the internet on their personal laptop computers for legal research during trials and conferences.
- Goal #12:  Continue to allow electronic filing of pleadings.
The Court will continue to allow for the electronic filing of pleadings to assist parties practicing before the Court to timely file their documents.

 

Settlement Conference/Mediation Services    [Return to top]

The Workers’ Compensation Court offers settlement conference/mediation services on a case-by-case basis. The Court’s law clerks conduct settlement conferences in Billings, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. For more information please contact the Court.

Representing Yourself in Court       [Return to top]    

The Court has published an informational brochure for anyone representing themself before the Court. It can be accessed at http://wcc.dli.mt.gov/tools/prose_guide.asp.       

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

The Court utilizes PDF and HTML format which can be read by common screen-reading programs.

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