49-2-505. Contested case hearing -- appeal to commission -- final agency decision. (1) The department shall hold a contested case hearing on a complaint that is certified for hearing under 49-2-504 or that is remanded for hearing by the commission or by a reviewing court. The department shall serve notice of the hearing and a copy of the complaint on the parties.
(2) If the parties mutually agree to extend the time for hearing beyond 12 months after the complaint is filed, then the parties shall stipulate to a schedule for proceedings to be established by the department. The department shall, not later than 395 days after the complaint was filed, set a date for an administrative hearing in the case in accordance with the stipulated schedule. After a hearing date is set, the department may, in its sole discretion, issue a continuance of the hearing date only upon a showing of good cause.
(3) (a) The hearing must be held by the department in the county where the unlawful conduct is alleged to have occurred unless a party requests and is granted a change of venue for good cause shown. The case in support of the complaint may be presented before the department by the charging party or an attorney representing the charging party. The hearing must be held in accordance with the applicable portions of the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure.
(b) Upon request of the hearings officer, the department may present evidence with regard to activity conducted. However, except in cases brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 3601, et seq., the department may not represent either party in a contested case hearing.
(c) If the case is not settled, fully decided on order or motion, or otherwise resolved, after a hearing, the hearings officer shall issue a decision. If the decision is not appealed to the commission within 14 days as provided in subsection (4), the decision becomes final and is not appealable to district court.
(4) A party may appeal a decision of the hearings officer by filing an appeal with the commission within 14 days after the issuance of the notice of decision of the administrative hearing.
(5) The commission shall hear all appeals within 120 days of receipt of an appeal. The commission may affirm, reject, or modify the decision in whole or in part. The commission shall render a final agency decision within 90 days of hearing the appeal.
(6) All hearings conducted under this section may, upon stipulation of the parties, be heard telephonically.
(7) The department or the commission may make provisions for defraying the expenses of an indigent party in a hearing held pursuant to this chapter.
(8) The prevailing party in a hearing under this section may bring an action in district court for attorney fees and costs. The court in its discretion may allow the prevailing party reasonable attorney fees and costs. An action under this section must comply with the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure.
(9) Within 30 days after the commission issues a final agency decision in writing under subsection (5), a party may petition a district court for judicial review of the final agency decision as provided in 2-4-702.