Bozeman trial lawyer files lawsuit against pro-housing laws

0n Friday, a legal challenge was initiated by James Goetz, a longtime trial lawyer from Bozeman and a prominent Democratic Party contributor. The lawsuit questions the constitutionality of four bipartisan laws recently enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature in Montana. These laws were designed to address the state’s housing shortage by promoting proactive land use planning and easing home construction in areas hindered by local zoning regulations.

Goetz leads the plaintiff group, Montanans Against Irresponsible Densification (MAID), which says it consists of individuals residing in neighborhoods characterized by single-family homes, well-maintained yards, and quiet streets. The group has refused to release a list of its members. In their complaint filed in Gallatin County District Court, MAID contends that the new housing laws seek to enforce top-down “densification,” compelling residents to live in more densely populated areas with larger buildings, increased traffic, and various other changes under the guise of affordable housing.

Speaking to the Montana Free Press, Goetz, who resides in Bozeman’s university district, acknowledged the housing shortage in the state but expressed skepticism about measures attempting to integrate new housing developments into existing neighborhoods. He emphasized the potential negative impact on “beautiful, older neighborhoods” and asserted that such initiatives would not effectively address the issue of affordable housing. According to Gallatin County property tax records Goetz’s home is valued at over $2.8 Million.

The lawsuit targets the state of Montana as the sole defendant. The Attorney General’s office, led by Austin Knudsen, which typically represents the state in legal matters said that formal service of the suit had not yet been received.

Governor Greg Gianforte’s office, whose bipartisan-supported housing policies have gained national attention, offered a brief statement. Gianforte’s Press Secretary Kaitlin Price affirmed the governor’s commitment to addressing the rising cost of housing, emphasizing pride in the pro-housing reforms now in effect and the ongoing dedication to enhancing Montanans’ access to affordable and attainable housing.

According to his law firm website, Goetz failed the Montana Bar exam after graduating Yale Law School in 1968 and later sued the bar to be admitted to practice law in Montana. Goetz is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and major political contributor to Democrat politicians and liberal judicial candidates.