Logourl black
From our private database of 13,300+ case briefs...

Montana v. United States

United States Supreme Court
440 U.S. 147 (1979)


The government (defendant) brought suit in federal court against Montana (plaintiff), challenging the constitutionality of Montana’s practice of imposing a 1 percent gross receipts tax on contractors of public construction projects, but not on private contractors. The case was continued pending the outcome of another case, Peter Kiewit Sons’ Co. v. State Board of Equalization (1973) (Kiewit I), which addressed the identical issue in state court. In that case, a federal contractor, Kiewit, challenged the tax on constitutional grounds, alleging that it impermissibly discriminated against the United States and the construction companies with which it contracted. The Montana Supreme Court held in favor of the tax, and Kiewit filed a motion for consideration. At the direction of the Solicitor General, Kiewit withdrew its motion and filed a second suit in state court, requesting refunds of tax payments not at issue in the first suit (Kiewit II). The court dismissed the complaint on res judicata and collateral estoppel grounds. After the final disposition in Kiewit, this suit was heard by a three judge panel, which held that Kiewit was not binding and struck down the tax as unconstitutional. Montana appealed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

The rule of law is the black letter law upon which the court rested its decision. To access this section, start your 7-day free trial of Quimbee for Law Students.


The issue section includes the dispositive legal issue in the case phrased as a question. To access this section, start your 7-day free trial of Quimbee for Law Students.

Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, J.)

The holding and reasoning section includes:

  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

To access this section, start your 7-day free trial of Quimbee for Law Students.

What to do next…

  1. Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.

    You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 97,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.

  2. Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.

    Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.

Here's why 147,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:

  • Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 13,300 briefs, keyed to 182 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
  • The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
  • Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
  • Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.