Longtime Kalispell attorney Dale McGarvey, who spent much of his legal career advocating for the “common man” in legal battles against big corporations, insurance companies and the government, died Saturday. He was 90.
One of his most memorable legal cases involved taking on the owner of the Columbia Falls aluminum processing plant to protect the Flathead Valley from plant emissions. That battle forced the installation of pollution scrubbers, “setting a national precedent for individual rights to clean air,” according to his obituary published in today’s Daily Inter Lake.
Whitefish attorney Sharon Morrison, whose late husband Frank Morrison Jr. was a law partner with McGarvey for several years in the early 1970s, remembers McGarvey’s “terrific moral rudder” and his quest to protect the environment from the harmful effects of the aluminum plant pollution. He had seen the effects of emissions on the largely denuded Teakettle Mountain near the plant, and then heard reports of cattle and wildlife suffering ill effects.
McGarvey and Morrison filed a class-action lawsuit against then plant owner Atlantic Richfield in 1970 — incidentally the same year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was formed — and within a month, the lawyers got a commitment from the plant owner to substantially reduce fluoride emissions.
“He was courageous; he didn’t flinch at all,” she recalled of the aluminum plant litigation that many plant workers feared would put their jobs in jeopardy. It was the pollution McGarvey was after, though, not the plant.
One of McGarvey’s earlier legal battles played out in the aftermath of the devastating 1964 flood, when he prevailed in protecting the 100-year flood zone designation for property owners. He also won compensation for clients whose property was taken for highway construction and for those whose land was condemned when Lake Koocanusa was formed by the construction of Libby Dam.
During the recession in 2010 McGarvey sued the Montana Department of Revenue, challenging the state’s reappraisal of properties that he maintained did not accurately account for plunging property values after the economic downturn began in 2008.
Morrison said she’ll remember McGarvey’s “incredible intellect.”
“Dale always had an open mind about almost everything,” she said. “It allowed him to explore so much. He looked anew at everything and didn’t reject anything out of hand.”
A Great Falls native who spent his early years in Sunburst and Conrad before graduating from Flathead County High School in 1945, McGarvey got his law degree from the University of Montana and earned a Master of Laws degree from Harvard Law School.
He wasted little time in returning to the Flathead Valley where he and his wife, Elsie, raised four children.
McGarvey was involved in politics during the early years of his law career, serving two terms in the Montana House from 1957 to 1961. The life-long Democrat ran unsuccessfully against Jon Sonju for a House seat in 2006, but it gave him the opportunity to once again push for insurance reform, senior issues, ethics reforms and tax cuts.
During his 2006 legislative campaign he once again went to bat for the working class, supporting a higher minimum wage because he believed low-wage earners weren’t getting the chance to improve their lives as much as those who earned higher wages.
McGarvey also had a hand in local civic affairs and supported the creation of a community college. In the Feb. 1, 1967, edition of the Inter Lake, McGarvey told a reporter about “the great team effort by the Governor’s Office, Attorney General’s Office and the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office in getting the community college district question on the ballot.” Flathead Valley Community College was founded that same year.
Music was another big part of McGarvey’s life. He formed the Irish Minstrels sometime in the early 1990s. A public notice in the Inter Lake about an upcoming performance noted it was the Butte Irish who inspired McGarvey “to form and mold a vision of Irish music.” The group involved his children and their families.
In recent years McGarvey embarked on a new entertainment-related venture when he became a movie producer. He and local author Angie Townsend formed a limited liability company and produced “The Forlorned,” a full-length feature film that will be released this fall.
“Dale believed in the arts and from the very beginning was nothing but supportive,” said Townsend, who first met McGarvey while she was a paralegal. “He was a true business partner and friend in every since of the word … I was very fortunate to have had him as a partner and mentor and he will be greatly missed.”
A full obituary is printed on page A7 in today’s Inter Lake.
*Original article online at https://www.dailyinterlake.com/article/20170725/ARTICLE/170729920