Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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A district court certified a question of law to the North Dakota Supreme Court on whether a married person under the age of eighteen was considered a “child” under the Juvenile Court Act. G.C.H. was charged with five crimes which allegedly occurred when G.C.H. was sixteen and seventeen years old. G.C.H. was married when the alleged crimes occurred and still was married. G.C.H. moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to his age, claiming the proper jurisdiction was in juvenile court. The district court denied the motion, finding G.C.H. was not a child under North Dakota law because he was married. The North Dakota Supreme Court has discretion to hear certified questions of law by the district court and may refuse to consider a certified question if it is frivolous, interlocutory in nature, or not dispositive of the issues before the district court. Here, neither a negative nor affirmative answer would be dispositive of the case. "If G.C.H. is a child under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4), the juvenile court still would need to determine whether he was delinquent. If G.C.H. is not a child under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4), a jury still would need to determine if G.C.H. is guilty of the alleged crimes. Therefore, the certified question is not determinative of the proceedings. We decline to answer the certified question." Notwithstanding the Supreme Court's declination to answering the certified question, it concluded this case justified exercising supervisory jurisdiction. The district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over G.C.H. because was a “child” under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4)(b). The Supreme Court exercised its supervisory jurisdiction and reversed and remanded with directions to vacate the judgment and dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "North Dakota v. G.C.H." on Justia Law

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Lawrence Didier appeals from an order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. On appeal, Didier argues the district court’s factual basis was insufficient to legally conclude he met the substantive due process requirement of the inability to control his behavior. Didier also argues he did not receive a fair hearing that comports with procedural due process. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Matter of Didier" on Justia Law

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The State appealed an order granting Derek Grzadzieleski’s motion to suppress hospital records disclosing that his blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit after an all-terrain vehicle accident. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the State had no statutory right to appeal the order and the Supreme Court declined to exercise our supervisory authority. It therefore dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "North Dakota v. Grzadzieleski" on Justia Law

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Michelle Vetter appealed an order deferring imposition of sentence entered after a jury convicted her of child abuse. On appeal, Vetter asked the North Dakota Supreme Court to take judicial notice of filings from her divorce case against the complainant. She also argued the definition of “bodily injury” in N.D.C.C. 12.1-01-04 was unconstitutionally vague. In addition, she argued the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain a verdict of guilty. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Vetter" on Justia Law

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Glen Baltrusch appeals from a criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of four counts of disobedience of a judicial order. Gary, Milo, and Glen Baltrusch were sons of Delores Baltrusch. Gary was the trustee of the Delores Baltrusch Irrevocable Trust. The Trust owned a house in the City of Harvey, North Dakota. Delores was allowed to reside in the home as long as she is able. Glen also resided in the home with Delores. Gary and Milo were concerned that Glen was taking advantage of their elderly mother, and in July 2017 they asked him to vacate the property. He refused to do so. In response to Glen's refusal to leave the property, Gary, as trustee, brought an action under N.D.C.C. ch. 47-32 to evict Glen from the premises. A final judgment was entered ordering Glen to vacate the property no later than October 20, 2017. On April 11, 2018, a special writ of execution was issued ordering the sheriff to remove Glen from the property. A sheriff’s return of service indicated the special writ of execution was served on April 11, 2018, and the sheriff testified that Glen left the premises with the sheriff when the writ was served. Because the evidence was sufficient to sustain the verdicts and the district court did not commit obvious error in failing to dismiss counts two through four on double jeopardy grounds, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Baltrusch" on Justia Law

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Terrance Tyler appealed his conviction for Aggravated Assault in violation of N.D.C.C. 12.1-17-02(1)(a). Tyler was charged with Aggravated Assault following an altercation with the victim. The victim was subpoenaed by the State and was called as a witness during the presentation of the State’s case. Following her direct testimony, the victim was subject to cross-examination by Tyler’s counsel. At the conclusion of her testimony, the district court informed the victim she had not been released from her subpoena, excluded the victim from the courtroom, and told the victim she could be recalled as a witness for either the State or the Defendant. The victim went into premature labor after her testimony and before the start of the next day of trial. Tyler moved for a mistrial asserting he was prejudiced by the unavailability of the victim to provide additional testimony. The district court denied the motion for a mistrial. The State called three additional witnesses and rested its case. Tyler moved for a mistrial for a second time based on the absence of the victim and the district court again denied the request for a mistrial. Tyler immediately requested that the district court allow the victim to be recalled to testify by telephone, the State opposed, and the district court denied the request to recall the victim as a witness by telephone. Tyler contended that the district court abused its discretion in denying his motions for mistrial when the victim became unavailable to provide additional testimony after testifying earlier in the trial, the district court improperly altered the order of the trial, and the unavailability of the victim to provide additional testimony resulted in a manifest injustice. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "North Dakota v. Tyler" on Justia Law

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Jason Vogt appealed a district court’s orders summarily dismissing his motion to vacate judgment and withdraw guilty plea. In 2014, Vogt pleaded guilty to one felony count of gross sexual imposition and was sentenced. In 2015, Vogt applied for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied Vogt’s application. Vogt appealed and the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. In 2017, Vogt filed a second application for post-conviction relief. The application was denied, and Vogt did not appeal. On March 7, 2019, Vogt filed a N.D.R.Ct. 3.2 motion to vacate judgment and withdraw guilty plea under N.D.R.Crim.P. 11(d). Vogt alleged: (1) his confession was coerced; (2) his attorney misinformed him of the sentence he would receive if he pleaded guilty; and (3) his plea was not entered into voluntarily, knowingly, or intelligently. Without explicitly asserting them, the State raised the affirmative defenses of res judicata and misuse of process. The State argued that Vogt’s claims were barred because the basis for his claims had already been litigated in his previous applications for post-conviction relief. The State did not move for summary disposition. Without a response from Vogt, the district court issued its order denying Vogt’s motion. Vogt argued the district court erred by denying his motion before allowing him time to respond pursuant to N.D.R.Ct. 3.2(a)(2). The Supreme Court concurred, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "North Dakota v. Vogt" on Justia Law

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Marquis Smith appealed after a jury found him guilty of two counts of gross sexual imposition. The State alleged Smith had sexual contact with a seven-year-old child on December 9-10, 2017. The alleged victim was the child of Smith’s girlfriend. Smith argued the district court erred by failing to exclude evidence that he accessed pornographic websites and by failing to give the jury an instruction limiting the use of the evidence. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The State of North Dakota appealed an order dismissing a criminal complaint charging Jerome Greenshields with two counts of sexual assault and one count of gross sexual imposition. In February 2018, the State charged Greenshields with one count of sexual assault under N.D.C.C. 12.1-20-07(1)(f) alleged to have occurred between June 1, 1997, and August 30, 1997, and one count of gross sexual imposition under N.D.C.C. 12.1-20-03(2)(a) and (c) alleged to have occurred between September 1, 2001, and September 31, 2001. In August 2018, Greenshields moved for a bill of particulars setting forth the specific date of the allegation of sexual assault because, effective August 1, 1997, the penalty for a violation of N.D.C.C. 12.1-20-07(1)(f) changed from a class A misdemeanor to a class C felony. Greenshields argued the bill of particulars was necessary to adequately inform him of “his right to be free from ex post facto prosecution.” In October 2018, the district court granted the motion and ordered the State to file a bill of particulars. After the State failed to timely produce the bill of particulars, Greenshields moved for an order dismissing the case “for systemic disregard of the law” because the State had violated the district court’s “explicit orders” and “[d]ismissal is required to prophylactically ensure the State’s future compliance.” Greenshields’ motion and brief in support of the motion did not state whether he sought dismissal with or without prejudice. The State opposed the motion, arguing the victim could not remember the specific dates of the alleged offense. In his reply brief in support of the motion, Greenshields once again urged the court to “dismiss” for willfully disobeying its order. No hearing was requested or held on the motion. Then the court granted Greenshields' motion to dismiss. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that because there was no evidence to support the district court’s ruling that an earlier order dismissing a similar criminal complaint and information was intended to be “with prejudice,” the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "North Dakota v. Greenshields" on Justia Law

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In 2018, the State charged Joe Johns with unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia as a class C felony second offense under N.D.C.C. 19-03.4-03(2), which enhanced the charge from a class A misdemeanor to a class C felony if the person previously has been convicted of an offense under N.D.C.C. title 19. The criminal information alleged that on August 29, 2018, Johns used or possessed with intent to use a glass smoking device for use with methamphetamine and that he “has a prior conviction in case no. 08-2016-CR-00295.” Johns conditionally pled guilty after the district court denied his motion to dismiss a charge for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia as a class C felony second offense. Johns argued on appeal he did not have a prior conviction for enhancement purposes because a deferred imposition of sentence for a prior charge under N.D.C.C. title 19 resulted in a dismissal of that charge. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred: the language of N.D.C.C. 19-03.4-03(2), authorized enhancement for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia “[i]f a person previously has been convicted of an offense under this title, other than an offense related to marijuana.” That language, when read together with N.D.C.C. sections 12.1-32-02(4) and 12.1-32-07.1 and the Court’s decision in North Dakota v. Nelson, 2019 ND 204, referred to a conviction for a deferred sentence that had not been dismissed. Johns’ prior case had been dismissed. Therefore, the court could not consider Johns’ prior conviction to enhance the charge in this case. The Court reversed and remanded to allow Johns to withdraw his conditional guilty plea to the enhanced charge. View "North Dakota v. Johns" on Justia Law