Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Kylie Oversen, individually and as chairwoman of the Democratic-Non-Partisan League Party of North Dakota, and Jason Anderson, as a candidate nominated by the Democratic-Non-Partisan League Party of North Dakota for the statewide elective office of North Dakota Insurance Commissioner, petitioned the North Dakota Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue a writ of mandamus to direct Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger to accept and certify Anderson for inclusion on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot for the office of insurance commissioner. Oversen and Anderson argued there was a vacancy on the ballot for that position and Jaeger was required to place Anderson’s name on the ballot as the nominated and endorsed Democratic-NPL party candidate for the office under N.D.C.C. 16.1-11-18(4). After review, the Supreme Court concluded Jaeger correctly applied North Dakota law by refusing to include Anderson on the general election ballot. Therefore, the Court denied the petition. View "Oversen, et al. v. Jaeger" on Justia Law

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The City of West Fargo (the “City”) petitioned the North Dakota Supreme Court for a supervisory writ to direct the district court to vacate a pretrial order requiring the City to produce at trial the individual (or the “Witness”) who initially inspected and reviewed the installation of the Intoxilyzer 8000 testing device used to administer a chemical breath test to Brady Johnson. The City charged Johnson with driving under the influence following a chemical breath test adminstered by law enforcement using an Intoxilyzer 8000 testing device. Johnson objected to the introduction of the analytical report at trial, arguing cross-examination of the Witness is required under the Confrontation Clause and Rule 707 of the North Dakota Rules of Evidence. According to the City and Johnson, the Witness initially inspected and reviewed the installation of the Intoxilyzer 8000 testing device which was used to administer Johnson’s breath test. She signed two documents entitled, “Intoxilyzer 8000 Initial Inspection” and “Intoxilyzer 8000 Installation and Repair Checkout.” The City responded to Johnson’s objection, arguing the documents signed by the Witness were not testimonial statements under the Confrontation Clause or Rule 707 as to require the City to produce the Witness for trial. The district court ordered the City to produce the Witness at trial. The Supreme Court exercised its supervisory jurisdiction and vacated the district court order, concluding the Witness did not make any testimonial statements under the Confrontation Clause or Rule 707 of the North Dakota Rules of Evidence requiring the City to produce her at trial. View "City of West Fargo v. Olson, et al." on Justia Law

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In June 2000, M.J.W. pled guilty to two misdemeanor offenses. In January 2001, he again pled guilty to a misdemeanor offense. In July 2003, he pled guilty to three misdemeanor offenses. In each of these three criminal cases, the district court sentenced M.J.W. to a suspended jail sentence, a fine, and unsupervised probation. M.J.W. was convicted of additional criminal offenses in October 2003 and August 2004. In October 2019, M.J.W. petitioned the district court under N.D.C.C. ch. 12-60.1 to seal records in each of the five cases. The State opposed M.J.W.’s petitions in the first three cases, arguing that M.J.W.’s subsequent convictions within three years of release from probation barred him from filing the petitions. The State did not oppose M.J.W.’s petitions in the October 2003 and August 2004 cases. The district court held a consolidated hearing on M.J.W.’s petitions in December 2019. At the close of the hearing, the State argued M.J.W. did not qualify for relief under N.D.C.C. 12-60.1-02(1)(a) because he had been convicted of new crimes within three years of his release from probation in each of those cases. The district court found the terms of N.D.C.C. 12-60.1-02(1)(a) to be ambiguous, and applying the rule of lenity, granted M.J.W.’s petitions and sealed the records in all five cases. Upon the State's appeal, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court misapplied the law. Judgment sealing the records was reversed. View "North Dakota v. M.J.W." on Justia Law

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Rick Berg, as a resident and elector of North Dakota, and as chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, petitioned this Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue a writ of mandamus directing Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger to remove Travisia Jonette Minor, A/K/A Travisia Martin from the November 3, 2020, general election ballot for the office of insurance commissioner. Martin filed an affidavit of candidacy, statement of interest, and certificate of endorsement with Jaeger requesting she be placed on the primary election ballot as the North Dakota Democratic-NPL party candidate for North Dakota Insurance Commissioner. In the affidavit of candidacy, Martin certified she met the requirements to hold the office of insurance commissioner. The executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party sent a letter to Jaeger stating Martin was ineligible to hold the office of insurance commissioner because she was not a North Dakota resident for five years preceding the November 2020 election. The Republican Party alleged Martin was ineligible to hold elective office because she voted in Nevada in the November 2016 election. Martin asserted she had maintained her physical residence in North Dakota since 2015. Jaeger refused to remove Martin from the ballot, stating he could only remove a candidate from the ballot if the candidate refused to accept the party nomination or if ordered to do so by a court. After review of the evidence, the North Dakota Supreme Court had "no doubt" Martin fully formed the intent to make North Dakota her legal residence at some point after 2016. However, all of the evidence and testimony presented to the Court regarding Martin’s intent and her actions, both prior-to and up until her vote in 2016, suggested she had not fully abandoned her Nevada domicile and residency, and she continued to avail herself of the rights of being a citizen of Nevada. She availed herself of these rights specifically to the exclusion of exercising many of those rights in North Dakota, including the right to vote. Therefore, the Court exercised its original jurisdiction to consider Berg’s petition, and granted an alternative writ of injunction. View "Berg v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioners Michael Haugen, Jacob Stutzman, Trent Barkus, and the Brighter Future Alliance sought a writ to enjoin North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger from placing an initiated measure on the November 3, 2020 ballot. The measure sought to amend the North Dakota Constitution concerning elections and legislative districting. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court granted the writ, concluding the petition did not comply with the constitutional requirement that it contain the full text of the measure. The Court set aside the Secretary of State’s decision to place Measure 3 on the November ballot and enjoined him from doing so. View "Haugen, et al. v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law

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The Plaintiffs, in their individual capacities and on behalf of similarly situated taxpayers, sought declaratory relief regarding chapter 61-33.1, N.D.C.C., relating to the ownership of mineral rights in lands subject to inundation by the Garrison Dam, was unconstitutional. The district court concluded that N.D.C.C. 61-33.1-04(1)(b) was on its face unconstitutional under the “gift clause,” and enjoined the State from issuing any payments under that statute. The court rejected Plaintiffs’ constitutional challenges to the rest of chapter 61-33.1. The Defendants appealed and the Plaintiffs cross-appealed the trial court’s orders, judgment, and amended judgment. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed that portion of the judgment concluding N.D.C.C. 61- 33.1-04(1)(b) violated the gift clause and the court’s injunction enjoining those payments. The Supreme Court also reversed the court’s award of attorney’s fees and costs and service award to the Plaintiffs because they were no longer prevailing parties. The Court affirmed the remainder of the orders and judgment, concluding the Plaintiffs did not establish that chapter 61-33.1 on its face violated the North Dakota Constitution. View "Sorum, et al. v. North Dakota, et al." on Justia Law

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The State of North Dakota appealed dismissal of its criminal complaint against Jerome Greenshields with prejudice. In February 2018, the State charged Greenshields with one count of sexual assault occurring in 1997 and one count of gross sexual imposition occurring in 2001. Greenshields requested a bill of particulars, and the district court ordered the State to file a bill of particulars within ten days. The State failed to produce the bill of particulars. After Greenshields moved for dismissal, the court dismissed the complaint. The order of dismissal did not specify whether the dismissal was with or without prejudice, and the State did not appeal the dismissal. In January 2019, the State filed another criminal complaint against Greenshields, charging him again on counts of sexual assault, one occurring between June 1 to July 31, 1997, and the other occurring in August 1997. The complaint also charged Greenshields with gross sexual imposition occurring in September 2001. Greenshields moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing the charges could not be refiled because the district court dismissed the first case with prejudice. In response, the State argued the earlier dismissal was silent as to whether it was with or without prejudice. After the case was assigned to a new judge, the court dismissed the complaint without a hearing, concluding the first judge intended to sanction the State and dismiss the first case with prejudice. The State appealed; the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concurring with the State there was no evidence of whether the district court dismissed the first complaint with or without prejudice. On remand, Greenshields renewed his motion to dismiss, claiming the district court intended to dismiss the first complaint with prejudice. After a hearing, at which the judge who dismissed the first complaint testified, the court found the judge intended to dismiss the first complaint with prejudice. The court dismissed the complaint in this case with prejudice. After reviewing the record, the Supreme Court found evidence to support the court’s findings, leaving the Court with a "definite and firm conviction" no mistake was made. Because the district court’s findings were not clearly erroneous, the Court concluded the court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the criminal complaint against Greenshields with prejudice. View "North Dakota v. Greenshields" on Justia Law

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Carlin Schultz appealed a criminal judgment entered following his conditional guilty plea to the charge of driving under the influence. Schultz entered a conditional guilty plea preserving his right to challenge the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Schultz argued he did not receive a reasonable opportunity to consult with counsel before deciding to take a chemical test and the subsequent test results should be excluded from evidence. The North Dakota Supreme Court found Schultz was provided with an opportunity to consult with an attorney before he decided whether to submit to chemical testing. Schultz was not required to be provided with a second chance to consult with an attorney subsequent to making a decision to take the chemical test. The judgment of the district court was therefore affirmed. View "City of Jamestown v. Schultz" on Justia Law

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In early 2019, Devils Lake Police Officer Gilbertson was dispatched on a report of a possibly impaired driver. Gilbertson pulled the vehicle over and as he reached the back of the vehicle, the vehicle fled the scene. Gilbertson pursued; another officer attempted to deploy road spikes. The vehicle avoided the spikes and zig-zagged through a field until it became stuck in the snow. When the occupants did not leave the vehicle, Gilbertson approached the vehicle, reached in, put it in park, smelling a strong odor of marijuana. After removing and arresting the driver, officers removed passenger, K.V. Another responding officer, Officer Engen, Engen did a pat down search of K.V. and found drug paraphernalia, a bong, and a bag of meth in K.V.’s jacket. Engen averred he patted down K.V. to search for weapons as a safety issue and to look for illegal drugs. K.V. was alleged to be a delinquent child, charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. K.V. filed a motion to suppress, contending there was no exception for the warrantless search and the search was prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. The juvenile court denied the motion to suppress on the record, finding: “There was marijuana in the vehicle. You were in the vehicle [K.V.]. Once [the officers] establish that they had the smell of marijuana in the vehicle, they had the right to search you and they found the methamphetamine in the coat pocket that you were wearing.” The court denied K.V.’s renewed motion to suppress at the adjudication hearing. K.V. was adjudicated a delinquent child for possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. Although the juvenile court court received testimony about the officers’ concern for their safety and the smell of marijuana, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the juvenile court did not make specific findings on the reasonableness of the pat down or subsequent search. "It did not identify which exception to the warrant requirement justified the search in its conclusions of law. We are unable to understand the court’s reasoning for its decision and are left to speculate as to the law and facts the court relied on in denying the motion to suppress." Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for reconsideration of the suppression order. View "Interest of K.V." on Justia Law

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Edward Skorick appealed from a district court order civilly committing him as a sexually dangerous individual. In September 2018, the State petitioned to have Skorick civilly committed. Two experts, Dr. Richard Travis and Dr. Stacey Benson, submitted reports and each opined that Skorick met the criteria of a sexually dangerous individual and recommended that Skorick be committed as a sexually dangerous individual. Skorick argued the court erroneously considered the experts’ reports in making its decision. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court indeed relied on Dr. Benson’s and Dr. Travis’ reports in making its decision. The district court’s memorandum decision and order stated that although Dr. Benson did not testify at the hearing, the court “received and reviewed her report.” The court’s order also stated, “The [report] of each psychologist was reviewed extensively by the court in preparation for the hearing and again following the hearing. The findings that follow are based upon a weighing of the testimony and credibility of each psychologist in light of their respective evaluative findings.” The State conceded the district court may have erroneously considered Dr. Benson’s report. The State did not offer the report into evidence at the commitment hearing; however, it argued any error in considering the report was harmless. The Supreme Court found the court’s order specifically mentioned Dr. Benson’s report seven times in its findings of fact. To the extent the court relied on Dr. Benson’s report in making its decision, the Supreme Court could not conclude its reliance on the report was harmless, therefore finding the court abused its discretion in considering Dr. Benson’s report. With regard to Dr. Travis’ report, the State did not offer it into evidence, and the district court’s order was silent on whether it was part of the hearing record. Because the Supreme Court was uncertain whether Dr. Travis’ report was admitted at the hearing, it reversed and remanded for a determination of whether the report was part of the hearing record. If not, the court had to make findings on whether Skorick was a sexually dangerous individual on the basis of Dr. Travis’ testimony at the hearing. View "Interest of Skorick" on Justia Law