Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Whitetail Wave LLC, a Montana Limited Liability Company, sued XTO Energy, Inc., a Delaware corporation, the Board of University and School Lands of the State of North Dakota, the State of North Dakota, and the Department of Water Resources and its Director. Whitetail Wave claimed ownership of certain property in McKenzie County, North Dakota, and alleged that XTO Energy had breached their lease agreement by failing to make required royalty payments. Whitetail Wave also claimed that the State's assertion of an interest in the mineral interests associated with the property constituted an unconstitutional taking without just compensation.The District Court of McKenzie County granted summary judgment in favor of the State and XTO Energy. The court concluded that the State owned certain mineral interests within the ordinary high watermark as defined by North Dakota law. The court also found that XTO Energy was within the safe harbor provision provided by North Dakota law and did not breach the parties’ lease agreement when it withheld the royalty payments. The court awarded XTO Energy recovery of its attorney’s fees.On appeal, the Supreme Court of North Dakota affirmed the judgment of the district court. The Supreme Court found that the district court did not err in dismissing Whitetail Wave's claim of an unconstitutional taking against the State, as the State's actions were limited to a title dispute. The Supreme Court also found that the district court did not err in dismissing Whitetail Wave's claim against XTO Energy for the non-payment of royalties, as XTO Energy fell within the safe harbor provision of North Dakota law. Finally, the Supreme Court found that the district court did not err in awarding XTO Energy a recovery of its attorney’s fees as the prevailing party. View "Whitetail Wave v. XTO Energy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of North Dakota affirmed the district court's decision in a case involving Defendant Joseph Glaum, who appealed an amended criminal judgment and the denial of his request to withdraw his conditional guilty pleas. Glaum claimed that the court had abused its discretion in denying his request to withdraw his pleas, arguing that the court had misapplied the factors for considering a motion to withdraw a guilty plea under N.D.R.Crim.P. 11. He also made claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and asserted that the six issues preserved for appeal by his conditional pleas were wrongly decided by the court.The court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in weighing the factors outlined in State v. Lium, and did not clearly err in determining that Glaum did not meet his burden to show a fair and just reason to withdraw his conditional guilty pleas. The court also concluded that the record was inadequate to determine Glaum’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims.Glaum further argued that his right to a speedy trial under the federal constitution was violated. The court applied the balancing test announced in Barker v. Wingo to evaluate this claim, considering the accused’s assertion of his right to a speedy trial, the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, and whether there was any prejudice to the accused. Upon balancing these factors, the court found that Glaum had not shown a violation of his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.Finally, the court affirmed the district court's decision to grant the State’s motion to amend the information and denied Glaum’s motion for continuance, finding that the court did not act in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner, or misinterpret or misapply the law. View "State v. Glaum" on Justia Law

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In this case from the Supreme Court of North Dakota, Derrick Sherwood appealed a district court order denying his motion to vacate a domestic violence protection order (DVPO) under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60. The court held a hearing and entered a DVPO restraining Derrick Sherwood from having contact with Valerie Sherwood, his ex-wife, and their two minor children. The order also required Derrick Sherwood to surrender his firearms to law enforcement. Later, the court amended the DVPO to remove the restriction on Derrick Sherwood’s possession of firearms. Derrick Sherwood later moved to vacate the DVPO altogether.The Supreme Court of North Dakota held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Derrick Sherwood’s request to treat Valerie Sherwood as a hostile witness or in denying Derrick Sherwood’s motion to vacate the DVPO. The court also held that the district court did not err in awarding Valerie Sherwood attorney’s fees.Furthermore, the court held that Derrick Sherwood did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of N.D.C.C. § 14-07.1-02(4)(g), which allows a DVPO to require, under certain circumstances, that the respondent surrender any firearm or other specified dangerous weapon. As the DVPO was amended to allow Derrick Sherwood to possess firearms, he did not have a justiciable controversy regarding the constitutionality of this statute.The court affirmed the district court's decision. View "Sherwood v. Sherwood" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision finding Erica Good Bear guilty of terrorizing, a class C felony. Good Bear appealed the judgment, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a conviction, improper admission of hearsay evidence, and denial of her right to confront a witness. The alleged hearsay evidence was two statements made by the victim's four-year-old child, both of which were recounted by other witnesses. The first statement was recounted by the victim, and the second was recounted by the responding police officer. The court concluded that both statements fell under the "excited utterance" exception to the hearsay rule, making them admissible. The court also found that the second statement did not violate Good Bear's right to confront her accuser, as it was not considered "testimonial" under the Sixth Amendment. The court determined that sufficient evidence supported the jury's verdict of guilty on the terrorizing charge. View "State v. Good Bear" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of North Dakota affirmed a decision from the District Court of Burleigh County, which had granted a motion to suppress evidence in a criminal trial. The defendant, Matthew Gietzen, was charged with possession of controlled substances and drug paraphernalia that were found in a locked bag within a backpack during a vehicle search. The driver of the vehicle had consented to the search, but Gietzen, a passenger, did not give explicit consent. The district court held that the driver's consent did not extend to the search of Gietzen's backpack, particularly the locked bag containing contraband, because it was unreasonable to believe the female driver had authority to consent to a search of a locked bag containing men’s items. On appeal, the Supreme Court agreed with this assessment, stating that it is the officer's burden to obtain affirmative consent for a search when a constitutional protection applies and consent alone serves as the basis for the search. The court therefore affirmed the district court's order to suppress the evidence found in the backpack, upholding the principle that a third party's consent to a search does not necessarily extend to personal items belonging to another individual. View "State v. Gietzen" on Justia Law

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In this case, the defendant, Mathew Nelson, appealed his sentence for sexual assault, gross sexual imposition, and corruption of a minor. He argued that the district court relied on impermissible factors when determining his sentence and that his sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment.The Supreme Court of North Dakota affirmed the district court's decision. The Court found that the district court had the discretion to consider the sentencing factors provided in N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-04 and that it had not relied on impermissible factors. The Court noted that there was evidence in the record to support the court’s consideration of Nelson’s ability to control his behavior when considering the length of his sentence and that the future harm caused by Nelson’s conduct was a permissible sentencing factor to consider.The Court also found that Nelson’s argument that his sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment was not adequately articulated or supported, and therefore did not need to be addressed further. Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court’s criminal judgments. View "State v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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In the State of North Dakota, the defendant, Demetris Haney, was involved in a shooting in a bar's parking lot. Haney was charged with reckless endangerment and terrorizing, among other charges. The trial took place in August 2022, where the state presented surveillance footage showing Haney firing multiple rounds at an individual before they returned fire. Haney testified that he only returned fire when shot at. After the state rested its case, Haney moved for a judgment of acquittal on all counts, which the district court denied. The jury found Haney not guilty of attempted murder but guilty of two counts of the lesser-included offense of aggravated assault and guilty of reckless endangerment and terrorizing.On appeal, Haney argued that the district court erred in denying his motion for a judgment of acquittal on the terrorizing charge. He claimed that the state failed to prove the terrorizing charge because he did not "threaten" to commit any violent crime or dangerous act. The State of North Dakota Supreme Court concluded that a rational fact-finder could find Haney guilty of terrorizing based on the evidence presented at trial, and therefore, the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction.Haney also argued that the district court violated his constitutional right to a public trial by conducting in-chamber conferences without the necessary findings or obtaining a waiver from Haney. The Supreme Court concluded that these conferences were not closures implicating Haney's public trial right and that Haney did not establish obvious error in the district court's failure to create a record of these conferences.Lastly, Haney argued that the district court denied his right to due process, but he did not provide any factual or legal analysis to support this claim. The Supreme Court declined to consider this claim, as Haney did not provide relevant authority or meaningful reasoning to support it.As a result, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision, upholding Haney's convictions. View "State v. Haney" on Justia Law

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Eli Richter appealed an order deferring imposition of a sentence imposed after a jury found him guilty of the unlawful use of an operator's license. The State charged Richter with the unlawful use of the license, alleging he showed a counterfeit Minnesota driver's license to a police officer in Grand Forks, North Dakota. At trial, the officer testified the "license was nonexistent or it was never issued through any state." At the close of the State's case, Richter moved to acquittal, arguing "the definition [of operator's license] stats an operator's license is issued or granted by the laws of this state. The ID that was taken from Mr. Richter is not issued under the laws of this state. It does not meet the definition, Your Honor." The district court denied the motion and the jury ultimately found Richter guilty. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred: N.D.C.C. § 39-06-40 made it a crime to display a fictitious license. View "North Dakota v. Richter" on Justia Law

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David Geiger was convicted by jury of stalking. The victim testified she was an employee at a bank where Geiger was a customer. The victim, in conjunction with other bank employees, decided to close out Geiger’s account after what the victim described as abusive conduct by Geiger towards bank employees. Geiger was informed of the closure and instructed to collect the remaining funds in his account through the drive-up window. The victim and other employees then observed Geiger sitting in his car across the street. Due to concerns surrounding this behavior, bank staff contacted law enforcement to escort staff from the building to their vehicles at closing. Later that same night, the victim received a phone call to her personal phone, verified by law enforcement as having been placed from a phone belonging to Geiger. Upon answering the call, the victim’s husband said “hello” several times, but there was no response. These incidents served as grounds for the stalking charge. On appeal, Geiger argued the district court failed to make a mandatory determination regarding whether the conduct he was alleged to have engaged in was constitutionally protected. He further argued the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict of guilty. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Geiger" on Justia Law

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Danial Curtis was convicted of the unauthorized use of personal identifying information. At trial, a bank teller testified Curtis entered the bank where she worked producing a check for cashing. The teller noticed several "red flags" on the check; her manager testified to noticing the same red flags. The manager contacted the account holder to inquire if the check was authorized; the account holder testified she had thrown out any checks she had remaining once she closed the account. Representing himself, Curtis called a friend who testified Curtis was not attempting to cash the check, but was only attempting to see if the check was valid. Based on the evidence presented, the district court found beyond a reasonable doubt Curtis willfully presented the check to cash, and found Curtis guilty of the unauthorized use of personal identifying information "to obtain money without the authorization of consent of the holder of the account, and the value of the money exceeded $1,000." On appeal, Curtis argued there was insufficient information presented to support his conviction. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed Curtis' conviction. View "North Dakota v. Curtis" on Justia Law