Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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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

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Richard Scott was convicted by jury of solicitation of a minor and child neglect. Scott argued the district court erred when it did not instruct the jury on the defense of double jeopardy. He also argues the court erred when it did not conduct a hearing concerning the trustworthiness of the child-victim’s out-of-court statements under N.D.R.Ev. 803(24). Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Steven Helm appealed after he was found guilty of driving under the influence, a fourth offense in fifteen years. He argued the State failed to present evidence on the second essential element that he was under the influence. Because Helm failed to preserve the issue he argued on appeal, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Helm" on Justia Law

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Nathanael Brown appealed the issuance of a domestic violence protection order which enjoined him from having contact with Flavia Brown and restricted his right to possess firearms. In late September 2019, Flavia Brown petitioned the district court for a protection order against Nathanael. The court issued a temporary protection order and an order for hearing procedure which set a hearing for October 9, 2019. The order for hearing procedure stated evidence would be taken by affidavit only and a party seeking to cross-examine an affiant must notify the opposing party at least twenty-four hours before the hearing. On the day before the hearing, Nathanael Brown filed notice of appearance and a request to continue the hearing. On the day of the hearing, he filed notice of cross-examination. At the time scheduled for the hearing, the district court denied Nathanael's requests for continuance and cross-examination because they were untimely under the order for hearing procedure. At the outset of the hearing, Nathanael objected to the district court’s affidavit procedure, arguing that it would deny him due process and a “full hearing” under N.D.C.C. 14-07.1-02. The district court denied Nathanael permission to cross-examine Flavia about her affidavit or to present any of his own evidence. The court accepted Flavia's affidavit and granted the domestic violence protection order preventing Nathanael from having contact with Flavia Brown for two years. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Nathanael was denied a full hearing under N.D.C.C. 14-07.1-02(4), the protection order was reversed and the matter remanded for a full hearing. View "Brown v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Austin Pouliot appealed following his conditional guilty plea to driving under the influence. Pouliot preserved his right to challenge the denial of his motion seeking to exclude from evidence the results of a chemical test. Pouliot contended the results should have been excluded from evidence pursuant to N.D.C.C. 39-20-01(b) because law enforcement failed to properly administer the chemical test when the arresting officer who read the post-arrest implied consent warning was not the officer who conducted the testing. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. "As a matter of law ... N.D.C.C. 39-20-01(b), does not apply because this is a criminal proceeding and because this case does not involve a refusal to take the chemical test." View "North Dakota v. Pouliot" on Justia Law

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Michael Truelove appealed dismissal of his application for post-conviction relief. Truelove alleged he received ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial and requests his criminal judgment vacated. Truelove claimed: (1) he did not consent to his counsel’s concession to the jury that he struck the victim; (2) he was coerced into testifying at trial; and (3) there was a lack of effective communication with his trial counsel. Finding no reversible error or constitutionally ineffective performance, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Truelove v. North Dakota" on Justia Law