Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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In 2018, Walter James was arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and fraudulent practices in urine testing. The district court appointed an attorney for James after determining he qualified as indigent. The court subsequently dismissed James’ court appointed attorney after James became employed and no longer qualified as indigent. James represented himself at trial in July 2019, and the jury found James guilty of both charges. The court sentenced James to four years in prison with two years suspended. On appeal, James contended he was deprived of his right to counsel, claimed there was an error in the post-verdict polling of the jury, claimed the district court erred in the issuance of a search warrant because it lacked jurisdiction, and argued there was a violation of his right to confront witnesses against him. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. James" on Justia Law

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Mackenzie Harstad appealed a district court’s judgment ordering restitution for unrecovered personal property. The personal property was in a vehicle at the time the vehicle was stolen, but was not in the vehicle seven days later when Harstad was arrested for, and charged with, possession of the stolen vehicle. Harstad was not charged with the theft of the vehicle. Harstad argued the district court abused its discretion by ordering restitution for the unrecovered personal property because there was no immediate and intimate causal connection between the criminal conduct and the loss of the personal property. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with this, reversed and remanded to the district court for a redetermination of the amount of restitution. View "North Dakota v. Harstad" on Justia Law

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James Kremer appealed the denial of his application for post-conviction relief. In 2014, FBI agents seized computers, hard drives, and other electronic devices belonging to Kremer. Child pornography was found on some of the devices. The agents interviewed Kremer regarding the devices and the explicit material discovered on the devices. Kremer claimed ownership of the electronic devices and acknowledged the explicit material found on them. In November 2015, Kremer entered into a stipulation with federal prosecutors in which Kremer agreed to plead guilty to charges related to the matter in North Dakota state court. Had Kremer not pleaded guilty in state court, the stipulation stated prosecution of the matter would continue in federal court. Kremer was facing a 15 year minimum mandatory sentence if convicted in federal court. Kremer argued he should have been allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas because he received ineffective assistance of counsel and because the district court did not adhere to the procedure set forth in N.D.R.Crim.P. 11. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Kremer v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Susan Franciere appealed a district court judgment granting the City of Mandan’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction due to insufficient service. In 2017, Franciere and her dog were attacked by a dog in Mandan. Days later, she went to the Mandan Police Department, asserted her rights under Article I, section 25 of the North Dakota Constitution, and requested a copy of the police report on the incident under the open records law. Franciere called the police department and was informed the dog was undergoing a 10-day rabies quarantine. Thereafter, Franciere sent a letter to the chief of police requesting the police report. On August 22, 2017, she received a phone call from a police lieutenant who told her she would not receive the report because the case was still active and no information would be released until the case was closed. In September 2017, she contacted the city attorney about the incident. Then in October, Franciere filed this action against the City, alleging violations of the North Dakota Constitution and the open records law. Franciere received a redacted report of the incident from the police department on November 1, 2017. On January 13, 2018, she received an unredacted report from the police department. On November 14, 2018, Franciere filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court declared Franciere’s action moot and dismissed it with prejudice. It declined to rule on Mandan’s motion to dismiss for insufficient service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. The North Dakota Supreme Court vacated the district court’s judgment and remanded for determination of Mandan’s motion to dismiss for insufficiency of service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. Upon reconsideration, the district court granted the City's motion to dismiss with prejudice. Franciere argued Mandan waived its personal jurisdiction claims, the district court improperly dismissed the case with prejudice, the district court erred when it denied her motion to compel discovery, and the district court judge was biased against her. The Supreme Court modified the judgment for dismissal without prejudice, and affirmed as modified. View "Franciere v. City of Mandan" on Justia Law

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Richard Powley appealed after a jury found him guilty of three counts of gross sexual imposition (GSI). Powley was on parole at the time of his arrest. Detectives believed there was evidence of communications between Powley and the victim of the aggravated assault on Powley’s cell phone. As part of the warrantless search of Powley’s cell phone, detectives discovered videos of Powley sexually assaulting an adult woman. These videos led to the GSI charges. On appeal, Powley argued the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained the warrantless search of his cell phone. The North Dakota Supreme Court had held previously that warrantless searches of supervised probationers based on reasonable suspicion were not unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. "'By virtue of their status alone, parolees have 'everely diminished expectations of privacy.'" The Court concluded the district court did not err in denying Powley’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the warrantless search of his cell phone because the search of Powley’s cell phone was not in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. View "North Dakota v. Powley" on Justia Law

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Travis Yoney appealed a district court amended judgment after a jury found him guilty of attempted murder, burglary, reckless endangerment, and terrorizing. According to testimony at trial, in August 2018 Yoney fired a .22 caliber rifle into John and Jane Doe’s house. He then broke into the house and pointed the rifle at John Doe. John Doe tackled Yoney, and the rifle fired into the ceiling. Yoney argued on appeal that the jury convicted him of a non-cognizable offense, attempt to knowingly commit murder, and the State did not provide evidence he threatened to commit a crime. Further, he contended the jury gave an inconsistent, compromised verdict by finding him guilty of attempted murder and reckless endangerment. He claimed the evidence may support either charge individually, but it could not support the same conduct with different culpabilities for the same victim, John Doe. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed Yoney's conviction. View "North Dakota v. Yoney" on Justia Law

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The State appealed the suppression of evidence in criminal proceedings initiated against Jordan Selzler and Kelsey Jankowski. The criminal charges against Selzler and Jankowski stemmed from evidence gathered during the same traffic stop, the hearing on the motions to suppress evidence was held jointly, and the cases were consolidated for purposes of appeal. The State argued the district court incorrectly found the traffic stop was unlawful because law enforcement lacked reasonable suspicion for the stop. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the suppression of the evidence gathered after the traffic stop. View "North Dakota v. Selzler" on Justia Law

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Tara Soucy appealed after a jury found her guilty of child neglect. On appeal, Soucy argued the district court erred by refusing to take judicial notice of a related conviction of the children’s father. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to take judicial notice. Though the Court affirmed the conviction, it remanded for the trial court to correct the judgment to accurately reflect the statutory citation for child neglect. View "North Dakota v. Soucy" on Justia Law

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Anthony Washington appealed a district court's judgment entered following Washington’s conditional guilty pleas to fleeing from a law enforcement officer and preventing arrest. Washington was stopped for speeding. During the traffic stop, at the request of the officer, Washington produced a Michigan driver’s license. While producing his driver’s license Washington informed the officer his license had recently been reinstated, explained the Michigan records may not have been up-to-date, and noted the records may not reflect the reinstatement of his license. After being informed Washington’s driving privileges were under suspension, the officer returned to Washington’s vehicle to place him under arrest for driving with a suspended license. Washington again tried to explain his belief his license was valid. After an unsuccessful attempt to convince the officer his license was valid, Washington fled the scene. Washington argued on appeal that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence because his arrest was illegal. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Washington" on Justia Law

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James McGowen, a/k/a James McGowan, appeals from the amended criminal judgment finding him guilty of two counts of simple assault on a corrections officer and ordering $1,855.31 in restitution. McGowen was brought from a holding cell at the Burleigh-Morton County Detention Center into the booking area. McGowen became angry and agitated. The two correctional officers walked around the corner to assist the booking officer, and one tried to restrain McGowen. The officer felt something hit him in the face and believed McGowen punched him. The other officer tackled McGowen to the ground, while McGowen was still attacking the first officer. On the ground, McGowan continued to flail and swing punches. McGowen argues evidence was insufficient to convict him, and the district court abused its discretion by continuing the restitution hearing, and by ordering $1,855.31 in restitution. View "North Dakota v. McGowen" on Justia Law