Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Joey Wayland appealed after he was convicted by jury of Theft of Property and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Wayland contended his case should have been dismissed because his right to a speedy trial was violated by a continuance of his trial from March 11, 2019 to April 8, 2019. Wayland also contended the district court violated his right to remain silent by ordering him to submit to a mental health evaluation. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Wayland" on Justia Law

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In June 2014, Rodney, Thomas, and Susan Brossart, as plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit in North Dakota federal district court against Nelson County, North Dakota, and the sheriff and a deputy sheriff of Nelson County, as defendants. The Brossarts alleged claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law. The federal district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The court subsequently entered judgment against the Brossarts awarding defendants $8,153.08 in costs. The Brossarts did not appeal the judgment awarding costs to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Defendants thereafter filed the federal judgment to the Nelson County clerk's office. Defendants' attorney served three sets of interrogatories in aid of execution of judgment, one for each of the three named plaintiffs, on the Brossarts’ attorney. Each set of interrogatories contained 73 identical questions. Subparts to the main questions contained in the interrogatories were separately numbered. The Brossarts’ were not personally served the interrogatories. However, on appeal the Brossarts acknowledge they were informed of the filing of the federal judgment. Because they believed the federal judgment was procedurally and substantively defective, the Brossarts refused to respond to the interrogatories. Additionally, there is nothing in the record indicating the Brossarts’ attorney represented them in the state court action prior to February 19. After the Brossarts’ attorney sent the February 19 letter, the parties’ attorneys continued to communicate regarding the interrogatories. Defendants moved to compel answers, but the Brossarts moved for relief from judgment, arguing the federal judgment was invalid and unenforceable because they were not provided proper notice the federal judgment had been filed. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded that the federal judgment was entitled to full faith and credit, and the Brossarts did not raise any viable defense as to why the federal judgment was invalid or unenforceable. The Brossarts correctly asserted they were not initially provided notice of the filing of the foreign judgment pursuant to N.D.C.C. 28-20.1-03(2), but the Court found their justification for refusing to answer the interrogatories and their basis for their motion for relief from judgment were completely without merit. The district court did not abuse its discretion in finding the Brossarts’ claims were frivolous and awarding attorney’s fees. View "Brossart, et al. v. Janke, et al." on Justia Law

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Kevin Michel was convicted by jury of knowingly receiving stolen property. Jamestown Police began investigating theft of tires from Northwest Tire in October 2017. About ten months later, Thomas Melland and Andrew Heckelsmiller became suspects in the investigation. Heckelsmiller told police he had sold stolen tires to Michel. In August 2018, Detective LeRoy Gross spoke with Michel about the stolen tires. Michel acknowledged he had bought tires from Heckelsmiller and Melland. Michel also told Detective Gross he stopped buying tires from Heckelsmiller and Melland after seeing a Facebook post from Northwest Tire offering a $500 reward for information regarding stolen tires. Detective Gross told Michel, “There’s going to be a lot of restitution these two boys are going to have to come up with unless we can get some tires back.” Michel said he had sold several of the tires but still had some of them. Michel turned over seven new tires to Detective Gross. Representatives from Northwest Tire and J&L Service identified the tires as some of those stolen from their shops. During the jury’s deliberations, the jury submitted a note with written questions to the court. Michel argued on appeal the district court erred by not specifically answering the jury’s questions and instead referring them to the existing jury instructions. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the criminal judgment, except as to the award of restitution. The award was reversed because the district court awarded more than what was required to make the victims whole. The matter was remanded for a redetermination of restitution. View "North Dakota v. Michel" on Justia Law

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Richard Dodge appealed from a district court order denying his application for post-conviction relief. Dodge was charged with five felonies and a misdemeanor in December 2015. Dodge was appointed counsel. In April 2016, Dodge’s counsel moved the court to withdraw because the attorney-client relationship was “irreparably broken and rendered unreasonably difficult.” The court granted the motion, and Dodge was appointed substitute counsel in May 2016. In July 2016, Dodge himself filed a “motion to dismiss counsel.” The court denied Dodge’s motion. Five months after the deadline for motions and plea agreements, Dodge's counsel sought to have Dodge submit to a psychiatric examination. This request was denied, the trial court found no evidence, and the the court itself made no observations, that Dodge was incompetent to stand trial. After this denial, Dodge himself again moved to dismiss his trial counsel, and due to the allegations Dodge made in his motion, counsel moved to withdraw. The trial court denied both motions, and instead, required the attorney to appear as standby counsel and assist Dodge during trial if requested, but relieved him of any further obligations to consult with Dodge. The case proceeded to trial. At the beginning of trial, the court gave Dodge the option of representing himself or having his attorney represent him. Dodge chose to have his attorney represent him. Because his attorney had not prepared for trial and had no communication with Dodge since he moved to withdraw, Dodge’s attorney asked for a brief recess to consult with Dodge. During the recess, a settlement was reached. Dodge agreed to enter Alford pleas on all counts, waived a presentence investigation, and agreed to be sentenced immediately after entering his pleas. Dodge was immediately sentenced following his guilty pleas, and thereafter sought post-conviction relief on grounds he was not competent to enter his pleas, and that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court’s finding that Dodge was competent when he entered his pleas was not clearly erroneous, and disposed of his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Dodge v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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In December 2018, Officer Nelson of the University of North Dakota Police Department conducted a traffic stop of Stanley Kolstad for suspicion of driving under the influence. Kolstad performed field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test (PBT). Prior to performing the PBT, Kolstad informed Nelson that he had asthma. Nelson testified he was unable to obtain a PBT result because Kolstad was filling his cheeks with air while performing the test. Kolstad was arrested for DUI and refusing to submit to a chemical test. Kolstad was transported to the UND police station to be given an Intoxilyzer breath test. Prior to the Intoxilyzer test, Nelson read Kolstad the implied consent advisory. But, because Nelson was not a certified operator of the Intoxilyzer machine, Officer Waltz conducted the test. Prior to the test, Kolstad informed Waltz he had asthma. The Intoxilyzer test results were deficient. Waltz testified Kolstad was not providing enough air for the test machine to provide a valid result. Kolstad was charged with driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a chemical test. Kolstad’s counsel made a discovery request to the State seeking copies of any audio or video recordings taken by police officers. Kolstad’s counsel also requested the State inform him whether any sound or video recordings taken of Kolstad were subsequently “altered, edited, destroyed, or discarded.” The State provided Kolstad’s counsel with dash camera footage from Nelson’s police car that had been taken at the scene of the arrest, but the State did not provide any body camera footage from either Nelson or Waltz. Upon learning that Waltz’s body camera footage was successfully uploaded to UND servers, Kolstad’s counsel moved to dismiss the case because the State did not provide any body camera footage in discovery as requested. The district court ultimately dismissed the refusal to submit to a chemical breath test charge as a sanction for failing to provide the body camera footage. The State appealed, arguing the alleged discovery violation did not rise to a constitutional violation of Kolstad’s due process rights, and the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the refusal charge. Kolstad argued the district court’s order dismissing the refusal charge was not appealable, and if it was, the court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the charge. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded there was nothing in the record to indicate the district court adequately considered an alternative or less severe sanction to dismissal, and by not considering a less severe sanction, the trial court erred. The district court’s order dismissing the refusal charge was reversed, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "North Dakota v. Kolstad" on Justia Law

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Gregory Schwindt appealed a district court judgment affirming a Department of Transportation hearing officer’s revocation of his driving privileges for 180 days. Schwindt argued North Dakota’s implied consent and refusal laws were unconstitutional, the hearing officer erred by considering the results of the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, and the hearing officer erred in finding he refused to take a chemical test. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the hearing officer’s findings of fact were supported by a preponderance of the evidence, the conclusions of law were sustained by the findings of fact, and the decision to revoke Schwindt’s driving privileges was in accordance with the law. View "Schwindt v. Sorel" on Justia Law

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Akeem Foster was convicted by jury of Terrorizing and Carrying a Concealed Weapon. Foster contended on appeal he was denied a fair trial because he was asked during cross-examination if other witnesses were lying and because the prosecutor expressed personal beliefs about the evidence during closing arguments. Foster also argued there was insufficient evidence to convict him of either charge. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed Foster’s conviction for Carrying a Concealed Weapon, but reversed his conviction for Terrorizing. The Court found Foster was improperly asked to provide an opinion on the veracity and credibility of the State’s witnesses. The improper questioning was prejudicial and denied Foster a fair trial on the terrorizing charge. View "North Dakota v. Foster" on Justia Law

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The State of North Dakota appealed a district court order denying its motion to resume prosecution against Matthew Dahl and dismissing the case. In December 2014, the State charged Dahl with two counts of theft. Dahl did not appear on the charges until he was arrested on a bench warrant in February 2017. In mid-April 2017, the State mailed Dahl a pretrial diversion agreement. Dahl signed and returned the notarized agreement dated May 3, 2017. On May 9, 2017, the state’s attorney signed and filed the agreement with the district court, and the court approved the agreement the same day. Under the agreement, the State agreed to suspend prosecution for “two years from the date of execution” conditioned on Dahl’s timely payment of restitution. Dahl failed to make minimum monthly restitution payments. On June 6, 2019, the State moved to resume prosecution, alleging Dahl violated the pretrial diversion agreement by his non-payment. The district court held a hearing on the State’s motion in August 2019. The court concluded the pretrial agreement was executed when Dahl signed it on May 3, 2017. The court then denied the State’s motion to resume prosecution as untimely under N.D.R.Crim.P. 32.2(d)(2), and dismissed the complaint against Dahl. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, concluding the district court erred in determining the State’s motion was untimely, and remanded for further proceedings. View "North Dakota v. Dahl" on Justia Law

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Russell Craig appealed a trial court's denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to murder. In 2006, Craig was charged with murder. A year later, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Craig testified when he arrived at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) he received a case plan stating he was eligible for parole in 20 years based on his life expectancy of 67 years less his then-current age of 44. In 2007 Craig wrote a letter requesting reduction of his sentence. In the letter Craig wrote the district court “Currently on a life sentence [I] have to [s]erve 85 [percent] of 30 years. I would be able to see the p[a]role board in 26.5 years . . . .” The court treated the letter as a motion for reduction of sentence and denied the requested relief. In 2017, the district court clerk sent Craig a letter regarding a statutory change requiring a calculation of life expectancy for life sentences with the possibility of parole. In 2018, Craig filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea because he believed he was eligible for parole after 20 years as outlined on his DOCR case plan which calculated his remaining life expectancy at 23 years, and not 85 percent of his remaining life expectancy of 33.8 years under the State’s calculation based on N.D. Sup.Ct. Admin. R. 51. Craig argues his sentence was illegal, the district court violated the prohibition on ex post facto punishment, and the district court erred by denying Craig’s motion to withdraw his plea. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding the evidence established Craig understood his plea deal, including that he had to serve a minimum of 30 years less reduction for good conduct. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding a manifest injustice did not exist. View "North Dakota v. Craig" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Krogstad was convicted by jury of gross sexual imposition on a six-year-old victim. Krogstad argued on appeal that: (1) admission of video of the victim’s forensic interview violated his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation; (2) the district court abused its discretion in admitting the video under N.D.R.Ev. 803(24); and (3) there was insufficient evidence to sustain the guilty verdict. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Krogstad" on Justia Law