Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Allan Pailing appealed a district court order denying his motion for mistrial and dismissal of charges. Pailing was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. During closing arguments he objected to an anecdotal story the State used, and argued the State impliedly commented on Pailing’s failure to testify. The district court did not immediately rule on the objection and directed the parties to finish closing arguments. Pailing briefed the objection, which the district court ultimately overruled and denied Pailing’s motion for mistrial and dismissal of charges. Pailing argued on appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court that the State’s explanation of “circumstantial evidence” through a personal narrative indirectly and improperly commented on his silence and violated his due process rights. He alternatively argued the district court abused its discretion by permitting the State to address Pailing’s credibility, absent his testimony, which prejudiced Pailing. The Supreme Court concluded the correct standard of review whether Pailing’s due process rights were violated was de novo, and that the prosecutor’s anecdotal story did not violate Pailing’s constitutional rights. Furthermore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Pailing’s objection and denying the motion for mistrial. View "North Dakota v. Pailing" on Justia Law

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Karen Wieland appeals from a judgment allowing the city of Fargo to take her property for flood mitigation purposes and awarding her $939,044.32 in just compensation, attorney fees, costs, and statutory expenses. Because the district court did not misapply the law in concluding the taking of Wieland’s property was necessary for a public use, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirm the judgment. View "City of Fargo v. Wieland" on Justia Law

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George Job appealed the denial of his motion to withdraw his 2008 guilty plea to the charge of aggravated assault. Job argued the district court abused its discretion by determining a manifest injustice did not result from a 2010 resentencing following the revocation of his probation. He contended the resentencing was illegal and transformed his original non-deportable offense into a deportable offense. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Job" on Justia Law

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Jeremy Maines appeals from the district court’s amended criminal judgments and finding he is a habitual offender. In April 2017, Maines was charged with robbery and theft of property. The State later charged Maines with four counts of terrorizing. The district court found Maines was a habitual offender because prior convictions in Washington state were felonies that occurred while he was an adult. The court sentenced Maines to 20 years with 8 years suspended for 5 years for the robbery charge. Maines was sentenced to 5 years on each count of the terrorizing charges, to run concurrently with each other and the previous sentence. On appeal, Maines argued the district court abused its discretion by sentencing him as a habitual offender. Specifically, he claimed his prior convictions were misdemeanors under North Dakota law and did not apply under the habitual offender statute. The North Dakota Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the district court. View "North Dakota v. Maines" on Justia Law

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Chad Legare appealed a criminal judgment entered after his guilty plea to attempted murder. Prior to his guilty plea, Legare moved for an order allowing him to present an affirmative defense of justification or excuse. The court denied the motion, stating it would not allow a special jury instruction regarding defense of others when no evidence or anticipated evidence showed there was imminent danger to the woman Legare argued he was defending. Legare pleaded guilty to attempted murder under an Alford plea. Legare argued to the North Dakota Supreme Court his Sixth Amendment right to present a defense was violated and the trial court erred by not allowing him to present his defense of justification or excuse. Legare requested the conviction be vacated and the order denying his motion in limine reversed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order. View "North Dakota v. Legare" on Justia Law

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A district court certified a question of law to the North Dakota Supreme Court on whether a married person under the age of eighteen was considered a “child” under the Juvenile Court Act. G.C.H. was charged with five crimes which allegedly occurred when G.C.H. was sixteen and seventeen years old. G.C.H. was married when the alleged crimes occurred and still was married. G.C.H. moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to his age, claiming the proper jurisdiction was in juvenile court. The district court denied the motion, finding G.C.H. was not a child under North Dakota law because he was married. The North Dakota Supreme Court has discretion to hear certified questions of law by the district court and may refuse to consider a certified question if it is frivolous, interlocutory in nature, or not dispositive of the issues before the district court. Here, neither a negative nor affirmative answer would be dispositive of the case. "If G.C.H. is a child under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4), the juvenile court still would need to determine whether he was delinquent. If G.C.H. is not a child under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4), a jury still would need to determine if G.C.H. is guilty of the alleged crimes. Therefore, the certified question is not determinative of the proceedings. We decline to answer the certified question." Notwithstanding the Supreme Court's declination to answering the certified question, it concluded this case justified exercising supervisory jurisdiction. The district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over G.C.H. because was a “child” under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4)(b). The Supreme Court exercised its supervisory jurisdiction and reversed and remanded with directions to vacate the judgment and dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "North Dakota v. G.C.H." on Justia Law

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Lawrence Didier appeals from an order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. On appeal, Didier argues the district court’s factual basis was insufficient to legally conclude he met the substantive due process requirement of the inability to control his behavior. Didier also argues he did not receive a fair hearing that comports with procedural due process. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Matter of Didier" on Justia Law

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The State appealed an order granting Derek Grzadzieleski’s motion to suppress hospital records disclosing that his blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit after an all-terrain vehicle accident. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the State had no statutory right to appeal the order and the Supreme Court declined to exercise our supervisory authority. It therefore dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "North Dakota v. Grzadzieleski" on Justia Law

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Michelle Vetter appealed an order deferring imposition of sentence entered after a jury convicted her of child abuse. On appeal, Vetter asked the North Dakota Supreme Court to take judicial notice of filings from her divorce case against the complainant. She also argued the definition of “bodily injury” in N.D.C.C. 12.1-01-04 was unconstitutionally vague. In addition, she argued the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain a verdict of guilty. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Vetter" on Justia Law

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Glen Baltrusch appeals from a criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of four counts of disobedience of a judicial order. Gary, Milo, and Glen Baltrusch were sons of Delores Baltrusch. Gary was the trustee of the Delores Baltrusch Irrevocable Trust. The Trust owned a house in the City of Harvey, North Dakota. Delores was allowed to reside in the home as long as she is able. Glen also resided in the home with Delores. Gary and Milo were concerned that Glen was taking advantage of their elderly mother, and in July 2017 they asked him to vacate the property. He refused to do so. In response to Glen's refusal to leave the property, Gary, as trustee, brought an action under N.D.C.C. ch. 47-32 to evict Glen from the premises. A final judgment was entered ordering Glen to vacate the property no later than October 20, 2017. On April 11, 2018, a special writ of execution was issued ordering the sheriff to remove Glen from the property. A sheriff’s return of service indicated the special writ of execution was served on April 11, 2018, and the sheriff testified that Glen left the premises with the sheriff when the writ was served. Because the evidence was sufficient to sustain the verdicts and the district court did not commit obvious error in failing to dismiss counts two through four on double jeopardy grounds, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Baltrusch" on Justia Law