Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
by
In 2005, near the end of a five-year sentence for conviction of corruption or solicitation of a minor, the State successfully petitioned to commit T.A.G. as a sexually dangerous individual. He appealed, arguing the findings were insufficient to demonstrate he had serious difficulty controlling his behavior. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed denial of T.A.G.'s petition for discharge because it concurred the findings were insufficient to conclude process requirement had been met under Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002). View "Interest of T.A.G." on Justia Law

by
James Watson was convicted by jury of continuous sexual abuse of a child in Golden Valley County, North Dakota. He conditionally pled guilty to sexual assault in Hettinger County, and he conditionally pled guilty to continuous sexual abuse of a child in Stark County. Watson argued the district court erred by granting continuances in all three cases and violated his statutory speedy trial rights. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court did not abuse its discretion by granting the State’s motions for continuances in the Hettinger and Stark County cases. But Watson’s statutory speedy trial right was violated in the Golden Valley County case because trial did not begin within 90 days of Watson’s speedy trial election and the district court did not find good cause for the delay. The Court therefore affirmed the Hettinger and Stark County judgments and reversed the Golden Valley County judgment. View "North Dakota v. Watson" on Justia Law

by
Nicholas Morris appealed a district court order denying his application for post-conviction relief. In May 2015, Morris was involved in a physical altercation which resulted in Joey Gaarsland’s death. Morris was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and one count of murder. On appeal, Morris argued the district court erred in denying his application for post-conviction relief because: (1) accomplice to commit murder was not a cognizable offense, and (2) he was deprived of his right to effective assistance of counsel. He also argued he should have been permitted to withdraw his guilty plea. The north Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order and held accomplice to commit murder was indeed a cognizable offense, Morris was not deprived of his right to effective assistance of counsel, and he has failed to show a manifest injustice warranting the withdrawal of his guilty plea. View "Morris v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

by
Alexander Hollis appealed the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Police were called to the scene of a “loud verbal dispute.” Upon observation of Hollis, police believed he was under the influence of a controlled substance. Ultimately, Hollis was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, and preventing arrest. Hollis argued on appeal the evidence should have been suppressed because he was subject to an illegal pat-down search, and he was illegally seized when he was taken to the county detention center for detoxification. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Hollis" on Justia Law

by
The North Dakota Department of Transportation appealed a district court judgment reversing an administrative hearing officer’s decision to suspend Andrew Bridgeford’s driving privileges for 91 days. The Department maintained the district court erred in finding a law enforcement officer was not within a recognized exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment when the officer entered Bridgeford’s vehicle after he failed to respond to the officer’s actions outside the vehicle. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, finding the community caretaker exception applied and allowed the warrantless entry into Bridgeford’s vehicle. The suspension was reinstated. View "Bridgeford v. Sorel" on Justia Law

by
Karim Sabur Kabir Muhammad appealed after he was found guilty of gross sexual imposition - victim unaware. On appeal, Muhammad argued the district court erred by admitting recordings of Muhammad’s interrogations as evidence without requiring the recordings be published to the jury, by not publishing admitted evidence in open court he was denied the right to a public trial, and by excluding relevant evidence of his prior sexual contact with the victim. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Muhammad" on Justia Law

by
Duane Landrus appeals from an amended criminal judgment and order for restitution after a jury found him guilty of aggravated and simple assault. Landrus was involved in a violent altercation involving David Roberts, Summer Tippett, and Jason Conn, among others. Roberts testified he and Tippett fell asleep by the firepit after hosting a cook-out. They awoke sometime after 2:00 a.m. and began cleaning up when they discovered Landrus in a storage shed on the property. A fight between Landrus and Roberts ensued, and Roberts suffered a stab wound from a knife later found at Landrus’s residence. Landrus punched Tippett when she tried to intervene. The neighbor, Conn, also tried to intervene and suffered minor cuts. Two other witnesses corroborated the stories of the injured parties. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Landrus" on Justia Law

by
The City of West Fargo appealed a district court order suppressing evidence of Tyler Williams’ refusal to submit to a chemical test, arguing N.D.C.C. 39-20-02 contemplated an arrestee only has a statutory right to an independent test if he has already submitted to the chemical test requested by law enforcement. The North Dakota Supreme Court agreed that a plain reading of N.D.C.C. 39-20-02 required that the right to an additional independent test only arises when the driver submits to the chemical test requested by law enforcement. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order suppressing evidence and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of West Fargo v. Williams" on Justia Law

by
Lorenzo Pemberton appealed a district court’s criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of aggravated assault, interference with an emergency call, felonious restraint, attempted murder, and child neglect. Pemberton was part of an incident involving his girlfriend, which occurred during the night of February 22 and extended into February 23, 2018. During the incident, Pemberton and the victim’s argument escalated and the victim eventually placed a 911 emergency call. Following the call, the argument became physical and Pemberton was alleged to have struck the victim and pushed her to the ground. While they were struggling on the ground, the victim saw a screwdriver on the floor, picked it up, and allegedly struck Pemberton with it. Pemberton obtained control of the screwdriver from the victim and struck her with it. Eventually law enforcement arrived at the scene, and Pemberton was taken into custody and placed under arrest. Pemberton argued the district court erred in granting the State’s motion to amend the criminal information one week before trial, the jury was provided improper instructions, the jury was provided with an improper verdict form, and the district court failed to properly admonish the jury before each break in the trial proceedings. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Pemberton" on Justia Law

by
In March 2015, Cody Atkins pleaded guilty to gross sexual imposition. Following the imposition of sentence, Atkins appealed the criminal judgment and the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. Atkins later filed two applications for post-conviction relief; one in March of 2016 which was dismissed, and another in September of 2016 which was dismissed and later affirmed on appeal. Additionally, Atkins filed a motion to reduce his sentence in July 2017, a motion to dismiss the GSI charge in November 2017, a motion to “vacate” his guilty plea in February 2018, and a motion for a new trial in March 2018. The district court considered the February 2018 and March 2018 motions constituted a singular third application for post-conviction relief. Then in November 2018, Atkins filed another application for post-conviction relief, the subject of this appeal, claiming 10 grounds for relief, alleging: (1) he was presented an unlawful arrest warrant; (2) he made an involuntary or coerced confession; (3) inconsistent statements made by everyone during the interrogation process; (4) the prosecution was using false evidence; (5) the sexual assault kit indicated no signs of injury; (6) law enforcement officers did not knock and announce their presence; (7) judicial bias; (8) malicious prosecution; (9) illegal information; and (10) an illusory plea. On December 3, 2018, the State filed an answer asserting affirmative defenses of misuse of process and res judicata and moved, under N.D.R.Ct. 3.2, to dismiss the application. Four days later, on December 7, 2018, the district court issued an order denying Atkins’ application for post-conviction relief, concluding Atkins was procedurally barred from raising the claims contained in his application due to the doctrines of misuse of process and res judicata. The Supreme Court reversed the district court order as to this latest application for post-conviction relief, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Atkins v. North Dakota" on Justia Law