Justia North Dakota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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A district court's contempt decision will only be disturbed on appeal if the court abused its discretion. A denial of a motion for reconsideration will not be reversed on appeal absent a manifest abuse of discretion. Mark and Kayla Rath were divorced in January 2013. The divorce judgment awarded Kayla primary residential responsibility of the couple's two minor children, with Mark receiving supervised parenting time. Mark appealed orders denying his motions for recusal, for an order to show cause, and for reconsideration, and from orders denying his demands for change of judge in child support modification proceedings. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded he waived his issues on appeal regarding recusal and the orders denying his demands for change of judge were interlocutory and not appealable. The Court further concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion seeking to hold Kayla in contempt and motion to reconsider. View "Rath v. Rath" on Justia Law

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Ulises Barrios-Flores appeals from a judgment affirming a Department of Transportation decision revoking his driving privileges for two years for refusing to submit to an onsite screening test of his breath. Under N.D.C.C. 39-20-05(3), the limited scope of an administrative hearing for refusing to submit to an onsite screening test requires a determination of: (1) whether the law enforcement officer had reason to believe the person committed a moving traffic violation or was involved in an accident as a driver; (2) whether in conjunction with the violation or accident, the officer has, through the officer’s observations, formulated an opinion that the person’s body contains alcohol; and (3) whether the person refused to submit to the onsite screening test. Here, the hearing officer found the law enforcement officer observed a vehicle driven by Barrios-Flores was speeding and initiated a traffic stop, Barrios-Flores had bloodshot watery eyes, and he admitted he had a couple of beers. Evidence in the record supported the hearing officer’s findings, and a reasoning person could conclude the hearing officer’s findings were supported by a preponderance of the evidence. Those findings provided the law enforcement officer with a reasonable suspicion Barrios-Flores was driving while impaired to request an onsite screening test of Barrios-Flores’ breath and he refused the test. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Department’s decision revoking Barrios-Flores’ driving privilege was in accordance with the law and did not violate his constitutional rights. View "Barrios-Flores v. Levi" on Justia Law

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Only a person having an interest in, or claiming an interest in, real property may challenge a court's rulings in a quiet title action. William Everett and 14 others appealed a judgment quieting title to certain McKenzie County mineral interests in Craig and Barbara Sorenson. In 2010, the Sorensons sued the Everett defendants and others to quiet title to certain mineral interests, claiming they had succeeded to ownership of those interests because the interests were abandoned under the Termination of Mineral Interest Act. In 2012, the Sorensons commenced another quiet title action against the same defendants claiming entitlement to the same minerals because those interests were abandoned under N.D.C.C. ch. 38-18.1.  2016, the Everett defendants filed a N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion in the 2010 case to vacate the stipulated judgments because the judgments were based on the "mistaken belief" that they "did not own a portion of the mineral interests at issue." In 2016, the district court in the 2012 litigation granted the Sorensons' cross-motion for summary judgment and quieted title in favor of them against the Everett defendants. The court ruled the Everett defendants' lack of counsel when they entered into the stipulations disclaiming any interests they may have had in the minerals was "not grounds for invalidating the valid and binding Judgments." A month later, the court entered an order in the 2010 case denying the Everett defendants' N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion to vacate the stipulated judgments because the motion was untimely and the Everett defendants' "mistaken belief they had no interest in the minerals at issue is not a sufficient reason for disturbing final judgment." The court denied the Everett defendants' motion for reconsideration of the judgment in the 2012 litigation, and the Everett defendants appealed that judgment. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed because collateral estoppel barred the Everett defendants' arguments in this case. View "Sorenson v. Bakken Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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Christian Hall appealed a criminal judgment entered after he conditionally pleaded guilty following the district court's denial of his motion to suppress and motion to dismiss for violation of Hall's right to a speedy trial. Hall was arrested for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver after a search of his backpack revealed the presence of Oxycodone pills packaged in baggies. A four-factor balancing test is used to evaluate the validity of a speedy trial claim: length of the delay, reason for the delay, proper assertion of the right, and actual prejudice to the accused. A sniff by a drug detection dog is not a Fourth Amendment search. A brief detention of luggage for purposes of conducting a dog sniff is a limited intrusion that requires only reasonable suspicion. Whether an officer had a reasonable and articulable suspicion is a fact-specific inquiry that is evaluated under an objective standard considering the totality of the circumstances. Whether probable cause exists to issue a search warrant is a question of law, and on appeal, the sufficiency of information before the magistrate is reviewed based on the totality of the circumstances. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded after review of the facts of this case that the district court did not err when it denied Hall's motion to dismiss for violation of Hall's speedy trial rights. The Court also concluded the district court did not err when it denied Hall's motion to suppress evidence. View "North Dakota v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Section 39-20-01, N.D.C.C., requires law enforcement officers to convey the implied-consent advisory in an objectively reasonable way calculated to be comprehensible to the driver. Miguel Ayala appealed a judgment entered on his conditional plea of guilty to driving under the influence. He reserved his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress his blood test result, arguing that law enforcement failed to "inform" him as required under the implied-consent law. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Ayala" on Justia Law

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Section 25-03.1-18.1(1)(a), N.D.C.C., does not require both treating and non-treating physicians to testify at a medication hearing addressing a request to involuntarily treat with medication. M.G. appealed a district court's order authorizing involuntary treatment with prescribed medication. F.M.G. argued the district court erred in granting the request to treat her with prescribed medications, because the proper medical providers did not testify at the hearing under N.D.C.C. 25-03.1-18.1(1)(a), and the mandatory certification requirements under N.D.C.C. 25-03.1-18.1(1)(a)(2) were not met. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded N.D.C.C. 25-03.1-18.1(1)(a) did not require both treating and non-treating physicians to testify at the hearing, and F.M.G. did not adequately raise the issue of whether the form used to request involuntary treatment with medication met the certification requirements under N.D.C.C. 25-03.1-18.1(1)(a)(2) before the district court. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order. View "Interest of F.M.G." on Justia Law

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A party petitioning for termination of a guardianship must make a prima facie showing that the ward is no longer incapacitated, and if a prima facie case is established, the guardian has the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the ward remains an incapacitated person. M.E. appealed a trial court order denying her petition to be restored to capacity, arguing the district court erred by denying her petition because no evidence showed she lacked the ability to care for herself and the court failed to order the least restrictive form of intervention. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding M.E. failed to establish a prima facie case for termination of the guardianship or for a less restrictive form of intervention. View "Guardianship & Conservatorship of M.E." on Justia Law

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An action for equitable relief generally cannot be combined with a statutory appeal seeking a review of a local governing body's decision. Donald Cossette and the Angela R. Cossette Revocable Living Trust appealed a district court order dismissing their complaint against the Cass County Joint Water Resource District. The District passed a resolution of necessity determining the Cossettes' property was necessary for the Diversion Project and the District intended "to acquire a Permanent Right of Way Easement over, across, and through the [Cossettes'] Property." The Cossettes sought a declaration that the District inappropriately passed the resolution, and appealed from the District's resolution of necessity relating to the District's intent to acquire an interest in the Cossettes' real property through eminent domain. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed that part of the district court order dismissing the Cossettes' request for declaratory relief. The Court reversed that part of the district court order concluding the Cossettes were not entitled to appeal the District's resolution of necessity, and remanded. View "Cossette v. Cass County Joint Water Resource District" on Justia Law

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While a long-term marriage generally supports an equal division of property, a court may unequally divide property in a short-term marriage and award the parties what each brought into the marriage. If the district court fails to comply with the child support guidelines in determining an obligor's child support obligation, the court errs as a matter of law. Angela Allmon appealed a judgment granting her a divorce from Aaron Allmon, granting her primary residential responsibility for their child, ordering him to pay child support, and distributing their marital property. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed in part, but reversed the child support award and remanded for the district court to correctly apply the Child Support Guidelines. View "Allmon v. Allmon" on Justia Law

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A party cannot rely on the other party's request for an oral argument to guarantee himself or herself an oral argument. Matthew Johnson appealed a district court's order awarding two of the three tax exemptions for the children to Tina Johnson. Matthew argued the district court erred by not holding an oral argument and failing to make explicit findings on who would benefit the most from having the tax exemptions. Matthew did not request an oral argument; rather, he asserted he could rely upon Tina’s request to guarantee himself an oral argument. The Supreme Court concluded the district court's findings were not clearly erroneous; therefore, it affirmed. View "Johnson v. Johnson" on Justia Law
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