Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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In August 2016, Riley Kuntz submitted written requests for documents under the North Dakota open records law to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation ("BCI"), the Department of Transportation ("DOT"), and the Criminal Justice Information Sharing ("CJIS") Director, seeking records relating to an agreement with "the FBI authorizing or allowing the search of any ND Driver License or non-photo identification database pursuant to a request from any government agency for the purposes of FACE or FIRS or NGI-IPS." BCI denied his request; the DOT provided a two-page attorney general opinion. In December, Kuntz submitted a request under FOIA to the federal Government Accountability Office ("GAO") requesting records related to an agreement between the FBI and any government agency authorizing the search of the North Dakota driver license information databases. In a February 2017 letter, the GAO responded and confirmed the existence of a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") between the FBI, CJIS, Attorney General, and BCI concerning searches of the North Dakota Attorney General BCI facial recognition photo repository. However, because the GAO obtained the MOU from the FBI, the GAO informed him it was GAO policy not to release records from its files that originated in another agency or organization. In July 2017, Kuntz submitted written requests under the open records law to the North Dakota Attorney General, BCI, CJIS Director, and DOT, stating in part seeking the MOU between the FBI, Criminal Justice Information Services Division and ND Attorney General. BCI requested clarification on Kuntz's request; the DOT requested payment of a fulfillment fee. Kuntz replied to the DOT but did not pay the fee. In September 2017, Kuntz commenced the underlying lawsuit, naming as defendants the State, the BCI, the CJIS Director, the DOT, the North Dakota Attorney General, the Deputy Director of BCI, and the individuals who responded to Kuntz's records requests (collectively, the "State"). The parties did not dispute on appeal that while the state Solicitor General accepted service on behalf of the defendants in this case, Kuntz did not personally serve any of the defendants in their individual capacities. Kuntz's complaint claims violations of state open records laws; alleges claims for fraud, federal civil rights violations and attorney's fees; and also seeks declaratory relief. His complaint essentially claims the State, through its various agencies, had denied the existence of, or failed to respond to his open records request for, the specified MOU document. Kuntz appealed when the district court granted the State's motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissing his claims with prejudice against the State defendants. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in dismissing his open records law claim under N.D.C.C. 44-04-21.2. However, the court did not err in dismissing his remaining claims and in denying his motions for default judgment, to amend the complaint, and to award sanctions. View "Kuntz v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Larry and Julie Schindler and the estate of Eugene Weisbeck appealed a judgment dismissing their action to reform warranty deeds and quiet title in themselves to certain Morton County, North Dakota property. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court could not determine whether the district court correctly applied the law, it reversed and remanded for further development of the record. View "Schindler v. Wageman" on Justia Law

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Trina Iverson appealed a district court order finding a prima facie case for modification of primary residential responsibility had not been established with regard to the parties' two youngest children, G.I.H. and G.O.H. Iverson also claimed the district court erred when it denied her motion to amend the findings and order. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded a prima facie case was been established for G.I.H. and G.O.H., it was unnecessary to determine if the district court erred when it denied Iverson's motion to amend the findings and order. The Court concluded Iverson established a prima facie case for modification of primary residential responsibility of G.I.H. and G.O.H. and was entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Therefore, it reversed the district court's order and remanded for further proceedings to determine if modification of primary residential responsibility for G.I.H. and G.O.H. was appropriate. View "Heidt v. Heidt" on Justia Law

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Dustin Erman appealed a district court judgment awarding Trista Dick primary residential responsibility of the parties' minor child. A district court's award of primary residential responsibility is a finding of fact, which will not be reversed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous. Absent a reason for denying it, some form of extended visitation with a fit non-custodial parent is routinely awarded. A district court's ruling on decision-making responsibility is a finding of fact, reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment as to primary residential responsibility and decision-making responsibility, but reversed with regard to extended parenting time and remanded for further proceedings. View "Dick v. Erman" on Justia Law

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Western Energy Corporation appealed a district court judgment finding its quiet title action to be barred by applicable statutes of limitation and laches and awarding the mineral interests at issue to the Stauffers. In 1959, L.M. and C.S. Eckmann agreed to convey property to William and Ethel Stauffer through a contract for deed. The contract for deed included a reservation of the oil, gas, and other mineral rights in the property and described a five-year payment plan. After the payment plan concluded in 1964, the Eckmanns were to convey the property to the Stauffers by warranty deed. The warranty deed did not contain a mineral reservation, but stated that it was given "in fulfillment of a contract for deed issued on the 25th of May, 1959." Numerous conveyances, oil and gas leases, and similar transactions were completed by both the Eckmanns and Stauffers, as well as their successors in interest, between the execution of the warranty deed in 1959 and the filing of this quiet title action in 2016. Western Energy Corporation ("Western") obtained its interests in the subject minerals through mineral deeds executed in 1989 and 1990. The original parties to the warranty deed are all now deceased. Western filed this action to quiet title in 2016. Western and the Stauffers submitted stipulated facts to the district court. Although brought as a quiet title action, the relief requested was actually reformation of the warranty deed. The district court found reformation barred by the statutes of limitation as well as by the doctrine of laches. Further, the district court concluded the discrepancy between the contract for deed and the warranty deed was not enough to establish mutual mistake. Because it found that Western had not met its burden of proof to establish mutual mistake at the time of conveyance, the district court entered judgment quieting title of the minerals to the Stauffers. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Western Energy Corporation v. Stauffer" on Justia Law

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S.E.L. appealed dismissal of his action seeking to adjudicate the paternity of the child, J.J.M. The child was born to biological mother J.A.P. Shortly after the child's birth, J.A.P. and J.M. executed an acknowledgment of paternity, claiming J.M. was the child's father. S.E.L. filed a complaint challenging paternity, alleging the paternity acknowledgment was executed based on fraud and deceit, and requesting the court order genetic testing and declare he was the child's father. S.E.L. filed an affidavit in support of his complaint, stating he was in a sexual relationship with J.A.P. in Montana during the period of conception, J.A.P. moved to North Dakota after the child was conceived and entered into a relationship with J.M., J.A.P. never informed S.E.L. she was pregnant, and he learned about the child in the fall of 2015. He stated he attempted to establish paternity by filing paperwork with the Child Support Enforcement Division in Montana, but he learned that J.M. signed an acknowledgment of paternity in 2014. S.E.L. admitted it had been more than two years since the acknowledgment of paternity was signed, but he claimed the acknowledgment was based on fraud and deceit and should be declared void. S.E.L. also alleged the child had been removed from J.A.P. and J.M.'s care and placed in a foster home in February 2016, J.A.P. was to be released from jail in Nevada in August 2016, and J.M. was currently incarcerated in North Dakota. After a hearing, the district court ordered S.E.L.'s action be dismissed. The court found J.A.P. and J.M. were in default. The court held S.E.L. commenced the proceeding more than two years after the effective date of the paternity acknowledgment, challenges to an acknowledgment of paternity had to be commenced within two years after the effective date of the acknowledgment under N.D.C.C. 14-20-44(2), and S.E.L. was not permitted to challenge the acknowledgment because his action was untimely. The court ruled all other issues pending before the court were moot and required no further adjudication because the matter was dismissed. Judgment was entered. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "S.E.L. v. J.A.P." on Justia Law

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Jane Doe appealed a district court order continuing her treatment at the North Dakota State Hospital. In July 2017 the North Dakota State Hospital petitioned for involuntary hospitalization of Jane Doe after police took her into custody for lying on the highway and refusing to cooperate with law enforcement and medical providers. Doe refused to provide identifying information or submit to photographs to aid in her identification. After her initial admission to the State Hospital, Doe refused to meet with hospital staff, take medications or shower. The district court initially ordered Doe to undergo treatment for fourteen days, at the end of which the district court found Doe a mentally ill patient requiring further treatment. The Supreme Court summarily affirmed the district court's ninety-day treatment order. After ninety days the State Hospital obtained an order continuing treatment for one year. The Supreme Court again summarily affirmed that decision in Interest of Jane Doe, 904 N.W.2d 40. On October 3, 2018, a psychologist at the State Hospital petitioned for continuing treatment, alleging Doe continued to be a mentally ill person requiring treatment. On October 22, 2018, the district court held a hearing and granted the State Hospital's petition, and ordered Doe to undergo treatment at the State Hospital for a period not exceeding one year. The district court found Doe mentally ill, a person requiring treatment, and that no alternative treatment was appropriate. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded that under its standard of review that the finding Jane Doe was a mentally ill person requiring treatment was not clearly erroneous. The district court's order was therefore affirmed. View "Interest of Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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E.S. appealed an order requiring involuntary treatment in which the district court found him to be mentally ill and a person requiring treatment. In late 2018, Dr. Katrina DeDona submitted an application for emergency admission for E.S. to be admitted to the North Dakota State Hospital after being paroled from James River Correctional Center for a charge of terrorizing. The application alleged E.S. was often agitated, preoccupied with a belief that there was a conspiracy against him, and, as a result, unable to participate in his own treatment and discharge planning. A petition for involuntary commitment was filed, claiming E.S. was mentally ill and there was a reasonable expectation of serious risk of harm if he was not treated. E.S. requested and was appointed an independent examiner. Three witnesses, qualified as experts, were called by the petitioner, including Dr. DeDona, and the independent medical examiner. E.S. testified on his own behalf. At the conclusion of the treatment hearing, the district court issued its order on the record, finding clear and convincing evidence establishing E.S. was mentally ill and a person requiring treatment. The court ordered E.S. be hospitalized for a period not to exceed 90 days, ending February 11, 2019. On appeal, E.S. argues the district court's order was not supported by clear and convincing evidence to show he was mentally ill and a person requiring treatment. Based upon the evidence, the North Dakota Supreme Court held the district court's finding that E.S. was a person requiring treatment was not clearly erroneous, and affirmed commitment. View "Interest of E.S." on Justia Law

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John Benson appealed a district court judgment quieting title action to Desert Partners IV, L.P. and Family Tree Corporation, Inc. for 32 net mineral acres in McKenzie County, North Dakota. Benson argued the district court abused its discretion in denying his request for a continuance of the trial and erred in its conclusion that Desert Partners and Family Tree were good-faith purchasers of the minerals. After careful consideration of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in its judgment, and affirmed. View "Desert Partners IV, L.P. v. Benson" on Justia Law

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Lee Cody appealed a divorce judgment that distributed the parties' property and debts. District courts have broad discretion in deciding evidentiary matters, including whether to admit telephonic testimony. Interlocutory orders generally are not appealable and may be revised or reconsidered any time before the final order or judgment is entered. Claims for ineffective assistance of counsel have not been extended to civil actions for divorce. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the trial court record supported the district court's denial of his request to appear telephonically at trial and the court did not err when it clarified its opinion before the final judgment. Furthermore, the Court concluded his issue claiming ineffective assistance of trial counsel was without merit because this type of claim did not extend to divorce actions. View "Cody v. Cody" on Justia Law