Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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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

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William and Maria Berlin (formerly Maria Weaver) appealed an amended judgment awarding attorney fees following resolution of litigation between the parties over a contract for deed. Irene Avila and the Berlins were involved in a dispute regarding a contract for deed. The district court ruled in favor of Avila, entered a judgment in the amount of $6,650, plus costs in the amount of $660.64, against the Berlins. The judgment provided that neither Avila nor the Berlins were awarded a recovery of their attorney fees. The underlying litigation over the contract for deed was not appealed by either party. Following the entry of the judgment, Avila filed a motion requesting a recovery of $13,450 of attorney fees and to amend the judgment in order to reflect the correct description of the property. The district court granted Avila's request for attorney fees, but reduced the amount to be recovered to $12,450. A notice of the order granting the attorney fee award was served upon the Berlins' counsel. An amended judgment and a monetary award judgment were entered January 30, 2018. The Berlins' notice of appeal contesting the attorney fee award was filed March 19, 2018. Avila challenges the timeliness of the Berlins' appeal. Avila contends the timeliness of the appeal should have been measured from November 30, 2017, the date the notice of entry of the order awarding attorney fees was served to the Berlins' attorney. Measuring the timeliness of the appeal from the date that notice of the order was served would result in the 60-day window for appeal closing on January 29, 2018, making the Berlins' appeal untimely. The Berlins argued the district court's initial denial of an award of attorney fees to either party precludes a subsequent motion for the recovery of attorney fees under N.D.R.Civ.P. 54. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the amended judgment. View "Avila v. Weaver" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors ("Board") appealed district court judgments affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding to the Board its disciplinary decisions against Michael Berg, Apex Engineering Group, Inc., Scott Olson, Dain Miller, Thomas Welle, and Timothy Paustian. Respondents Berg, Olson, Miller, Welle and Paustian were former employees of Ulteig Engineers, Inc. Olson was terminated from Ulteig in 2009. In 2010, Berg, Miller, Welle, and Paustian resigned from Ulteig and, along with Olson, started a competing business, Apex. Following the Respondents' departure, Ulteig sued Apex and filed an ethics complaint with the Board, alleging Berg, Olson, Miller, Welle and Paustian violated the Professional Engineers' Code of Ethics by disclosing Ulteig's confidential information and failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest by not informing Ulteig of their decision to form Apex. Ulteig also alleged the Respondents knowingly participated in a plan to seek employment for Apex on projects that Ulteig had been contracted to perform before the Respondents' departure from Ulteig. The Board found that each of the Respondents had violated one or more of the provisions of the code of ethics. Respondents appealed the Board's disciplinary decisions to the district court. The court affirmed the Board's decision that Welle, Berg, and Miller failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest. The court reversed the determination that Miller, Welle, and Paustian had improperly disclosed confidential information. The court also reversed the decision that Berg, Olson, and Welle knowingly participated in a plan to seek employment for Apex on projects Ulteig had been contracted to perform before their departure from Ulteig. The court remanded to the Board for reconsideration the discipline imposed on Berg, Olson, Miller, Welle, and Paustian in light of the court's reversal of the disciplinary decisions. The court also awarded attorney fees to Berg, Welle, Apex, Olson, Miller, and Paustian. On appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Board argued the district court wrongfully reversed the Board's disciplinary decisions because the decisions were supported by a preponderance of the evidence. The Supreme Court concluded a preponderance of the evidence supported the Board's factual findings regarding the improper solicitation by Welle, Olson, Berg, and Apex. Those findings supported a conclusion that Welle, Olson, Berg, and Apex knowingly sought or accepted employment for professional services for an assignment for which Ulteig was previously employed or contracted to perform in violation of N.D. Admin. Code 28-03.1-01-12(6). The Supreme Court therefore reversed those parts of the district court's judgments relating to the violation of N.D. Admin. Code 28-03.1-01-12(6) by Welle, Olson, Berg, and Apex. View "Berg, et al. v. North Dakota State Board of Registration" on Justia Law

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Shane Martin appealed an order denying his N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion for relief from default judgment. Martin was the biological father of Cheri Poitra's child, I.R.P. Martin and Poitra were unmarried tribal members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In August 2017, Poitra began receiving services from Bismarck Regional Child Support Unit (BRCSU). The State sought to establish a child support obligation from Martin and served him with a summons and complaint. Martin completed a financial affidavit and returned it to BRCSU on October 8, 2017, but did not file an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 7, 2017, the State filed a N.D.R.Ct. 3.2 motion for default judgment. More than 21 days had passed since Martin was served and he had appeared but had not filed an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 17, 2017, Martin filed a notice of special appearance. The notice of special appearance did not contain an accompanying affidavit, motion, request for action, or response to the allegations. Instead, the notice stated only that Martin's attorney was entering a special appearance to contest "both subject matter and personal jurisdiction." Included with the notice was a copy of a summons and a petition for custody filed by Martin with the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court on November 16, 2017. A hearing on the "notice of special appearance" was held January 2018. During the hearing, the district court stated numerous times that the notice was not a motion on which the court could act and instructed Martin to file a motion. In February, 2018, the district court entered its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order for judgment finding Martin in default. Judgment was entered February 21, 2018. Martin argues that his return of the financial affidavit and filing of a notice of special appearance was sufficient to preclude a default judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 55(a) and thus the district court erred in denying his Rule 60(b) motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed: the district court did not err in denying a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment where Martin was properly provided notice and served with the motion for default judgment. View "North Dakota v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Larry Alber appealed a January 2018 order amending a 2013 order which found Alber in contempt for failure to abate a nuisance on his property in compliance with a October 2003 judgment. He argued the judgment was satisfied when he filed reports of compliance with the district court and thus the property no longer contained a nuisance subject to abatement. The City of Marion ("City") argued the district court properly amended the 2013 order. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in amending its order to clarify that the nuisance on the property remained subject to abatement after Alber's conveyance of the property. The Court therefore affirmed the district court's amended order. View "North Dakota ex rel. City of Marion v. Alber" on Justia Law