Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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A jury convicted Coby Edwards of gross sexual imposition, a class AA felony. Prior to trial, Edwards retained a psychologist to testify about the accuracy of the child victim’s memories. Trial was held on July 16-18, 2019. Shortly before Edwards began presenting his case, his attorney informed the district court his expert would not be testifying because “He could not make it today.” Additionally, during cross-examination of a police detective by Edwards’ counsel, the detective made a statement regarding Edwards’ post-arrest silence. The statement received no objection, nor was a motion made to strike the statement as non-responsive. On appeal, Edwards argued it was reversible error when his retained expert did not testify. Furthermore, he argued the district court obviously erred by failing to require that his retained expert witness testify at trial. The North Dakota Supreme Court found no error: At trial, Edwards’ counsel first informed the district court the expert witness would testify, and the next day told the court the expert would not be testifying. No offer of proof was made to establish what the expert would state during testimony. Edwards did not otherwise discuss the issue at trial. Thus, the Court affirmed the judgment of conviction. View "North Dakota v. Edwards" on Justia Law

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Environmental Law and Policy Center and Dakota Resource Council (“Appellants”) appealed from a district court judgment affirming the Public Service Commission’s order dismissing Appellants’ formal complaint on the basis of a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. This appeal arose from Meridian Energy Group, Inc.’s construction of a new oil refinery (“Davis Refinery”) in Billings County, North Dakota. In June 2018, Appellants filed a formal complaint with the Commission, alleging: Meridian was required to obtain a certificate of site compatibility from the Commission under N.D.C.C. ch. 49-22.1; and Meridian’s planned facility would have a capacity of refining 50,000 or more barrels per day (bpd). Appellants filed their complaint after the North Dakota Department of Health, now Department of Environmental Quality, granted Meridian a construction permit for a “55,000 bpd” oil refinery. The complaint sought a declaration that Meridian’s refinery was subject to N.D.C.C. ch. 49-22.1 and to the statutory siting process. The Commission determined the complaint stated a “prima facie case” under its pleading rule, and the Commission formally served the complaint on Meridian. Meridian asserted it was constructing a refinery with a capacity of 49,500 bpd, falling outside the Commission’s statutory jurisdictional threshold of 50,000 bpd. Meridian argued, as a result, the Commission did not have jurisdiction over this matter and the complaint must be dismissed. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Commission did not err when it dismissed Appellants’ complaint. The Court affirmed the district court’s judgment and the Commission’s order of dismissal. View "Environmental Law & Policy Center, et al. v. N.D. Public Svc. Commission, et al." on Justia Law

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Cash Aaland, Larry Bakko, and Penny Cirks (the “Landowners”) moved to stay, pending appeal, district court orders granting the Cass County Joint Water Resource District (the “District”) a right of entry onto their properties. In September and December 2019, the District contacted the Landowners seeking easements on their properties to conduct long-term monitoring for the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Project (the “Project”). After the District failed to obtain these easements, it applied for a permit to enter the Landowners’ properties to monitor environmental impacts in connection with the Project through December 2021. The application provided that access to the Landowners’ properties was necessary to conduct examinations, surveys, and mapping, including geomorphic examinations requiring installation of survey monuments on certain properties. The Landowners opposed the District’s application. To the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Landowners argued that without a stay, they would suffer irreparable injury. Finding the Landowners would not suffer irreparable injury, the Court denied the motion to stay the district court orders. View "Cass County Joint Water Resource District v. Aaland, et al." on Justia Law

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John and Tammy Sadek, the surviving parents of Andrew Sadek ("Andrew"), appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Jason Weber and Richland County, North Dakota. Defendant Jason Weber was a deputy with the Richland County Sheriff’s Office and a member of the South East Multi-County Agency Narcotics Task Force (“SEMCA”). Richland County was Weber’s employer and a participating agency in SEMCA. In 2013 Andrew Sadek was a student at the North Dakota State College of Science. In April 2013, two confidential informants purchased small quantities of marijuana from Andrew on two occasions. On November 21, 2013, officers searched Andrew's dorm room and found a marijuana grinder. At the time of the search, Weber informed Andrew about the felony charges he could face for the two April 2013 marijuana deliveries, and told him he could either take the charges or sign up to work as a confidential informant. Weber stated “a lot of this could go away” in exchange for his work as a confidential informant. Andrew agreed to work as a confidential informant, signing a Cooperating Individual Agreement. Weber told Andrew it was important for him not to tell anyone, including other law enforcement, that he was working as an informant. By January 2014, Andrew did three controlled buys of marijuana from two people, but subsequently lost contact with Weber. In April 2014, Weber told Andrew he would pursue the felony charges unless Andrew was able to line up additional controlled buys. Weber gave Andrew a deadline of May 1, 2014, to get the next deal done. On that day, Andrew was reported missing. His remains were found over a month later in the Red River; his backpack was tied to him and was full of rocks. The coroner determined Sadek died of a gunshot wound to the head, but the range of fire was not determined. No determination was made whether the cause of death was homicide, suicide or accidental. Andrew's parents sued Weber and Richland County, asserting claims of deceit and negligence. They alleged his death was directly related to his role as a confidential informant. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined that due to the lack of available evidence to suggest how, when, or even where Andrew died, a conclusion that his death was proximately caused by Defendants’ acts or omissions would be based on speculation. Therefore, summary judgment was appropriate and the district court did not err. View "Sadek, et al. v. Weber, et al." on Justia Law

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Appellants, the Pederson defendants, appealed after a district court granted summary judgment quieting title to certain mineral interests in appellees, the Muhlbradt plaintiffs. The Pederson defendants argued the court erred in deciding a deed did not except or reserve a future 50 percent interest in the disputed mineral interests to the defendants or their predecessor in interest. They further contended the court erred in relying on division orders to conclude the defendants’ predecessor in interest conveyed the disputed mineral interests. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Muhlbradt, et al. v. Pederson, et al." on Justia Law

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Dennis Thorson appeals from a judgment ordering him to remove a building from Keith Kvande’s property. Kvande owns real property described as Lot 3 in Block 1 of the School Addition to the City of Wheelock, Williams County, North Dakota. In 2012, Thorson purchased a building located in Epping, North Dakota. Kvande and Thorson had multiple discussions about moving the building to Kvande’s property. Thorson claimed they discussed moving the building onto Kvande’s property permanently, but Kvande claimed they only discussed moving the building onto his property for temporary storage. The parties did not have a written agreement about the property or the building. In fall 2012, Thorson had a concrete foundation poured for the building on Kvande’s property and moved the building onto the foundation. Thorson hooked the building up to sewer, water, and electrical service, and he began living in the building. Thorson did not pay Kvande rent or purchase the property. In May 2015 or 2016, Kvande demanded Thorson vacate the property, but Thorson did not leave. Kvande then attempted to evict Thorson from the property. In September 2017, Kvande sued Thorson, requesting the district court order Thorson to remove the building from the property and return the property to its prior state or award him the cost of having the building removed and the property restored. On appeal, Thorson argued laches and equitable estoppel applied and prevented Thorson’s removal from the property. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err by finding laches and equitable estoppel did not apply and did not preclude the court from ordering the removal of the building from Kvande’s property. View "Kvande v. Thorson" on Justia Law

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The dispute concerned lots, streets, and alleys within or near the City of Glen Ullin. The lots, streets, and alleys were all surveyed and platted, but undeveloped. The Park District owned or had authority over the lots. The City had authority over the streets and alleys, which ran adjacent to and between the lots. The Schirados owned land near both the Park District property and the City property. The Shirados appealed after the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City and the Park District, concluding the case was res judicata due to a prior lawsuit between the Park District and the Schirados. The court entered judgment enjoining the Schirados from placing any obstruction or personal property on certain City lands and on certain Park District lands and awarded attorney’s fees. After its review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court properly applied the doctrine of res judicata to the Park District lands, which were the subject of the prior lawsuit, but it erred when it applied res judicata to the City lands, which were not included in the prior lawsuit. The Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated the award of attorney’s fees and costs, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "City of Glen Ullin, et al. v. Schirado, et al." on Justia Law

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This dispute concerned two parcels of real estate located in Emmons County, North Dakota. Jeff and Donna Magrum appealed a district court judgment quieting title to real estate in Leslie Gimbel. The Magrums argued the court erred when it determined they did not acquire ownership of the property by adverse possession or acquiescence. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Gimbel v. Magrum, et al." on Justia Law

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The Board of University and School Lands of the State of North Dakota, the State Engineer, and Statoil Oil & Gas LP appeal from a judgment determining William Wilkinson and the other plaintiffs owned mineral interests in certain North Dakota land. Although the judgment was not appealable because it did not dispose of all claims against all parties, the North Dakota Supreme Court exercised its supervisory jurisdiction to review the summary judgment. The Court concluded the district court did not err in concluding N.D.C.C. ch. 61-33.1 applied and the disputed mineral interests were above the ordinary high water mark of the historical Missouri riverbed channel, but the court erred in quieting title and failing to comply with the statutory process. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wilkinson, et al. v. Board of University and School Lands of the State of N.D." on Justia Law

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Alysha Instasi appealed a district court judgment dismissing her motion to amend a Washington child custody judgment for lack of jurisdiction. Instasi and Jeremy Hiebert had two children. In December 2015, a judgment was entered in Washington relating to residential responsibility, parenting time, and child support. In July 2018, Instasi moved to amend the Washington judgment in North Dakota district court. In an affidavit supporting the motion, Instasi stated that she and the children have been living in North Dakota since October 2015. The district court entered a default judgment after Hiebert failed to respond to Instasi’s motion. In June 2019, Hiebert moved to vacate the default judgment, arguing the North Dakota court lacked jurisdiction to decide Instasi’s motion to amend the Washington judgment. After a hearing, the court vacated the default judgment and dismissed Instasi’s motion. The court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to modify the initial child custody determination made in Washington. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal for lack of jurisdiction in North Dakota. View "Instasi v. Hiebert" on Justia Law