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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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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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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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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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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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Oliveira is a driver for a trucking company, under an agreement that calls him an independent contractor and contains a mandatory arbitration provision. Oliveira filed a class action alleging that the company denies its drivers lawful wages. The company invoked the Federal Arbitration Act, arguing that questions regarding arbitrability should be resolved by the arbitrator. The First Circuit and Supreme Court agreed that a court should determine whether the Act's section 1 exclusion applies before ordering arbitration. A court’s authority to compel arbitration under the Act does not extend to all private contracts. Section 2 provides that the Act applies only when the agreement is “a written provision in any maritime transaction or a contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce.” Section 1 provides that “nothing” in the Act “shall apply” to “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” The sequencing is significant. A “delegation clause,” giving the arbitrator authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability is merely a specialized type of arbitration agreement and is enforceable under sections 3 and 4 only if it appears in a contract consistent with section 2 that does not trigger section 1’s exception. Because “contract of employment” refers to any agreement to perform work, Oliveira’s contract falls within that exception. At the time of the Act’s 1925 adoption, the phrase “contract of employment” was not a term of art; dictionaries treated “employment” as generally synonymous with “work," not requiring a formal employer-employee relationship. Congress used the term “contracts of employment” broadly. View "New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted a stay pending appeal by issuing a published opinion, as binding law of the circuit, on August 14, 2018. After the original appellants were defeated in the November 2018 elections, the current appellants moved for voluntary dismissal of the appeal. The clerk entered an order stating that, under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 42(b), the appeal was dismissed as of January 07, 2019. Appellees then brought an unopposed motion to vacate the court's August 14th opinion. The court denied the motion to vacate the opinion granting the stay and held that the panel majority published the opinion after making certain it was a correct rendition of the law and the facts, including its holding that the district court, on remand, had violated the mandate rule. The court explained that the published opinion granting the stay was this court's last statement on the matter and, like all published opinions, bound the district courts in this circuit. View "ODonnell v. Harris County" on Justia Law

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Allstate investigated suspicious trading on its equity desk and unearthed email evidence that portfolio managers were timing trades to inflate their bonuses at the expense of portfolios, including pension funds to which Allstate owed fiduciary duties. Allstate retained attorneys, who hired consultants. The consultants used an algorithm to estimate a potential adverse impact of $91 million. Allstate poured $91 million into the portfolios. Allstate fired four portfolio managers. Allstate's 2009 Form 10-K and an internal memo explained these events, without mentioning the fired portfolio managers. The former employees sued, alleging defamation and that Allstate violated 15 U.S.C. 1681a(y)(2), the Fair Credit Reporting Act, by failing to give them a summary of the attorneys' findings after they were fired. A jury awarded $27 million in damages. The judge added punitive damages and attorney’s fees. The Seventh Circuit vacated and subsequently ordered dismissal. The 10-K and internal memo were not defamatory per se and are actionable (if at all) only on a theory of defamation per quod, which requires proof of special damages causally connected to the publication. The plaintiffs testified that they could not find comparable work after being fired, but presented no evidence that any employer declined to hire them as a consequence of Allstate’s statements. The four lacked a concrete injury to support Article III standing on the FCRA claim. View "Rivera v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Southwestern Community College District (District) and its governing board (Board) (together Southwestern) demoted Arlie Ricasa from an academic administrator position to a faculty position on the grounds of moral turpitude, immoral conduct, and unfitness to serve in her then-current role. While employed by Southwestern as the director of Student Development and Health Services (DSD), Ricasa also served as an elected board member of a separate entity, the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD). The largest number of incoming District students were from SUHSD, and the community viewed the school districts as having significant ties. As a SUHSD board member, Ricasa voted on million-dollar vendor contracts to construction companies, such as Seville Group, Inc. (SGI) and Gilbane Construction Company, who ultimately co-managed a bond project for the SUHSD. Before and after SGI received this contract, Ricasa went to dinners with SGI members that she did not disclose on her Form 700. Ricasa's daughter also received a scholarship from SGI to attend a student leadership conference that Ricasa did not report on her "Form 700." In December 2013, Ricasa pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Political Reform Act, which prohibited board members of local agencies from receiving gifts from a single source in excess of $420. Ricasa filed two petitions for writs of administrative mandamus in the trial court seeking, among other things, to set aside the demotion and reinstate her as an academic administrator. Ricasa appealed the denial of her petitions, arguing the demotion occurred in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act (the Brown Act) because Southwestern failed to provide her with 24 hours' notice of the hearing at which it heard charges against her, as required by Government Code section 54957. Alternatively, she argued the demotion was unconstitutional because no nexus existed between her alleged misconduct and her fitness to serve as academic administrator. Southwestern also appealed, arguing that the trial court made two legal errors when it: (1) held that Southwestern was required to give 24-hour notice under the Brown Act prior to conducting a closed session at which it voted to initiate disciplinary proceedings, and (2) enjoined Southwestern from committing future Brown Act violations. The Court of Appeal concluded Southwestern did not violate the Brown Act, and that substantial evidence supported Ricasa's demotion. However, the Court reversed that part of the judgment enjoining Southwestern from future Brown Act violations. View "Ricasa v. Office of Admin. Hearings" on Justia Law

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Dennis Woolman, former president of The Clemens Coal Company, challenged a district court’s determination that Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company didn’t breach a duty to him by failing to procure for Clemens Coal an insurance policy with a black-lung disease endorsement. Clemens Coal operated a surface coal mine until it filed for bankruptcy in 1997. Woolman served as Clemens Coal’s last president before it went bankrupt. Federal law required Clemens Coal to maintain worker’s compensation insurance with a special endorsement covering miners’ black-lung disease benefits. Woolman didn’t personally procure insurance for Clemens Coal but instead delegated that responsibility to an outside consultant. The policy the consultant ultimately purchased for the company did not contain a black-lung-claim endorsement, and it expressly excluded coverage for federal occupational disease claims, such as those arising under the Black Lung Benefits Act (the Act). In 2012, a former Clemens Coal employee, Clayton Spencer, filed a claim with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) against Clemens Coal for benefits under the Act. After some investigation, the DOL advised Woolman that Clemens Coal was uninsured for black-lung-benefits claims as of July 25, 1997 (the last date of Spencer’s employment) and that, without such coverage, Woolman, as Clemens Coal’s president, could be held personally liable. Woolman promptly tendered the claim to Liberty Mutual for a legal defense. Liberty Mutual responded with a reservation-of-rights letter, stating that it hadn’t yet determined coverage for Spencer’s claim but that it would provide a defense during its investigation. Then in a follow-up letter, Liberty Mutual clarified that it would defend Clemens Coal as a company (not Woolman personally) and advised Woolman to retain his own counsel. Liberty Mutual eventually concluded that the insurance policy didn’t cover the black-lung claim, and sued Clemens Coal and Woolman for a declaration to that effect. In his suit, Woolman also challenged the district court’s rejection of his argument that Liberty Mutual should have been estopped from denying black-lung-disease coverage, insisting that he relied on Liberty Mutual to provide such coverage. Having considered the totality of the circumstances, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court didn’t err in declining Woolman’s extraordinary request to expand the coverages in the Liberty Mutual policy. “Liberty Mutual never represented it would procure the coverage that Woolman now seeks, and the policy itself clearly excludes such coverage. No other compelling consideration justifies rewriting the agreement— twenty years later—to Woolman’s liking.” View "Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance v. Woolman" on Justia Law