Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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The State appealed a juvenile court order adopting a judicial referee's findings of fact and order dismissing the State's petition alleging M.H.P. was a delinquent child. The State filed a petition alleging M.H.P. was a delinquent child who committed gross sexual imposition. The judicial referee found M.H.P. was not in need of treatment or rehabilitation as a delinquent child. The judicial referee explained he previously found beyond a reasonable doubt that M.H.P. committed the delinquent act of gross sexual imposition and stated, "Although this fact alone would be sufficient to sustain a finding of a need for treatment and rehabilitation, there was a substantial amount of evidence to the contrary." Based on these findings, the judicial referee dismissed the petition. The juvenile court adopted the judicial referee's findings and order, dismissed the proceeding and concluded the issue of M.H.P. registering as a sexual offender did not need to be addressed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution barred the State from appealing the juvenile court's order. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the dismissal of the juvenile court's findings. View "Interest of M.H.P." on Justia Law

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Defendant Christian Antonio Alaniz, Jr., appealed an order deferring imposition of sentence entered after he conditionally pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Defendant argued the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence because there was not probable cause to justify the search of his person and the exception to the probable cause requirement for warrantless searches by school officials did not apply. Troy Vanyo was a police officer with the Grand Forks Police Department and was assigned to work as a school resource officer at a high school in Grand Forks. Vanyo had received information about possible drug use involving students in an area approximately a block and a half from the high school. One of the students was later identified as Defendant. The students walked to a town square area and Vanyo followed in his patrol car. Vanyo testified the students were seated when they saw him, stood up, and quickly walked toward a stage area in the town square. Later, Vanyo observed Defendant waiting to talk to the attendance secretary and he informed the school principal that Defendant was the other individual he observed in the town square and suspected was involved in drug activity. The principal took Defendant into a detention room and Vanyo followed them. Vanyo testified the principal questioned Defendant, Vanyo testified he told Defendant something like "if you have anything on you, you need to lay it on the table now." Defendant emptied his pockets, which contained a glass pipe and synthetic marijuana. In moving to suppress the evidence, Defendant argued the police failed to advise him of his rights under "Miranda v. Arizona," (384 U.S. 436 (1966)), there was not probable cause justifying the search of his person, and the exception to the probable cause requirement for searches by school officials did not apply. The district court denied the motion, ruling the reasonableness standard for searches by school officials applied and the search was reasonable. Defendant then entered a conditional guilty plea and reserved his right to appeal the court's denial of his suppression motion. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the search was not excessively intrusive in light of Defendant's age, gender, and nature of the suspicion. View "North Dakota v. Alaniz" on Justia Law

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K.H. appealed juvenile court order that extended the placement of his daughter T.H. in the custody and control of Barnes County Social Services and an order that denied his motion to dismiss. On appeal, K.H. argued the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction, applied the wrong standard of proof in finding the child was deprived in 2008, erred in allowing his plea to the allegations of deprivation, the duration of the deprivation proceedings was excessive, and in finding the child continues to be deprived. Finding that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Interest of T.H." on Justia Law

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R.G., father of A.L., appealed a juvenile court order confirming a judicial referee's decision to terminate his parental rights to four minor children. In 2003, R.G. was placed on criminal probation, and in March 2009, his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to a three-year prison term. In September 2009, R.G.'s four children involved in this action were all less than four years old and were residing with their mother when the children were taken into protective custody by Benson County Social Services and placed in foster care after the mother left the children with relatives and did not return. In May 2010, the State petitioned to terminate the parental rights of R.G. and the mother. In August 2010, the juvenile court terminated the mother's parental rights and also found the children were deprived as to R.G., but the evidence was not sufficient to terminate his parental rights. The juvenile court stated R.G. was anticipating being paroled in January 2011 with release to a halfway house for three to four months. The court also stated R.G.'s early release was contingent upon his completion of a drug and alcohol treatment program. After a hearing, a judicial referee terminated R.G.'s parental rights to the four children, finding R.G. was not granted his early parole as anticipated because he had not yet completed his drug and alcohol treatment program due to his conduct in the prison facility. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the court did not clearly err in finding the children were deprived, and did not abuse its discretion in terminating R.G.'s parental rights. View "Interest of A.L." on Justia Law

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Defendant Ben Simons appealed a district court judgment that affirmed an order of the Department of Human Services which found that he had abused his two-year-old child and that services were required. Defendant and his wife Traci required their children to always respond to a parent in a respectful manner and to use the phrases "yes, sir" or "yes, ma'am." In 2009, while the Simons family was attending church, their two-year-old child refused to use the phrases "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am" when responding to his parents. Defendant took the child outside and swatted him twice on his bottom. When they went back inside, Traci Simons was able to get the child to say "yes, sir" and "yes, ma'am." Later that evening, after returning home, the child again refused to respond to Defendant with "yes, sir." Defendant took the child to an upstairs bedroom and explained to him that he would be spanked if he did not say "yes, sir." When the child continued his refusal, Defendant placed him over his knee and struck him on his buttocks three times with a wooden backscratcher. The child was wearing pants and a diaper. Defendant then hugged and consoled the child for approximately fifteen minutes, explained the consequences if he refused to say "yes, sir," and emphasized to the child that he needed to show respect to his parents. He then gave the child the opportunity to say "yes, sir," and the child again refused. Defendant repeated the three swats with the wooden backscratcher, and again consoled and spoke with the child for approximately fifteen minutes. Two days later, Stark County Social Services received a report of suspected child abuse regarding the child. A social worker investigated the report and observed the bruises on the child's buttocks. Upon completion of the investigation, Stark County Social Services found the child was an abused child and issued a "services required" finding. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the Department's findings that Defendant had inflicted bodily injury upon the child and used unreasonable force were supported by a preponderance of the evidence and the relevant statutory provisions governing child abuse were not unconstitutionally overbroad or vague. View "Simons v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Steve Wolt appealed from an order denying his motion to amend a divorce judgment. In January 2010, the juvenile court found the two oldest Wolt children deprived because of Steve Wolt's "intentional and systematic efforts to alienate the children from [their mother] Kathy and to undermine Kathy's custody, authority and control of the children." The court found "these actions motivated [the two older children] to engage in unruly conduct, which in turn, caused them to be adjudicated as unruly children and placed in foster care." The juvenile court also found that "[w]ith regard to Kathy, the children are deprived because the alienation and disrespect that Steve has instilled in [the oldest children] towards Kathy, have caused such a serious disruption in their relations that Kathy can no longer provide proper parental care and control for [them], even though she obviously wishe[d] to do so." Steve Wolt argued the district court erred in denying him an evidentiary hearing on his motion to amend the judgment to change primary residential responsibility with regard to his third child who remained in his ex-wife's custody. He argued he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing because he established a prima facie case under state law. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in denying an evidentiary hearing on his motion to award him primary residential responsibility of his children and did not err in awarding Kathy Wolt attorney's fees. The Court also concluded, however, the district court erred in denying Steve Wolt a hearing on his motion to amend his parenting time. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Wolt v. Wolt" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a juvenile court order that adopted a judicial referee's decision that minor child D.J. was not required to register as a sexual offender. In March 2009, the State filed a petition in juvenile court, alleging D.J., a sixteen year old, committed an act of gross sexual imposition by engaging in a sexual act with a six-year-old victim. A judicial referee accepted D.J.'s admission that he committed the act, ordered him to complete a sexual offender evaluation and follow all recommendations, and reserved the issue of whether he was required to register as a sexual offender under state law. The referee thereafter issued a written order, concluding the State had the burden of proving D.J. was required to register as a sexual offender and that the State had failed to satisfy its burden of proof. The State requested judicial review of the referee's decision, and the juvenile court adopted the referee's order. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that a juvenile court may order the preparation of a report or evaluation to address requirements for registration as a sexual offender and may require production of the report or evaluation to make findings on the requirements for registration. But because a court-ordered evaluation was not provided to the juvenile court in this case and the court did not make required findings on registration, the Court reversed and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Interest of D.J." on Justia Law

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F.T. (the Father) appealed a district court judgment that granted the State's petition to involuntarily terminate F.T.'s parental rights. In September 2009, the State filed a petition to terminate F.T.'s parental rights, alleging that T.T., a child, was deprived, neglected and abandoned. A hearing was held in December. F.T. moved to sequester the State's witnesses. The district court granted the motion, stating that the State's witnesses should remain in the hallway until called to testify and that Irene Dybwad, the representative from Grand Forks County Social Services, could stay in the courtroom. During a recess F.T.'s attorney observed Dybwad speaking with the State's witnesses. F.T. raised the issue to the court. The court gave F.T. the opportunity to question the witnesses that were seen talking in the hallway. The witnesses testified that no specific testimony was discussed, that they were told the State had a hard time qualifying a witness as an expert and that they were told to stick to their reports. F.T. moved for a mistrial. The district court granted the motion, explaining: "I guess I should have explained that sequestering means do not go--leave the courtroom and talk to any of the witnesses." Before the second hearing, F.T. moved to prevent the State's three witnesses involved in the mistrial from testifying at the second hearing, arguing that allowing the witnesses to testify would be unfair because the witnesses knew the questions F.T.'s attorney would ask. The district court denied F.T.'s motion, stating that the mistrial was granted based on Dybwad's misconduct and that F.T. would be able to cross-examine the three witnesses about the sequestration violation. Trial proceeded, and the district court eventually entered its judgment terminating F.T.'s parental rights. On appeal to the Supreme Court, F.T. argued that the district court abused its discretion by allowing the State's three witnesses involved in the sequestration violation to testify. Upon careful consideration of the record, the Supreme Court found that the district court's findings were supported by the record and were not clearly erroneous. The Court affirmed the termination of F.T.'s parental rights. View "Interest of T.T." on Justia Law

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C.S. appealed from a juvenile court's order that found his child T.S., a delinquent and unruly child for committing disorderly conduct. At the hearing, the State presented evidence about the two alleged acts of disorderly conduct. The State asserted the first act of disorderly conduct involved a classroom incident. T.S.'s second-grade teacher testified that while attending class, T.S. started screaming words that were not making sense. T.S. later kicked the aide after a short "time out." The second act of disorderly conduct took place on a school bus. The bus driver testified that while driving the special needs bus, she heard T.S. scream the "N" word. She asked T.S. to go to the front of the bus but he refused and called her "a**hole" and "fat a**." The bus driver used physical force to restrain T.S. The juvenile court found T.S. a delinquent child and an unruly child in need of treatment and rehabilitation. The court concluded it was in the best interest of T.S. to be removed from the care of his father and be placed in the care, custody, and control of Stutsman County Social Services for one year. On appeal, C.S. argued that insufficient evidence was presented to support the juvenile court's findings of fact. Furthermore, C.S. asserted the juvenile court violated T.S.'s constitutional rights by failing to sua sponte conduct a competency hearing. Upon careful consideration of the juvenile court's record and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court concluded that the evidence presented was sufficient to support the court's finding. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the juvenile court did not violate T.S.'s due process rights by failing to sua sponte order a competency hearing. The Court affirmed the juvenile court's order. View "Interest of T.S." on Justia Law

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R.A. appealed a juvenile court order that transferred its jurisdiction to the district court and the district court's order affirming the transfer. In March 2010, a delinquency petition and notice of intent to transfer to district court was filed, alleging R.A. committed the offenses of gross sexual imposition and terrorizing. The State alleged R.A. engaged in a sexual act with another juvenile, A.H., by compelling A.H. to submit by threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury. The State alleged R.A. sent A.H. text messages and other messages through the Internet that contained threats. After a hearing on the transfer request, the judicial referee found there was probable cause to believe R.A. committed the offenses and ordered the case be transferred to district court. R.A. requested a district court judge review the judicial referee's findings and order, arguing the evidence did not support a finding of probable cause, the judicial referee misinterpreted or misapplied the transfer statute because the statute requires the threats be to the victim and not another person, and his confrontation rights were violated. The district court affirmed and adopted the judicial referee's findings and order. On appeal to the Supreme Court, R.A. argued there was not sufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause because the threats of physical harm were threats of future conduct and were not imminent. The Supreme Court concluded the juvenile court did not err in finding there was probable cause R.A. committed the offenses. The Court affirmed the lower courts' orders. View "Interest of R.A." on Justia Law