Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Nicholas Reineke appeals a district court judgment affirming the administrative hearing officer’s decision to suspend his driver’s license for 365 days. Reineke was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor. On May 5, 2019, a temporary operator’s permit was issued to Reineke. On May 15, Reineke requested an administrative hearing. The envelope containing Reineke’s request was returned undeliverable due to an incorrect mailing address for the Department of Transportation. Reineke argued he renewed the request for hearing when he resent the request to the correct mailing address on May 23, 2019. On May 31, an administrative proceeding occurred without providing Reineke notice and without him present. The hearing officer concluded the Department did not have jurisdiction to grant Reineke an administrative hearing because he did not request a hearing in time as required by statute. The hearing officer suspended his license for 365 days. The district court affirmed. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Reineke’s untimely request for a hearing did not invoke the Department’s jurisdiction for a hearing. Therefore, the Department and the hearing officer did not have authority to hold the hearing. The only authority the Department had was to administratively revoke Reineke’s license as outlined in N.D.C.C. 39-20-05(1), after expiration of the temporary operator’s permit. Because the hearing officer did not follow the statute, the order was not in accordance with the law. The Supreme Court reversed the district court judgment, and vacated the hearing officer’s order. The Court rejected Reineke’s request to reverse the hearing officer’s decision and reinstate his driving privileges, and remanded for the Department to administer suspension of Reineke’s driving privileges according to law. View "Reineke v. N.D. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI) appealed a district court judgment reversing an Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) confirmation of a prior order of WSI. In 2014, Ellis began receiving partial disability benefits. In 2016, Ellis underwent a functional capacity assessment and further review by WSI. WSI determined Ellis continued to be eligible to receive partial disability benefits, but at a reduced amount. WSI ordered his partial disability benefits be reduced by the greater of his actual wages or his retained earning capacity as had been determined by WSI. Ellis appealed the WSI order, triggering review by the ALJ. WSI contended the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Ellis’ appeal of the ALJ’s decision because his appeal to the district court was untimely. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Ellis failed to timely file his appeal of the ALJ's decision. The Court therefore ordered the district court judgment vacated, and reinstated the decision of the ALJ. View "Ellis v. WSI" on Justia Law

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Minn-Kota Ag. Products, Inc. appealed a district court order dismissing Minn-Kota’s appeal of findings of fact, conclusions of law and order issued by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) for lack of standing and affirming an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) order denying Minn-Kota’s petition to intervene. In 2017, Minn-Kota began construction of a large, $20 million grain handling facility near the municipalities of Barney and Mooreton, North Dakota. During construction of the facility, Minn-Kota received proposals to provide electric power to the facility from Otter Tail Power Co., an electric public utility, and Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, a rural electric cooperative. Minn-Kota determined Otter Tail would provide cheaper and more reliable electric service and chose Otter Tail as its preferred provider. Dakota Valley protested Otter Tail’s application and requested a hearing. Otter Tail and Dakota Valley were represented at the hearing, and each offered evidence and testimony. Minn- Kota was not a formal party represented at the hearing and, other than the testimony offered by Schuler, Minn-Kota did not contribute to the hearing. In December 2017, the PSC held a work session to contemplate and discuss Otter Tail’s application. The concerns expressed by the PSC at the work session made it clear the PSC was likely going to deny Otter Tail’s application. As a result, Minn-Kota submitted a petition to intervene, which an ALJ determined Minn-Kota submitted after the deadline to intervene had passed, and denied it. Minn-Kota argued it has standing to appeal the PSC’s decision because it participated in the proceedings before the PSC, and the PSC’s decision should be reversed because it was not supported by the facts or law. In the alternative, Minn-Kota argued the case should have been remanded to the PSC and it should have been allowed to intervene and introduce additional evidence into the record. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined Minn-Kota had standing, but did not provide a compelling argument on how Otter Tail did not adequately represent its interests at the administrative hearing or throughout the entirety of the proceedings. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and thus affirmed the PSC's order. View "Minn-Kota Ag Products, Inc. v. N.D. Public Service Commission, et al." on Justia Law

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G.L.D. was first civilly committed as a sexually dangerous individual in 2007. G.L.D. petitioned the district court for discharge in April 2016, and a discharge hearing was held in June 2019. At the hearing, Dr. Richard Travis testified for the State. Dr. Travis testified that G.L.D. remains a sexually dangerous individual subject to continued civil commitment. G.L.D. did not call any experts in support of his petition for discharge. At the conclusion of the hearing, the district court orally issued findings of fact and conclusions of law resulting in G.L.D.'s continued commitment. G.L.D. appealed the district court's order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not make sufficient findings of fact, and remanded for further findings. View "Interest of G.L.D." on Justia Law

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Raymond Voisine appealed a district court order finding he remained a sexually dangerous individual. He argued the district court erred by: (1) granting the State’s request for continuance; (2) not holding a hearing within 365 days of the previous report or within a calendar year; (3) allowing the State to file and rely on an expert’s report that was filed late; and (4) finding by clear and convincing evidence that Voisine remained a sexually dangerous individual. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the dispositive issue was whether clear and convincing evidence existed establishing Voisine remained a sexually dangerous individual. The Court determined the record as a whole did not support the finding by clear and convincing evidence that Voisine remained a sexually dangerous individual. "Limited rule infractions and sporadic progress and participation in treatment relied on in this case do not establish that the risk posed by Voisine is distinguishable 'from the dangerous but typical recidivist in the ordinary criminal case.'" Accordingly, the order denying Voisine's petition for discharge was reversed. View "Interest of Voisine" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation appeals from a judgment reversing the decision of an administrative hearing officer revoking Corey Joseph Jesser’s driving privileges for 180 days. Jesser refused to take a sobriety test and was arrested for driving under the influence. The hearing officer found Peterson had reason to believe Jesser was involved in a traffic accident as the driver, Jesser’s body contained alcohol, and he refused to submit to the onsite screening test. The hearing officer found the arresting police officer had reasonable grounds to believe Jesser was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The hearing officer found Jesser was arrested and refused to submit to the chemical breath test. The license was revoked for 180 days based on Jesser's refusal of the onsite screening and chemical tests. Notwithstanding these findings, the district court reversed the hearing officer's decision. Refusal of the screening test could have been cured by consenting to take the chemical test after arrest; Jesser argued a statutory opportunity to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to submit to the chemical test was deprived. Whether the statutory right to counsel before chemical testing under N.D.C.C. 39-20-01 impacted the right to cure under N.D.C.C. 39-20-14 was a question of first impression for the North Dakota Supreme Court. After review, the Court determined the limited statutory right of a defendant to consult with an attorney before taking a chemical test attached only after arrest. The Court rejected the argument that a post-arrest limited statutory right to counsel created a pre-arrest right because an individual was deprived of a post-arrest remedy. The Court reversed the district court judgment and reinstated the hearing officer's decision revoking Jesser's driving privileges. View "Jesser v. N.D. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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After falling into arrears on his court-ordered child support obligation, the North Dakota suspended Joshua Rose's drivers license. In November 2018, Rose entered into a child support payment plan with the State which lifted his drivers license suspension. The payment plan required Rose to make a $1,000 down payment and pay $836 per month for his current child support obligation and $167.20 per month for his arrears. Rose stopped paying his child support obligation after December 31, 2018. Following Rose’s failure to comply with the payment plan, the State resuspended his drivers license. Rose requested a hearing in the district court and asked to appear telephonically to contest the license suspension. The court denied the motion on May 17, 2019, reasoning Rose “has failed to show any statutory, or procedural, basis for granting his requests.” The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court erred, reversed and remanded for a hearing as required by N.D.C.C. 50-09-08.6. View "North Dakota v. Rose" on Justia Law

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Bile Salat appealed the discontinuation of his disability benefits. In 2016, Salat slipped and fell at work. On March 31, 2016, WSI accepted liability for a contusion of the lower back and pelvis and a right ankle sprain. By November 2016, an independent medical examination revealed Salat's ankle injury had not healed and was not at pre-injury status, but low back pain was unrelated to the work injury. Salat's personal physician reviewed the IME's opinion and did not have any "objective findings on physical exam to challenge or disagree with his medical opinion." On August 5, 2016, WSI issued an order discontinuing Salat’s disability benefits after June 29, 2016. On December 15, 2016, WSI issued a notice of decision denying further benefits of Salat’s lumbar spine after November 11, 2016. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the discontinuation of benefits, finding Salat's physician's statement was misunderstood by the district court as a "blanket agreement" with the independent medical examiner: Salat's physician's "statement is better understood as stating she had no objective findings on physical exam to challenge or disagree with [the IME] opinion regarding the source of Salat’s back pain." On this record, the Supreme Court surmised the ALJ could have reasonably found the two physicians had conflicting medical opinions on the source of continued back pain, and that a "reasoning mind reasonably could determine" Salat suffered low back pain after November 11, 2016 that was attributable to the compensable work injury. View "WSI v. Salat, et al." on Justia Law

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Brandon Lindstrom appealed the district court judgment affirming the hearing officer’s decision to suspend Lindstrom’s license for 180 days. On January 28, 2019, Lindstrom was arrested for driving under the influence and given a chemical breath test which showed he was over the legal limit for driving. Lindstrom requested an adminstrative hearing. The hearing officer found the Highway Patrol Trooper had reasonable grounds to believe Lindstrom was driving a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, and the Trooper who stopped Lindstrom forwarded the report and notice form and test results to the Department of Transportation by placing them in the mail in an in-house mailing bin on January 29, 2019. The hearing officer suspended Lindstrom’s driving priviledges for 180 days. Lindstrom appealed to the district court which affirmed the hearing officer’s decision. Lindstrom argued the report and notice was not forwarded to the Department within five days as required by law. Instead, Lindstrom claimed the Trooper placed the report and notice in an in-house mail bin on January 29, 2019, and an envelope postmark showed it was sent seven days later to the Department on February 4, 2019. In affirming the district court, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded that because the Trooper testified he deposited the report and notice in an in-house mail bin on January 29, 2019, and the hearing officer relied on her common sense and experiences of how in house mailing bins operate, the hearing officer could have reasonably found the report and notice were mailed on January 29, 2019, and therefore were forwarded to the Department on the same day. View "Lindstrom v. N.D. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Larry Alber appealed a district court order denying his motion for injunctive relief against the City of Marion. Alber also appealed an order denying his motion for reconsideration. In 2003, the City sued Alber, alleging certain abandoned vehicles on Alber’s property violated a City ordinance and were a public nuisance. The district court entered a judgment against Alber finding the vehicles on Alber’s property were a public nuisance. The judgment required Alber to remove or lawfully maintain the vehicles. In 2013, the district court found Alber in contempt for violating the 2003 judgment’s requirement that he maintain the vehicles or remove them from his property. The court ordered Alber to remove all nuisance vehicles from his property. The court also ordered that any vehicles not removed by Alber could be removed by the City. In December 2016, Alber moved for injunctive relief, requesting a temporary restraining order prohibiting the City from entering his property to remove nuisance vehicles. As it related to the denial of his motion for injunctive relief, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined Alber’s brief failed to demonstrate that any of the injunctive relief factors weighed in his favor: he did not show a substantial probability of succeeding on the merits, proof of irreparable injury, harm to other interested parties, and how the public interest would be benefited by the granting of injunctive relief. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court. View "North Dakota ex rel. City of Marion v. Alber" on Justia Law