Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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C & K Consulting, LLC, Stonebridge Villas LLC, Stonebridge Villas II LLC, Stonebridge Development Company LLC, and Townhomes at Stonebridge LLC (collectively, “C&K Consulting”) appealed a district court’s dismissal of their cases against the Ward County North Dakota Board of Commissioners (“Ward County”) and the court’s denial of their motion for post-judgment relief. Several cases consolidated for review were appeals of Ward County’s decisions on C&K Consulting’s applications for tax abatement and refunds. C&K Consulting argued the court erred when it dismissed the cases as a sanction for missing a briefing deadline. Because the court did not conduct the required sanctions analysis, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the court’s dismissal judgment and its order denying C&K Consulting’s motion for post-judgment relief and remanded for further proceedings. View "C & K Consulting v. Ward County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Dustin Irwin died in 2014, in the Ward County, North Dakota jail. The circumstances of his death led to an investigation and criminal charges against Ward County Sheriff Steven Kukowski. Initially, Divide County State’s Attorney Seymour Jordan was appointed to handle the criminal proceeding. Jordan determined the circumstances justified a petition for removal of Sheriff Kukowski from office. Governor Jack Dalrymple appointed Jordan as the special prosecutor for the removal. Ultimately, Jordan requested to withdraw and Governor Burgum appointed attorney Daniel Traynor as the special prosecutor. After completion of the removal proceedings, Traynor submitted his bill to the State on May 1, 2017. The State forwarded the bill to Ward County. Ward County refused to pay the bill. Traynor sued the State and Ward County to recover the unpaid fees. The State responded to Traynor’s complaint by filing a motion to dismiss. Ward County answered Traynor’s complaint and cross-claimed against the State. The State moved to dismiss Ward County’s cross-claim. Traynor moved for judgment on the pleadings. The district court entered judgment in Traynor’s favor against the State, and awarded interest at 6% per annum. The State argued Ward County had to pay Traynor’s bill because Chapter 44-11, N.D.C.C., failed to address who should pay for the special prosecutor fees in a county official’s removal proceeding, and therefore the catch-all provision in N.D.C.C. 54-12-03 applied. Ward County argues neither Chapter 44-11, N.D.C.C., nor Chapter 54- 12, N.D.C.C., imposes an obligation upon a county to pay the fees of an attorney appointed by the Governor for proceedings for the removal of a public official. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with the district court that Chapter 44-11, N.D.C.C., was silent regarding the payment of special prosecutor fees in a removal proceeding, and it was not necessary or required to import N.D.C.C. 54-12-03 into Chapter 44-11. Based on these facts, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in finding a contract existed for legal services between Traynor and the State. The Court agreed with Traynor that the district court erred by awarding 6% per annum interest instead of the 1.5% monthly interest rate stated on its bill. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Traynor Law Firm v. North Dakota, et al." on Justia Law

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Larry Hewitt appealed a district court judgment affirming the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s revocation of his driving privileges. Hewitt claimed the Department’s hearing file was improperly admitted at the administrative hearing. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the hearing file was properly admitted as a self-authenticating copy of an official record. View "Hewitt v. NDDOT" on Justia Law

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Gregory Schwindt appealed a district court judgment affirming a Department of Transportation hearing officer’s revocation of his driving privileges for 180 days. Schwindt argued North Dakota’s implied consent and refusal laws were unconstitutional, the hearing officer erred by considering the results of the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, and the hearing officer erred in finding he refused to take a chemical test. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the hearing officer’s findings of fact were supported by a preponderance of the evidence, the conclusions of law were sustained by the findings of fact, and the decision to revoke Schwindt’s driving privileges was in accordance with the law. View "Schwindt v. Sorel" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation (Department) appealed the district court's reversing a hearing officer’s decision suspending Holden Kastet’s driving privileges for 365 days. The Department argued the hearing officer did not abuse his discretion in admitting the chemical breath test, and State Highway Patrol Trooper King scrupulously complied with the approved method for testing Kastet’s breath on the Intoxilyzer 8000. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with the Department and reversed the district court judgment. The matter was remanded with instructions to reinstate the hearing officer’s decision. View "Kastet v. NDDOT" on Justia Law

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Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) appealed a district court judgment affirming the administrative law judge’s (ALJ) order concluding Isai Avila was entitled to both the scheduled permanent partial impairment award for vision loss and whole body permanent partial impairment award for additional injuries to his cervical spine, facial bone, acoustic nerve, and brain. In 2015, Avila fell on ice carrying a railroad tie while employed by SM Fencing & Energy Services, Inc., and sustained injuries. WSI issued an order awarding permanent impairment benefits of $34,000 to Avila. Avila requested a hearing. During a second review Avila underwent a permanent impairment evaluation. The evaluation determined Avila had 29% whole body permanent partial impairment which included 16% whole body impairment for vision loss of Avila’s left eye. WSI concluded under N.D.C.C. 65-05-12.2(11) that Avila was entitled to the greater of either the scheduled impairment award or the whole body impairment award, but not both. WSI issued a notice of decision confirming no additional award of permanent impairment benefits was due. Avila again requested a hearing after reconsideration. The sole issue at the administrative hearing was interpretation of the portion of N.D.C.C. 65-05-12.2(11). and whether the statute applied to the same work-related injury or condition, and not impairments for the same work-related incident. Since Avila’s loss of vision in his left eye was the same work-related injury or condition for which Avila received a 100 permanent impairment multiplier (PIM) scheduled injury award, the “loss of vision in left eye” component of the 29% whole body impairment must be subtracted from the award to determine Avila’s additional permanent impairment benefits. The ALJ concluded the additional injuries were not the same work-related injury or condition as the vision loss, and N.D.C.C. 65-05-12.2(11) was not applicable. Therefore, the ALJ determined Avila was entitled to both the scheduled impairment award for vision loss and the whole body impairment award for his additional injuries. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that because Avila had an injury set out in N.D.C.C. 65-05-12.2(11), he was entitled to the greater of the combined rating for all accepted impairments under the AMA Guides or the injury schedule. Here, N.D.C.C. 65-05-12.2(11) provided the greater PIM. Accordingly, WSI correctly determined Avila’s award. The ALJ judgment was not in accordance with the law. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded to the ALJ for further proceedings. View "WSI v. Avila, et al." on Justia Law

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Alton Johnson appealed a judgment denying his variance application. In the 1970s Johnson purchased land in Burlington, ND, and in 1973, opened an auto body shop. The auto body shop was zoned as a C-1 residential sometime after the shop was built. In 1989, a fire damaged the building. After building repairs in 1991, Johnson leased part of the property. Johnson began to use another location for his auto body business. In 2012, Johnson sold his business at the second location. Property owners neighboring the property raised concerns about the use of the property. In May 2013, the city attorney issued an opinion regarding the body shop, stating it “was a non-conforming use when the zoning ordinance was initially passed, so it was essentially ‘grandfathered in’” and when the auto body shop’s use was discontinued, and the current renters went into the building, the auto body shop was no longer “grandfathered in” and would need approval by the planning commission. Johnson operated the auto body shop at the location of the property at issue subsequent to the sale of the second location. In October 2013, Johnson moved for a temporary injunction and ex parte restraining order to allow him to continue to use his auto body shop, which was granted by the district court. In October 2016, Johnson requested a variance from the City. When it was denied, he appealed, arguing the City’s findings were arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and not supported by substantial evidence. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded after review it was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable for the City to deny Johnson’s variance application and there was substantial evidence to support the City’s decision. Accordingly, the Court affirmed judgment. View "Johnson v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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Kyle Christianson appealed a district court’s judgment affirming the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s suspension of his driving privileges. Christianson claimed the Department’s hearing file, which was admitted at the adjudication hearing, was improperly certified as a true copy of the Department’s official records. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Christianson rebutted the presumption that the individual whose signature certified the record had authority to do so. Therefore, the Court reversed the hearing officer’s decision to admit the hearing file and vacated the Department’s suspension of Christianson’s driving privileges. View "Christianson v. NDDOT" on Justia Law

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T.P.-G. appealed the termination of her parental rights. On appeal, T.P.-G. argued she was denied due process and the juvenile court erred by denying her request to appear by telephone. A petition for involuntary termination of parental rights to a child, A.P.D.S.P.-G., was filed in the juvenile court. After a trial date was set, the mother, T.P.-G, filed a request to appear by phone because she lived in Wisconsin. The court denied the request. At trial, counsel stated T.P.-G. wished to contest the termination, regardless of whether she was able to attend the trial. Counsel stated T.P.-G. regretted being unable to attend, but T.P.-G. was saving her money to travel to see A.P.D.S.P.-G. for his birthday. After trial, the juvenile court found A.P.D.S.P.-G. was a deprived and abandoned child and terminated T.P.-G.’s parental rights to the child. Finding no due process violation, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed termination. View "Interest of A.P.D.S.P.-G." on Justia Law

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Lakeview Excavating appealed a district court judgment dismissing its complaint against Dickey County and German Township (Defendants) for breach of contract, intentional fraud, and misrepresentation. In spring 2012, the Defendants awarded to Lakeview three road construction project contracts funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The parties executed three identical contracts, one for each project. The contracts required Lakeview to provide the necessary documents to satisfy FEMA requirements for funding. Lakeview had to use more material than was listed in the bid documents to complete the projects. Some of the material used by Lakeview was taken from private property without permission and resulted in litigation against Lakeview. Lakeview completed the road construction projects in August 2012. In October 2016, Lakeview sued the Defendants for breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, and unlawful interference with business. The court ruled Lakeview breached its contracts with the Defendants, and held Lakeview’s tort claims against the Defendants were barred by the statute of limitations. Lakeview appealed, but finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Lakeview Excavating, Inc. v. Dickey County, et al." on Justia Law