Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Workforce Safety and Insurance (“WSI”) appealed a district court judgment affirming an administrative law judge’s (“ALJ”) order that affirmed WSI’s April 2018 order awarding permanent impairment benefits to Jason Tolman and that reversed WSI’s July 2018 order denying benefits for his depression and anxiety conditions. In September 2014, Tolman was injured when he was driving a tanker truck and involved in a single vehicle roll-over accident. WSI accepted his claim for benefits. In April 2018, WSI issued an order awarding Tolman $4,905 in permanent impairment benefits based on a determination that he had sustained a 16 percent impairment of the whole body. In July 2018, WSI issued an order denying benefits in connection with his depression and anxiety, deciding these conditions were not caused by his physical injury and existed before the work injury. Tolman requested an administrative hearing on the orders, and a hearing was held before an independent ALJ in April 2019. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the ALJ erred in applying N.D.C.C. 65-01-02(10)(a)(6) and concluding Tolman established his depression and anxiety conditions were compensable. The Court affirmed that part of the ALJ’s order affirming WSI’s April 2018 order; but reversed that part of the ALJ’s order reversing WSI’s July 2018 order, and reinstated WSI’s July 2018 order. View "WSI v. Tolman" on Justia Law

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Darl Hehn appealed a district court order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court failed to make sufficient findings, the case was remanded for the court make specific findings. View "Matter of Hehn" on Justia Law

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RFM-TREI Jefferson Apartments, LLC; RFM-TREI Lincoln Apartments, LLC; Dickinson Homestay, LLC; and Lodgepros Dickinson, LLC (together “the Taxpayers”) appealed district court judgments affirming the Stark County Board of Commissioners’ (“the Board”) denials of their applications for tax abatements or refunds. The Taxpayers collectively owned two apartment complexes and two hotels located in the City of Dickinson. The Taxpayers filed applications for abatement or refund of their 2016 property taxes. The Taxpayers’ opinions of value for each property differed from the City’s valuations by a range of roughly $1.8 million to $20.3 million. After holding a hearing, the City recommended the Board deny each application. The Board indeed denied the abatement applications in four separate written decisions. Using the same language in each, the Board concluded the assessor’s valuations were not “in error, invalid, inequitable, unjust, or arrived at in an arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable manner.” The decisions also explained the Board did not believe the Taxpayers provided “sufficient enough information relating to the subject properties, or the local market for competing properties, to lead us to the same value conclusions requested by the applicant.” The district court affirmed each denial in separate, written orders and judgments. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Board acted arbitrarily and unreasonably in adopting assessments exceeding the true and full value of the property. The Court reversed the district court judgments and the Board’s decisions denying the Taxpayers’ abatement applications. The matters were remanded for a new hearing to determine the “true and full value” of the properties and reconsideration of the abatement applications. View "RFM-TREI Jefferson Apartments v. Stark County Board of Comm'rs" on Justia Law

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Benjamin Suelzle appealed a district court judgment affirming a Department of Transportation hearing officer’s decision revoking his driving privileges for two years. Suelzle argued the hearing officer erred: (1) by finding the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to arrest under N.D.C.C. 39-08-01; (2) by admitting a supplemental report and notice form; and (3) by failing to exclude evidence of his test refusal because he was not given a valid implied consent advisory. Specifically, he contended he could not be lawfully arrested under N.D.C.C. 39-08-01 because the alleged actual physical control occurred on the grassy yard of his private residence, which was an improved private residential lot and not a place to which the public has access. The hearing officer rejected Suelzle’s argument that his vehicle was located on private property to which the officer could have no reasonable grounds to believe the public would have a right of access for vehicular use. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded after review of the Department hearing and district court record that although there was evidence in the record that Suelzle drove under the influence on areas where the public had a right of access before parking on his lawn, he was not charged with driving under the influence. He was charged only with actual physical control of his pickup where it was ultimately parked on his residential grass lawn. The hearing officer’s finding was based on a misapplication of law, and it was not supported by evidence in the record sufficient to show the location of the actual physical control offense was within the scope of N.D.C.C. 39-08-01. The district court's judgment affirming the hearing officer's revocation of Suelzle's driving privileges was reversed. View "Suelzle v. NDDOT" 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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The North Dakota Department of Transportation appealed a district court judgment reversing a hearing officer’s decision suspending Brandon Jorgenson’s driving privileges for 180 days. The Department argued the court erred in determining that, regardless of whether Jorgenson raised a proper objection at the administrative hearing regarding the omission of the phrase “directed by the law enforcement officer” from the implied consent advisory, the court could reverse the hearing officer’s decision if its findings of fact were not supported by the preponderance of evidence. The North Dakota Supreme Court found it was undisputed in this case that the deputy omitted the phrase “directed by the law enforcement officer” from the implied consent advisory. Section 39-20-01(3)(b), N.D.C.C., stated, “A test administered under this section is not admissible in any criminal or administrative proceeding to determine a violation of section 39-08-01 or this chapter if the law enforcement officer fails to inform the individual charged as required under [N.D.C.C. § 39-20-01(3)(a)].” In Vagts, 932 N.W.2d 523 (2019), the Supreme Court concluded that “the officer’s omission of the phrase ‘directed by the law enforcement officer’ was a substantive omission and did not comply with the statutory requirements for the implied consent advisory.” Therefore, the Court concluded the district court properly reversed the hearing officer's decision. View "Jorgenson v. NDDOT" on Justia Law

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Kylie Oversen, individually and as chairwoman of the Democratic-Non-Partisan League Party of North Dakota, and Jason Anderson, as a candidate nominated by the Democratic-Non-Partisan League Party of North Dakota for the statewide elective office of North Dakota Insurance Commissioner, petitioned the North Dakota Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue a writ of mandamus to direct Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger to accept and certify Anderson for inclusion on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot for the office of insurance commissioner. Oversen and Anderson argued there was a vacancy on the ballot for that position and Jaeger was required to place Anderson’s name on the ballot as the nominated and endorsed Democratic-NPL party candidate for the office under N.D.C.C. 16.1-11-18(4). After review, the Supreme Court concluded Jaeger correctly applied North Dakota law by refusing to include Anderson on the general election ballot. Therefore, the Court denied the petition. View "Oversen, et al. v. Jaeger" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Michael Haugen, Jacob Stutzman, Trent Barkus, and the Brighter Future Alliance sought a writ to enjoin North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger from placing an initiated measure on the November 3, 2020 ballot. The measure sought to amend the North Dakota Constitution concerning elections and legislative districting. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court granted the writ, concluding the petition did not comply with the constitutional requirement that it contain the full text of the measure. The Court set aside the Secretary of State’s decision to place Measure 3 on the November ballot and enjoined him from doing so. View "Haugen, et al. v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law

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Robyn Krile appealed from a district court order granting defendant Julie Lawyer’s motion to dismiss under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In February 2017, Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer received an anonymous letter concerning a Bismarck police officer's destruction of evidence. Lawyer averred her decision to review the officer files was to ensure the state’s attorney’s office was fulfilling its disclosure obligations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). As part of her investigation, Lawyer reviewed the file of Sergeant Robyn Krile. In Krile’s file, Lawyer discovered two letters of reprimand and several performance evaluations, which Lawyer believed raised Giglio issues. Lawyer further investigated the incidents for which the letters of reprimand were issued, and concluded Krile had made false statements as a Bismarck police officer. Lawyer shared her belief that the letters of reprimand and performance evaluations raised Giglio concerns with Bismarck Police Chief Dan Donlin. Chief Donlin disagreed and advised Lawyer that he did not see the incidents for which the letters of reprimand were issued as amounting to Giglio issues. Despite Chief Donlin’s pleas, Lawyer continued to believe Krile’s conduct amounted to a Giglio issue. Lawyer informed Chief Donlin that the results of her investigation would have to be disclosed to defense in cases in which Krile was involved pursuant to Giglio and, as a result, the Burleigh County State’s Attorney’s Office would no longer use Krile as a witness in its cases. Because the Burleigh County State’s Attorney’s Office was no longer willing to use Krile as a witness in its cases, the Bismarck Police Department terminated Krile’s employment. Krile filed a complaint with the Department of Labor and Human Rights claiming the Bismarck Police Department discriminated against her. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed dismissal of Krile's defamation claims for Lawyer's disclosure of the results of her investigation (the Giglio letter) to Chief Donlin. The Court affirmed dismissal of Krile’s defamation claims for Lawyer’s disclosure of the Giglio letter and affidavits to the Department of Labor and Human Rights because the communications were absolutely privileged. On remand, the district court may decide whether Lawyer’s communications to Chief Donlin and the POST Board are entitled to a qualified privilege. View "Krile v. Lawyer" on Justia Law