Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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Marlon Comes appealed a district court’s second amended criminal judgment entered over twenty years after the original criminal judgment. In 1996, North Dakota charged Comes with murder (class AA felony) and robbery (class A felony). Comes pleaded guilty to both charges and the district court sentenced him on the murder charge to life imprisonment at the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“DOCR”) with the possibility of parole, and a concurrent 10 years for robbery, with 307 days credit for time served. Comes has filed several previous post-conviction relief petitions that were denied. In August 2018, the district court issued a memorandum of law and order for second amended judgment. No post-conviction relief petition was filed prompting the court’s action. While there was nothing in the record to reflect why the court acted, based on the court’s memorandum, the court was apparently responding to a request from DOCR for an amended judgment “that contains a calculation of [Comes’] life expectancy, in order for DOC[R] to determine when he becomes eligible for parole.” The court relied on a table specific to American Indian mortality rates to calculate Comes’ life expectancy of 52 years rather than following the mortality table promulgated by N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 51. The court’s second amended judgment indicates Comes must serve 44 years and 73 days, taking into account the credit for 307 days previously served. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the trial court abused its discretion in sua sponte amending the judgment without providing notice, the arguments Comes made regarding the propriety of the court’s application of N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-09.1, including its 1997 amendments, to his second amended judgment could be considered on remand once notice was provided to both parties. View "North Dakota v. Comes" on Justia Law

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Shane Martin appealed an order denying his N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion for relief from default judgment. Martin was the biological father of Cheri Poitra's child, I.R.P. Martin and Poitra were unmarried tribal members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In August 2017, Poitra began receiving services from Bismarck Regional Child Support Unit (BRCSU). The State sought to establish a child support obligation from Martin and served him with a summons and complaint. Martin completed a financial affidavit and returned it to BRCSU on October 8, 2017, but did not file an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 7, 2017, the State filed a N.D.R.Ct. 3.2 motion for default judgment. More than 21 days had passed since Martin was served and he had appeared but had not filed an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 17, 2017, Martin filed a notice of special appearance. The notice of special appearance did not contain an accompanying affidavit, motion, request for action, or response to the allegations. Instead, the notice stated only that Martin's attorney was entering a special appearance to contest "both subject matter and personal jurisdiction." Included with the notice was a copy of a summons and a petition for custody filed by Martin with the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court on November 16, 2017. A hearing on the "notice of special appearance" was held January 2018. During the hearing, the district court stated numerous times that the notice was not a motion on which the court could act and instructed Martin to file a motion. In February, 2018, the district court entered its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order for judgment finding Martin in default. Judgment was entered February 21, 2018. Martin argues that his return of the financial affidavit and filing of a notice of special appearance was sufficient to preclude a default judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 55(a) and thus the district court erred in denying his Rule 60(b) motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed: the district court did not err in denying a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment where Martin was properly provided notice and served with the motion for default judgment. View "North Dakota v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Raymond and Linus Poitra appealed a judgment quieting title in two parcels of land on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in Darrel Gustafson, and ordering the Poitras to pay Gustafson $67,567.98 in damages and $6,620 in attorney's fees. In 2015, Gustafson sued the Poitras and all others claiming an interest in two parcels of land, alleging Gustafson was a non-Indian fee owner of the two parcels located in Rolette County, North Dakota within the exterior boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation by virtue of a 2007 foreclosure judgment and a 2008 sheriff's deed. The Poitras argued the district court erred in deciding the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court did not have jurisdiction over Gustafson's action. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the inherent sovereign powers of an Indian tribe generally do not extend to activities of nonmembers on non-Indian fee land, but a tribe may regulate through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members, through commercial dealings, contracts, leases or other arrangements, and a tribe may also exercise civil authority over the conduct of non-Indians on fee lands within the reservation when the conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe. The Court concluded the tribal court indeed did not have jurisdiction over Gustafson's action to quiet title and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Gustafson v. Poitra" on Justia Law

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Daniel Peltier appealed an order denying his motion for relief from a child support judgment. Peltier argued the district court erred in denying his motion because the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court had exclusive subject matter jurisdiction to decide his child support obligation. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the state district court had concurrent jurisdiction to decide Peltier's child support obligation, and the district court did not err in denying his motion for relief from the judgment. View "North Dakota v. Peltier" on Justia Law

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Harold Olson appealed a district court order affirming the North Dakota Department of Transportation's ("Department") revocation of his driving privileges for two years, following an arrest for driving under the influence. The revocation of driving privileges for refusal to submit to chemical testing requires a valid arrest; in the absence of authority from Congress, the State lacks criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-member Indians on tribal land. Whether an officer has jurisdiction to arrest depends on the law of the place where the arrest is made. Olson argued the deputy lacked the authority to arrest him on tribal land and that a valid arrest was a prerequisite to revocation of his driving privileges. Absent a valid arrest, Olson argued the revocation order was not in accordance with the law. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the deputy lacked authority to arrest Olson, a non-member Indian, on Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation tribal land. The Court therefore reversed the district court's order affirming the Department's revocation of Olson's driving privileges and reinstated Olson's driving privileges. View "Olson v. N.D. Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Harold Olson appealed a district court order affirming the North Dakota Department of Transportation's ("Department") revocation of his driving privileges for two years, following an arrest for driving under the influence. The revocation of driving privileges for refusal to submit to chemical testing requires a valid arrest; in the absence of authority from Congress, the State lacks criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-member Indians on tribal land. Whether an officer has jurisdiction to arrest depends on the law of the place where the arrest is made. Olson argued the deputy lacked the authority to arrest him on tribal land and that a valid arrest was a prerequisite to revocation of his driving privileges. Absent a valid arrest, Olson argued the revocation order was not in accordance with the law. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the deputy lacked authority to arrest Olson, a non-member Indian, on Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation tribal land. The Court therefore reversed the district court's order affirming the Department's revocation of Olson's driving privileges and reinstated Olson's driving privileges. View "Olson v. N.D. Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law

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R.W.D. appealed a juvenile court order terminating his parental rights to his two children, K.S.D. and J.S.D. After a review of the juvenile court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded clear and convincing evidence established that the children were deprived, the deprivation was likely to continue, and the children had been in foster care at least 450 of 660 nights. The Court also concluded active efforts to prevent the breakup of this Indian family were made and those efforts have been unsuccessful. However, the Court found nothing in the record to satisfy the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) requirement of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, including testimony of a qualified expert witness, that continued custody by the parents would likely result in serious emotional or physical damage to the children. Accordingly, though the Court retained jurisdiction over this case, it remanded for testimony from an ICWA qualified expert witness. View "Interest of K.S.D." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Joni Tillich, Nicole LaFloe, Shawn Marcellais, Lisa DeCoteau, and Lynn Boughey filed an action in district court against defendants Don Bruce, Vinier Davis, and Linda Davis. The complaint alleged a tort claim for abuse of process based upon the defendants filing an action against the plaintiffs in Turtle Mountain Tribal Court. Defendants answered the complaint and raised defenses of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, and alleged the claim to be frivolous. Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter and personal jurisdiction and requested attorney fees and statutory costs for defending the action. Defendants filed and served several discovery requests and motions including interrogatories, requests for production, notice of deposition, subpoena duces tecum, and motions to command compliance with subpoena and to command attendance at deposition. After a hearing on the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the district court converted the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment because matters outside the pleadings were presented. Defendants' argument the district court lacked jurisdiction was based upon the fact the Plaintiffs' action was a tort claim against members of a federally recognized Indian tribe for actions alleged to have occurred between tribal members within the exterior boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action without prejudice. The court ultimately denied defendants' request for attorney fees, determining no fees should be awarded in the case after "[t]aking into account fees and expenses previously awarded in the companion case, 40-2015-CV-3." An inaccuracy in the judgment following the district court's order was found and corrected. The district court entered a corrected judgment and defendants appealed the corrected judgment. After review, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's denial of the defendants' request for attorney fees under N.D.C.C. 28-26-01(2) and remanded for calculation of attorney fees based upon accepted factors, and ordered the district court award attorney fees to the defendants. View "Tillich v. Bruce" on Justia Law

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Arrow Midstream Holdings, LLC and Arrow Pipeline, LLC (collectively "Arrow") appealed, and Tesla Enterprises, LLC ("Tesla") cross-appealed, a judgment dismissing without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction its action against 3 Bears Construction, LLC and Tesla for breach of contract and a declaration that Tesla's pipeline construction lien was invalid. In 2013, Arrow hired 3 Bears to be the general contractor for the construction of a pipeline located on a right-of-way easement acquired by Arrow from the Bureau of Indian Affairs over Indian trust land on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. 3 Bears entered into a subcontract with Tesla to supply materials and labor for the construction. 3 Bears was owned by two members of the Three Affiliated Tribes ("Tribe") and was certified under the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance ("TERO"). 3 Bears claimed Arrow was a covered employer who was required to comply with TERO rules. After the pipeline was completed, a dispute arose between 3 Bears and Tesla concerning amounts Tesla claimed it was owed by 3 Bears for work Tesla performed. In mid-2014, Tesla sent Arrow a notice of right to file a pipeline lien under N.D.C.C. ch. 35-24. Tesla recorded the pipeline lien against Arrow in the Dunn County recorder's office in June 2014. In July 2014, Arrow commenced this action in state district court challenging the validity of the pipeline lien, seeking indemnification, and claiming 3 Bears breached the parties' contract. In August 2014, 3 Bears moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In November 2014, 3 Bears filed a complaint against Tesla and Arrow in Fort Berthold Tribal Court. 3 Bears sought a declaration that the pipeline lien was invalid, alleged Arrow had breached the master service contract, and requested an award of damages. In December 2014, the state district court agreed with 3 Bears' argument that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the lawsuit. The court concluded "exercising jurisdiction over this action under the circumstances presented here would infringe upon Tribal sovereignty." The court further concluded, "at the very least, Arrow and Tesla, as a matter of comity, should be required to exhaust their tribal court remedies before this Court exercises jurisdiction." The court dismissed the action "without prejudice to allow any of the parties to re-open the case without payment of another filing fee should it become necessary for purposes of enforcing the Tribal Court action or for any other reason." After review of the matter, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding the district court had jurisdiction over this lawsuit. View "Arrow Midstream Holdings, LLC v. 3 Bears Construction, LLC" on Justia Law