Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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LeRoy Wheeler appeals a district court judgment granting Governor Doug Burgum's motion to dismiss and denying Wheeler's motion to appoint counsel. Wheeler was an inmate at the North Dakota State Penitentiary ("NDSP"), who filed a complaint alleging civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983 by Governor Burgum in both his official capacity and his personal capacity. The complaint alleged Governor Burgum failed to supervise and govern officials and staff at the NDSP. Wheeler claims that NDSP officials and staff interfered with his mail, discriminated against him on the basis of race, denied him access to the courts, prevented him from challenging the conditions of his confinement, and retaliated against him for exercising his rights. Wheeler sent Governor Burgum two letters commenting on the conduct of these individuals. Governor Burgum did not respond to the letters. Wheeler sought injunctive relief against Governor Burgum in his official capacity for failing to supervise the actions of officials and staff at the NDSP. Wheeler also sought punitive damages for Governor Burgum's failure to respond to his letters or otherwise investigate the issues described in his letters. Additionally, Wheeler moved for appointed counsel. Governor Burgum moved to dismiss the complaint under N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and opposed Wheeler's motion to appoint counsel. The district court granted Governor Burgum's motion to dismiss and denied Wheeler's motion for appointment of counsel. The North Dakota Supreme Court agreed Wheeler failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted, so the district court did not err by granting Governor Burgum's motion to dismiss. Further, the district court did not err by denying Wheeler's motion to appoint counsel. View "Wheeler v. Burgum" on Justia Law

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The Department of Transportation appealed a judgment reversing the Department's decision to suspend Kristin Jones' driving privileges for 180 days. The Department argued the district court erred by reversing the hearing officer's decision on grounds not identified in Jones’ specifications of error. The Supreme Court found that the basis for the district court’s decision to reverse the Department’s order should have been properly raised by the appellee at the administrative level. Therefore, the district court erred in its decision. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the Department’s decision. View "Jones v. Levi" on Justia Law

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Lori Yahna appealed from a summary judgment dismissing her complaint against Altru Health System for age discrimination and for wrongful termination of employment. In 1984, Yahna began working for the Grand Forks Clinic, the predecessor to Altru, as a licensed practical nurse. She received additional training in vascular technology to work with Dr. Rolf Paulson in the ultrasound department and by 1986 she was working solely as a vascular technologist. According to Yahna, she was the technical director of the vascular lab, she developed the vascular medicine practice at Altru. She initially worked full time as a vascular technologist with on-call responsibilities, but she received approval to work three days per week in 2001 with no on-call responsibility. According to Yahna, she became coordinator and technical director of the vascular lab in 2006. In February 2012, Altru created a new position for an education and quality assurance coordinator, and hired Derek Todd for that full-time position. According to Yahna, she did not apply for that position because it was full time. She claimed, however, she maintained her position as technical director of the vascular lab and understood she would still be doing quality assurance and reviewing other technologists' films. Yahna claimed Altru required her to work full time with on-call responsibilities in July 2012, and she was terminated on July 2, 2012, after she informed Altru "she would not be able to take call at this time." Yahna was forty-eight years old when she was terminated. The district court granted Altru's motion for summary judgment, concluding there were no disputed issues of material fact that Altru's employment policies and procedures did not abrogate Yahna's at-will employment status with Altru and that her termination did not constitute age discrimination. The court explained the provisions in Altru's employment policy manual unambiguously preserved the presumption of at-will employment and did not evidence an intent that the manual created a contractual right to employment. In rejecting Yahna's age discrimination claim, the court cited the requirements for a prima facie age discrimination claim and said that because Yahna refused to take required on-call responsibilities for an ultrasound technologist she failed to satisfactorily perform the duties of her position and she failed to establish employees outside her protected age class were treated more favorably than her. The court ruled Altru established it terminated Yahna because she refused to take on-call responsibilities for her job and granted summary judgment dismissing her complaint. On appeal, Yahna argued there were disputed issues of material fact on her claims that her termination constituted age discrimination and violated Altru's employment policies and procedures. Finding no error in the district court's decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Yahna v. Altru Health System" on Justia Law

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Respondent-appellant Maurice Thill appealed a district court order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in finding Thill remained a sexually dangerous individual. View "Interest of Thill" on Justia Law

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Robert Hoff appealed a district court order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. The district court found by clear and convincing evidence Hoff remained a sexually dangerous individual. Hoff argued the district court erred in determining that he had a congenital or acquired condition manifested by a sexual disorder, personality disorder or other mental disorder or dysfunction, that he was likely to engage in further acts of sexually predatory conduct and that he had difficulty controlling his behavior. Upon review of the district court record, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding the district court made insufficient findings of fact on whether Hoff had difficulty controlling his behavior. View "Interest of Hoff" on Justia Law

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In early 2013, S.R.B.'s father filed a petition for his involuntary commitment. The petition alleged S.R.B. was mentally ill and there was a reasonable expectation of a serious risk of harm if left untreated. The petition alleged that S.R.B. called a nearby school looking for his daughter, wife, and lover, of which he had none. The petition also alleged S.R.B.'s neighbor saw S.R.B. "walking around his house this morning with nothing on but his underwear shorts." The father requested emergency treatment, noting S.R.B. was not taking his medication. S.R.B. appealed the trial court's order for hospitalization and treatment at the North Dakota State Hospital for ninety days. The Supreme Court held the trial court's findings were insufficient to support the trial court's order, and remanded for expedited findings. On remand, the trial court entered additional findings and issued an amended order. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in finding clear and convincing evidence that supported the order for hospitalization and treatment. View "Interest of S.R.B." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Lindsey Hysjulien appealed a grant of summary judgment which dismissed her claims for employment discrimination and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Hill Top Home of Comfort, Inc. and Greg Armitage. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. However, because genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the running of the statutes of limitations for her state and federal employment discrimination claims and regarding her intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, the court erred in granting summary judgment on these claims. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Hysjulien v. Hill Top Home of Comfort" on Justia Law

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Clinton Gardner appealed a district court judgment that affirmed a North Dakota Department of Transportation hearing officer's decision suspending his driving privileges for one year. Gardner argued that because he wasn't given the implied consent advisory for the request for chemical testing, his conduct could not be deemed a refusal. He also argued he consented to the test when he said "yeah, I'll take the test," but was never given the opportunity to take the test. The administrative officer found the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to believe Gardner was in actual physical control of a vehicle, and had effectively refused the blood test by his conduct despite stating he would take the test. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the hearing officer's decision was supported by the weight of the evidence in the record, and was entitled to deference. View "Gardner v. N.D. Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Tim Clausnitzer appealed the grant of summary judgment that dismissed his lawsuit against Tesoro Refinery and Marketing Company alleging lawful-activity discrimination under the North Dakota Human Rights Act, N.D.C.C. ch. 14-02.4. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court affirmed, concluding Clausnitzer failed to make a prima facie showing that he was a member of a protected class under the Act when Tesoro terminated his employment.

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Respondent-Appellant John Witzke appealed the district court's order granting a petition by Petitioner-Appellee Ania Gonzalez a two-year disorderly conduct restraining order against him. Witzke and Gonzalez were neighbors with "a long acrimonious history," which resulted in frequent litigation. Finding Gonzalez presented sufficient evidence to support the restraining order, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the order.