Spring 2019 Gavel Spring Gavel 2019 - Page 26

North Dakota Supreme Court Highlights By Michael J. Morley Author’s Note and Caveat: The following cases of interest were recently decided by the North Dakota Supreme Court. Because the following contain the author’s summary of the decisions, the reader is encouraged to read the entire published decision to determine its precedential value, if any, in a given case. Bindas v. Bindas, 2019 ND 56. Filed 2-25-19. The North Dakota Supreme Court held that N.D.C.C. § 14-05- 24.1(3), which allows a district court to terminate spousal support for a spouse habitually cohabiting with another, in a relationship analogous to a marriage, is not applicable when the parties have a contrary written agreement in their divorce stipulation. In this case, when the spouses terminated their marriage, their dissolution agreement provided one spouse would pay spousal support to the other in the amount of $3,200 per month, until the payee spouse turned 62, until death, or until remarriage of the payee spouse. The parties agreed to the circumstances under which the spousal support would terminate, which did not include cohabitation of the payee spouse as a basis to end the spousal support obligation. The statute provides spousal support terminates in favor of a spouse habitually cohabiting with another in a relationship analogous to marriage, unless the parties have otherwise agreed in writing. Because the parties in this case did otherwise agree in writing, because their divorce agreement specified the only terms under which spousal support ends, with cohabitation not being one of them, the statute did not apply. The spousal support obligation continued in spite of the habitual cohabitation by the payee spouse. Wald v. Benedictine Living Communities, Inc., 2019 ND 31, 921 N.W.2d 905. Filed 1-25-19. This is a potential trap of which to be aware. In this case, the Supreme Court stated a post-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50, N.D.R.Civ.P. constitutes a renewal of the pre-verdict motion and can only be granted on the grounds advanced in the pre-verdict motion. The moral here: Less is not more. Load up on all potentially viable grounds in the pre-verdict motion because you won’t be able to add grounds post-verdict. State v. Hansford, 2019 ND 52, 923 N.W.2d 113. Filed 2-21-19. Corrected opinion page filed 3-26-19. In this gross sexual imposition case, defendant was interviewed by a law enforcement agent before his arrest. Before trial, defendant moved to suppress the written and verbal statements he made in the pre-arrest interview. He argued the statements he made to the agent during the interview were coerced and he was not afforded his Miranda rights. The district court disagreed. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court, concluding, because the defendant went unrestrained to the police station, was told he was free to leave at any time, sat closest to the door during the interview, was interviewed in a room with only one law enforcement agent present, did not show any apprehension about being in the agent’s company, and told the agent he understood he was free to leave at any time, the defendant was not in custody and, therefore, his statements were voluntarily made and his Miranda rights were not violated. The Supreme Court held that the district court did not err in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress and affirmed the criminal judgment. State v. Powley, 2019 ND 51, 923 N.W.2d 123. Filed 2-21-19. In this case, the Supreme Court held that the state of North Dakota has no statutory right to appeal an order of the district court denying the state’s motion to amend a criminal information. Thus, the appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court for a lack of jurisdiction. The more important lesson from this case, however, is where the Supreme Court explained the procedural impact of a district court’s ruling on a motion in limine. The high court held that the pre-trial exclusion of evidence via a motion in limine is a preliminary order regarding the admissibility of evidence and does not dispense with the need for the proponent of the evidence to make an offer of proof at trial so the district court can consider the proffered evidence in the context of other evidence presented during trial. Michael J. Morley received his juris doctor with distinction and was admitted to the Order of the Coif upon graduation from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1979. That same year, he was admitted to practice law in North Dakota State Courts and the United States District Courts for the District of North Dakota. In 1981, he was admitted in the Minnesota State Courts and the United State District Court for the District of Minnesota, as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He is a member of the State Bar Associations of North Dakota and Minnesota and is currently president and shareholder of Morley Law Firm, Ltd., in Grand Forks. 26 THE GAVEL