Appeal from the District Court of Dickey County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable Daniel D. Narum, Judge.
Gary D. Neuharth, Dickey County State's Attorney, Ellendale, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee.
Jonathan R. Byers, Office of the Attorney General, Bismarck, N.D., for interested party and appellant.
Mark A. Friese (argued) and Neil J. Roesler (appeared), Fargo, N.D., for interested party and appellee.
Dale V. Sandstrom, Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, William F. Hodny, S.J., Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by Sandstrom, Justice.
Dale V. Sandstrom, Justice.
[¶1] The State appeals from a district court order finding Arnie Rummel in contempt of court and awarding remedial contempt sanctions to Darrell Schrum. Although it appears undisputed that Rummel secured a search warrant to seize a payloader as evidence of a crime, while intending to hand it over immediately to a non-law enforcement party, we conclude the district court erred in ordering Rummel and the Attorney General to pay compensatory remedial contempt sanctions without first requiring compliance with the statutory requirements for claims against the State. We reverse and remand.
[¶2] On May 20, 2014, Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Arnie Rummel applied for a search warrant for the Darrell Schrum Trucking Shop in Dickey County, claiming there was probable cause to believe a stolen New Holland payloader was being concealed in the shop. The district court issued the search warrant to seize the payloader as evidence of a crime and commanding that it be brought before the court. Rummel executed the search warrant two days later and took custody of the payloader. Rummel immediately handed the payloader over to a non-law enforcement, non-government party who trucked the payloader out of North Dakota.
[¶3] On June 4, 2014, Schrum moved for return of property under N.D.R.Crim.P. 41, and a new case number was opened for the motion. Schrum claimed he purchased the payloader as a good-faith purchaser and requested the court order the property be returned to
him immediately or, alternatively, the property not be transferred or transported further until the ownership issues were resolved. Schrum alleged he purchased the payloader from Jay Hansell in Iowa for $13,500, and Hansell acquired the payloader from Greg Luss in Tennessee for partial satisfaction of a debt Luss owed Hansell. Schrum claimed he asked Hansell for assurances the payloader was not stolen, his insurance company confirmed it was not stolen, he assumed the asking price reflected the significant amount of work and repair the payloader needed, and the payloader was not reported stolen until one month after he had purchased it and had spent significant amounts of time and money into making the payloader operational. He argued he is a good-faith purchaser, the rights of the parties involved needed to be resolved in a civil forum, and the seizure of the payloader under " criminal rules" was inappropriate.
[¶4] The district court held a hearing on June 4, 2014. The Dickey County state's attorney and an assistant attorney general appeared on behalf of the State. Schrum and Rummel testified. After the hearing, the court granted Schrum's motion and ordered the State and Rummel to return the payloader to the Dickey County Sheriff for safekeeping by June 6, 2014.
[¶5] On June 10, 2014, Schrum moved for contempt and requested remedial contempt sanctions. Schrum claimed the search warrant required law enforcement to seize the payloader and bring it before the court, Rummel released the payloader to a trucking company without authorization, and the payloader was taken out of the state. Schrum contended the court ordered Rummel to return the property to Dickey County, but Rummel did not comply with the court's order. He reported the payloader was in Mexico and later advised counsel the payloader was in Texas. Schrum requested the court order Rummel and the State to reimburse him for the loss and injury he incurred as a result of the contempt in an amount to be determined following a hearing, but not less than $34,148.24, which included compensating him for the cost of the payloader, the expenses he incurred repairing the payloader, the travel expenses he incurred to purchase the payloader in Iowa, insurance, and other expenses. Schrum also requested remedial contempt sanctions of $2,000 per day until the payloader was returned to Dickey County.
[¶6] The Dickey County state's attorney responded to the motion and claimed it did not participate in the removal of the payloader from Schrum's property, it did not participate in transferring the payloader to the trucking company, and the sheriff only provided security for Rummel and other agents during the execution of the warrant. The Attorney General responded to the motion, disputing Schrum's factual allegations and arguing the proceeding should not be used as a civil action for Schrum to litigate his civil claims.
[¶7] On September 2, 2014, the district court held a hearing, and the court found Rummel was in contempt and said it planned to order Rummel and the State to pay contempt sanctions to compensate Schrum in the amount of $48,839.74 for the value of the property and other costs. The Attorney General objected to the process used and argued the court was giving Schrum the equivalent of a civil judgment without a complaint or summons, litigation on the ownership of the payloader, discovery, and notice the court ...