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Sandahl v. City Council of City of Larimore

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 20, 2016

Lonny C. Sandahl and Lilian K. Sandahl, Appellants
v.
City Council of City of Larimore, Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Lolita G. Hartl Romanick, Judge.

          Erik A. Escarraman, for appellants.

          Joseph E. Quinn (argued), Assistant City Attorney, and Daniel L. Gaustad (on brief), City Attorney, for appellee.

          OPINION

          Kapsner, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Lonny and Lilian Sandahl appeal from a judgment denying their request to submit additional evidence and affirming a City of Larimore decision finding a building on their property was dangerous and unsafe and ordering demolition of the building. We conclude the Sandahls' self-represented notice of appeal to the district court was not timely under N.D.C.C. § 28-34-01 and Zajac v. Traill Cty. Water Res. Dist., 2016 ND 134, and we vacate the judgment and remand to the district court to dismiss the appeal.

         I

         [¶ 2] In September 2014, Larimore served the Sandahls with a notice of a public nuisance and order to repair or demolish buildings on three parcels of their property in Larimore, including a building at 107 Pate Avenue. The Sandahls appeared at a public hearing before the Larimore City Council on March 2, 2015, to contest the designation of the building as a public nuisance. At that meeting, the Larimore City Council determined the building was unsafe and dangerous and ordered demolition of the building. On March 3, 2015, Larimore issued a written decision stating the building was an unsafe and dangerous dwelling and deemed an excessive burden to rehabilitate. Larimore's written decision ordered the Sandahls to demolish the building within thirty days. On March 5, 2015, Larimore issued a notice of findings of fact and order for demolition, and the documents were served on the Sandahls on March 12, 2015, by the sheriff of Grand Forks County.

         [¶ 3] On April 13, 2015, the Sandahls filed with the district court a self-represented notice of appeal under N.D.C.C. § 28-34-01, and through counsel, subsequently moved to submit additional evidence under N.D.C.C. § 28-34-01(3). The court denied the Sandahls' motion to submit additional evidence and affirmed Larimore's decision ordering demolition of the building.

         II

         [¶ 4] Although not raised by Larimore and not examined by the district court, we initially consider a jurisdictional issue involving the timeliness of the Sandahls' appeal to the district court under N.D.C.C. § 28-34-01. An appeal from an administrative decision to a district court invokes that court's appellate jurisdiction, not its original jurisdiction. See Lende v. North Dakota Workers' Comp. Bureau, 1997 ND 178, ¶ 10, 568 N.W.2d 755. A district court's appellate jurisdiction over administrative orders is governed by statute. Id. "The right to appeal is a jurisdictional matter which we may consider sua sponte." Id. (quoting In re J.K.M., 557 N.W.2d 229, 230 (N.D. 1996)).

         [¶ 5] Section 28-34-01, N.D.C.C., deals with appeals from local governing bodies and provides, in part:

This section, to the extent that it is not inconsistent with procedural rules adopted by the North Dakota supreme court, governs any appeal provided by statute from the decision of a local governing body, except those court reviews provided under sections 2-04-11 and 40-51.2-15. For the purposes of this section, "local governing body" includes any officer, board, commission, resource or conservation district, or other political subdivision. Each appeal is governed by the following procedure:
1. The notice of appeal must be filed with the clerk of the court within thirty days after the decision of the local governing body. A copy of the notice of appeal must be served on the local governing body in the manner provided by rule 4 of the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure.

         [¶ 6] In Zajac, 2016 ND 134, ΒΆΒΆ 7-8, we recently considered a similar issue about the timeliness of an appeal to the district court from a ...


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