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Hamilton v. State

Supreme Court of North Dakota

March 7, 2017

v.
v.
State of North Dakota, Respondent and Appellee Adam Scott Hamilton, Petitioner and Appellant

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

         AFFIRMED.

          Benjamin C. Pulkrabek, for petitioner and appellant.

          Haley L. Wamstad (argued) and Meredith H. Larson (on brief), Grand Forks County State's Attorney, for respondent and appellee.

          CROTHERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] Adam Hamilton appeals from the district court judgment denying him post-conviction relief. Hamilton argues the district court erred in denying his application for post-conviction relief because he did not have the ability at the hearing to communicate and transmit documents with his attorney. Hamilton also argues the district court erred in denying his transport order because he had a right to be personally present at the hearing. We affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] Hamilton pled guilty to continuous sexual abuse of a child and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. This Court summarily affirmed the criminal judgment. State v. Hamilton, 2013 ND 113, ¶ 3, 837 N.W.2d 159. Hamilton applied for post-conviction relief, arguing he received ineffective assistance of counsel, violations of N.D.R.Crim.P. 11 and his attorney failed to object to a coerced confession that led to his conviction. Hamilton requested a transport order to allow him to personally appear at the evidentiary hearing. The district court denied his request, stating Hamilton provided no authority establishing his right to personally appear at the hearing. Hamilton's attorney filed an "affidavit" requesting an order allowing Hamilton to testify in compliance with the North Dakota Department of Corrections' policy for telephonic hearings in civil cases. The district court entered the requested order, allowing Hamilton to testify by telephone for no more than 30 minutes.

         [¶ 3] At the hearing held on February 10, 2016, Hamilton participated and testified by telephone. Hamilton immediately objected to the hearing, citing N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 52, § 2(D) and (E), because he was not allowed to privately confer with his attorney and he had no means of exchanging documents with his attorney. The district court overruled his objection, stating the rules did not apply to the hearing because it was not an interactive television proceeding.

         [¶ 4] During Hamilton's testimony he sought to introduce a 290-page exhibit consisting of documents regarding the effects of medication he was taking at the time of his arrest. Hamilton's attorney was not aware of the documents prior to the hearing. The district court allowed Hamilton's attorney to obtain the documents after the hearing and file them with the district court, subject to the State's objections. The State objected to the document. Written closing arguments were filed by Hamilton. The district court entered an order denying Hamilton's application for post-conviction relief. A judgment was entered denying Hamilton post-conviction relief. Hamilton appeals.

         II

         [¶ 5] Hamilton argues the district court erred in denying his application for post-conviction relief. "Post-conviction relief proceedings are civil in nature and are governed by the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure. In post-conviction relief proceedings, a district court's findings of fact will not be disturbed unless they are clearly erroneous under N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(a)." Patterson v. State, 2016 ND 212, ¶ 6, 886 N.W.2d 684 (quoting Syvertson v. State, 2005 ND 128, ¶ 4, 699 N.W.2d 855).

         [¶ 6] Hamilton argues the district court erred because he could not confer with his counsel or exchange documents during the evidentiary hearing. Specifically, Hamilton contends had he been able to consult with his attorney during the hearing he would have presented an exhibit he deemed relevant to his case. At the hearing Hamilton objected under N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 52, § 2(D) and (E), arguing he did not have the ability to consult with his counsel and he was unable to transmit documents. The district court overruled his objection, stating:

"The Court has before it North Dakota Administrative Rule 52, Subpart 2(D) and (E) and that rule reads as follows. Subpart (D) reads: Each interactive television site must provide a facility for a confidential attorney-client conference. There are two reasons that subpart does not apply today. This is not an interactive television site. Secondly, this is not an attorney-client conference. Subpart (E) provides: A method for electronic transmission of documents must be available at each interactive televison site for use in conjunction with an interactive television proceeding. Because ...

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