from the District Court of Stutsman County, Southeast
Judicial District, the Honorable Thomas E. Merrick, Judge.
K. Demello Rice, Assistant Attorney General, Attorney General
Office, Bismarck, ND, for respondent and appellant.
Timothy Ray Denault, petitioner; no appearance.
1] The State appeals from a district court order granting
Timothy Denault's petition for declaratory relief and
vacating his duty to register as a sexual offender in North
Dakota. We conclude that the court abused its discretion in
granting declaratory relief and that the Minnesota criminal
offense to which Denault pled guilty is equivalent to a North
Dakota offense for purposes of sexual offender registration
under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-15(3)(b). We reverse.
2] In 2000, Denault pled guilty in Clay County, Minnesota, to
violating Minn. Stat. § 609.3451, for lewd exhibition,
gross misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct in the fifth
degree. Denault subsequently moved to North Dakota. In
December 2014, Denault filed a petition and affidavit in the
district court, seeking declaratory relief from being
required to register as a sexual offender in North Dakota.
Denault alleged he had been informed that the North Dakota
attorney general's office determined he was required to
register based on his conviction in Minnesota, despite not
having had to register in Minnesota. He requested the court
to declare the requirement to register as a sexual offender
unlawful, to terminate his registration requirement, and to
remove him from the attorney general's list of sexual
3] In January 2015, Denault filed additional exhibits,
including copies of the complaint and final order from his
criminal case in Minnesota. In June 2016, the district court
issued a notice of default hearing because the State had not
responded to the petition. The State opposed entry of a
default judgment, and the court allowed the State to respond
to Denault's petition. In August 2016, the State filed a
brief opposing Denault's petition for declaratory relief,
arguing N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-15 treats offenders moving
here from out-of-state the same as if convicted in North
Dakota and Denault does not qualify to be exempted from
4] The district court granted Denault's petition, vacated
his sexual offender registration requirement, and ordered him
to be removed from the attorney general's list of sexual
offenders. The court concluded the executive branch had
imposed the registration requirement on Denault, rather than
the judicial branch of government. The court further held the
attorney general's office acted in excess of its
statutory authority and in violation of the North Dakota
Constitution's separation of powers in deciding there was
an equivalent North Dakota offense and by imposing a duty to
register as a sexual offender.
5] The State argues the district court erred in granting
Denault's petition for declaratory relief.
6] We review declaratory judgment actions under the same
standards as other cases. N.D.C.C. § 32-23-07; see
also Nationwide Mut. Ins. Cos. v. Lagodinski,
2004 ND 147, ¶ 7, 683 N.W.2d 903; Hanneman v.
Cont'l W. Ins. Co., 1998 ND 46, ¶ 19, 575
N.W.2d 445. The Declaratory Judgment Act's purpose is
"to settle and to afford relief from uncertainty and
insecurity with respect to rights, status, and other legal
relations, and it is to be construed and administered
liberally." N.D.C.C. § 32-23-12. "The court
may refuse to render or enter a declaratory judgment or
decree if such judgment or decree, if rendered or entered,
would not terminate the uncertainty or controversy giving
rise to the proceeding." N.D.C.C. § 32-23-06.
7] We have said a justiciable controversy must exist, ripe
for a judicial determination. Ramsey Cty. Farm Bureau v.
Ramsey Cty., 2008 ND 175, ¶ 22, 755 N.W.2d 920;
Saefke v. Stenehjem, 2003 ND 202, ¶ 12, 673
N.W.2d 41. "The Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act does
not give a court the power to render advisory opinions or
determine questions not essential to the decision of an
actual controversy." Richland Cty. Water Res. Bd. v.
Pribbernow, 442 N.W.2d 916, 918 (N.D.1989) (quoting
Davis v. Dairyland Cty. Mut. Ins. Co. of Texas, 582
S.W.2d 591, 593 (Tex. Civ. App. 1979)). Under N.D.C.C.
§32-23-06, "the [district] court's decision to
grant or deny a request for a declaratory judgment is
discretionary." Nodak Mutual Ins. Co. v.
Wamsley, 2004 ND 174, ¶ 7, 687 N.W.2d 226. The
court's decision will not be set aside on appeal absent
an abuse of its discretion. Id.
8] In granting Denault's petition for declaratory relief,
the district court granted relief as a matter of law on legal
grounds based on undisputed facts, akin to a summary
judgment. Our standard for reviewing summary judgment is also
Summary judgment is a procedural device for promptly
disposing of a lawsuit without a trial if there are no
genuine issues of material fact or inferences which can
reasonably be drawn from undisputed facts, or if the only
issues to be resolved are questions of law. Whether summary
judgment was properly granted is a question of law which we
review de novo on the entire record. On appeal, this Court
decides if the information available to the trial court
precluded the existence of a genuine issue of material fact
and entitled the moving party to summary judgment as a matter
Ramsey Cty., 2008 ND 175, ¶ 6, 755 N.W.2d 920
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