from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial
District, the Honorable Susan J. Solheim, Judicial Referee.
J. Lyson (argued), Fargo, N.D., for plaintiffs and appellees.
R. Vickers (argued), Fargo, N.D., for defendant and
1] Tricia Taylor appeals from orders denying her motions to
quash contempt and for immediate release from incarceration.
We exercise our supervisory jurisdiction and conclude the
judicial referee erred in denying Taylor's motions for
immediate release from incarceration. We reverse.
2] These consolidated cases involve custody disputes between
the mother, Tricia Taylor, and Aarin Nygaard and Terrance
Stanley, the two fathers of her minor children. Stanley and
Taylor were married in 2009 and divorced in 2011. They are
the parents of a child born in 2007. Nygaard and Taylor were
never married but had a child together who was born in 2013.
All of the parties resided in Fargo. Nygaard and Stanley were
eventually awarded primary residential responsibility for
their respective children, and Taylor was granted supervised
visitation. In September 2014, Taylor fled with both of the
minor children to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in
South Dakota, and Nygaard and Stanley have not had any
contact with the children since then.
3] Taylor was found in contempt for violating multiple
district court orders for refusing to return the minor
children to their fathers. In addition, Taylor was arrested
and pled guilty to class C felony parental kidnapping and has
been incarcerated in North Dakota since November 2014. In
January 2015, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court entered a
temporary order awarding custody of the children to
Taylor's sister on the reservation. Shortly before Taylor
was scheduled to be released on parole in November 2015 on
the parental kidnapping conviction, the district court issued
interlocutory orders in both custody cases finding her in
contempt for refusing to return the children to their fathers
and issued warrants for her arrest. Immediately upon her
release from incarceration on the parental kidnapping
conviction, Taylor was served with the arrest warrants and
remained in custody for contempt.
4] At a December 2015 hearing on the interlocutory orders,
Taylor argued she did not have the ability to return the
minor children to their fathers. A judicial referee rejected
the argument in January 2016 and found Taylor was
"voluntarily electing to continue to withhold" the
minor children from their fathers. Taylor requested the
judicial referee to review the contempt findings, and in
March 2016 the referee confirmed her prior rulings and
ordered that Taylor "shall remain in custody until such
time as she returns the minor child[ren] to" their
fathers. Taylor requested the district court to review the
referee's orders, and in April 2016 the court adopted and
affirmed the referee's orders. Taylor did not appeal.
Taylor has not returned the children to their fathers and has
5] In October 2016, Taylor filed motions to quash the
contempt orders and for immediate release from imprisonment,
claiming she had been incarcerated for contempt longer than
the six months authorized under N.D.C.C. §
27-10-01.4(1)(b). On December 7, 2016, the judicial referee
issued identical orders in the two cases stating:
The Court, having considered the pleadings filed by the
parties, having considered the statements and arguments of
counsel, and being otherwise familiar with the entirety of
this matter does find that the evidence suggests that Ms.
Taylor continues to remain in contempt of court as it is
undisputed that the minor child has not yet been returned to
the Plaintiff. However, this matter shall be scheduled for an
Order to Show Cause hearing on December 8, 2016 at 1:00 p.m.
to allow the parties to present further evidence as to that
Defendant's request for immediate release from
incarceration is DENIED. The Court further finds that
Defendant shall remain incarcerated pending the hearing on
December 8, 2016 as she poses a significant flight risk and a
risk to the child's wellbeing.
6] On December 8, 2016, the date for the hearing was
rescheduled to December 14, 2016, but on that day the parties
stipulated to continue the hearing because Taylor's
attorney was ill. The hearing was rescheduled for January 13,
2017, but on ...