from the District Court of Foster County, Southeast Judicial
District, the Honorable James D. Hovey, Judge. AFFIRMED.
E. Brinster, Jamestown, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.
Nyberg, Fargo, ND, for defendant and appellant.
VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
1] Robert Neal Riddle appealed from a district court order
denying his motion for new trial. We affirm.
2] On October 14, 2016, a trial was held to settle the
distribution of debts and assets between then husband and
wife, Mona and Robert Riddle. Mona Riddle and Robert Riddle
had previously entered a settlement agreement which was
rescinded after Mona Riddle discovered Robert Riddle had
concealed disability income and lied about various marital
3] Due to a travel or scheduling conflict, Robert Riddle did
not attend the trial. Robert Riddle did not make any
pre-trial motions asking for a continuance or to be
telephonically connected during the proceeding. Shortly
before the trial began, counsel met in chambers and the
district court permitted Robert Riddle to phone-in and make
arrangements with the clerk to be connected. Robert Riddle
was able to phone-in during part of the two-hour proceeding,
but was disconnected at some point during the trial. Mona
Riddle testified to various valuations of debts and assets in
both her and Robert Riddle's possession. Robert Riddle
did not testify. His counsel did not call any witnesses,
offer any exhibits, and did not provide an 8.3 Property and
4] On February 22, 2017, the notice of entry of judgment was
served on Robert Riddle. The district court's order
analyzed the Ruff-Fischer guidelines and awarded Robert
Riddle approximately 47% and Mona Riddle 52% of the marital
estate. On March 16, 2017, Robert Riddle filed a motion for
new trial arguing there was an irregularity in the proceeding
and newly discovered evidence. The district court denied
Robert Riddle's motion because he failed to present
grounds for new trial provided in N.D.R.Civ.P. 59(b)(1) and
5] "A district court's decision whether to grant or
deny a new trial under N.D.R.Civ.P. 59(b) rests entirely
within its discretion, and our review of a denial of a new
trial motion is limited to deciding whether the court
manifestly abused its discretion." Carroll v.
Carroll, 2017 ND 73, ¶ 9, 892 N.W.2d 173. "A
district court abuses its discretion when it acts in an
arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner, when it
misinterprets or misapplies the law, or when its decision is
not the product of a rational mental process leading to a
reasoned determination." Id.
6] In his motion for new trial, Robert Riddle argued his
counsel's conduct created an irregularity in the
proceeding warranting a new trial under N.D.R.Civ.P.
59(b)(1). Robert Riddle also argued a new trial was necessary
under N.D.R.Civ.P. 59(b)(4) because his counsel's failure
to present relevant evidence at trial unfairly prejudiced
him. Rule 59(b)(1) and (4) provides:
The court may, on motion of an aggrieved party, vacate the
former verdict or decision and grant a new trial on any of
the following grounds materially affecting the substantial
rights of the party:
(1) irregularity in the proceedings of the court, jury, or
adverse party, or any court order or abuse of discretion that