from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast
Central Judicial District, the Honorable John A. Thelen,
M. Cailao (argued) and Jon R. Brakke (on brief), Fargo, N.D.,
for plaintiff and appellee.
A. Garaas, Fargo, N.D., for defendant and appellant.
1] Roland Riemers appeals from a district court judgment
awarding CHS Inc. attorney's fees and costs, and from an
order denying Riemers' motion to reopen the case and
close judgment. Riemers also moves for vacation of the
district court's "Corrected Amended Judgment."
Because the district court did not abuse its discretion by
awarding CHS attorney's fees and costs on the basis of a
frivolous motion, we affirm the district court judgment.
However, because the order denying Riemers' motion to
reopen the case and close judgment reflects that the amount
owing to CHS is $679.08, instead of the correct amount of
$549.08, we modify the order, stating that $549.08 is the
outstanding principal balance on the Amended Judgment.
Because the district court lacked jurisdiction, we vacate the
Corrected Amended Judgment.
2] In March 2016, CHS was awarded a money judgment against
Riemers in the amount of $38, 889. In April 2016, Riemers
deposited $41, 100 into an Alerus Bank account, apparently to
be used for garnishment by CHS. In May 2016, on the motion of
CHS, the district court entered an amended judgment
("Amended Judgment") in the sum of $41, 793.72 to
reflect the prejudgment interest accrued. We summarily
affirmed the Amended Judgment as modified, reducing the
prejudgment interest amount by $70.07. See CHS Inc. v.
Riemers, 2016 ND 233, ¶ 1, 888 N.W.2d 205. CHS
began collecting on the Amended Judgment by garnishing funds
that Riemers held at Alerus Bank and Citizens Community
3] In March 2017, Riemers moved to reopen the case and close
judgment ("Motion to Reopen"), arguing that the
Amended Judgment had been fully satisfied. In its brief
opposing the motion ("Return to Riemers' Motion to
Reopen"), CHS moved for attorney's fees and costs.
After a hearing, the district court denied Riemers'
motion and awarded CHS attorney's fees and costs in the
sum of $1, 628.55, concluding the motion and arguments made
therein were frivolous ("Sanction Order").
4] Riemers filed a notice of appeal on August 30, 2017. Oral
argument was heard on February 13, 2018. On February 12,
2018, the district court entered into the record a proposed
judgment from CHS, which stated Riemers owed $549.08 on the
Amended Judgment. The district court adopted that judgment
("Corrected Amended Judgment") on February 14,
5] Riemers argues that the district court abused its
discretion in awarding CHS attorney's fees and costs.
"The district court has authority to stem abuses of the
judicial process, which comes not only from applicable rules
and statutes... but 'from the court's inherent power
to control its docket and to protect its jurisdiction and
judgments, the integrity of the court, and the orderly and
expeditious administration of justice.'" Estate
of Pedro, 2014 ND 237, ¶ 14, 856 N.W.2d 775
(quoting Federal Land Bank v. Ziebarth, 520 N.W.2d
51, 58 (N.D. 1994)).
6] CHS requested attorney's fees under N.D.C.C. §
28-26-01(2), which provides:
In civil actions the court shall, upon a finding that a claim
for relief was frivolous, award reasonable actual and
statutory costs, including reasonable attorney's fees to
the prevailing party. Such costs must be awarded regardless
of the good faith of the attorney or party making the claim
for relief if there is such a complete absence of actual
facts or law that a reasonable person could not have thought
a court would render judgment in that person's favor,
providing the prevailing party has in responsive pleading
alleged the frivolous nature of the claim. This subsection
does not require the award of costs or fees against an
attorney or party advancing a claim unwarranted under
existing law, if it is supported by a good-faith argument for
an extension, modification, or reversal of the existing law.
district court has discretion to determine whether a claim is
frivolous and to determine the reasonable amount of an award
of attorney's fees. Tillich v. Bruce, 2017 ND
21, ¶ 7, 889 N.W.2d 899. "A district court abuses
its discretion if it acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or
unconscionable manner, its decision is not the product of a