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In re D.D.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

August 28, 2018

In the Interest of D.D.
v.
D.D., Respondent and Appellant Steven Hill, M.D., Petitioner and Appellee

          Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Donald Hager, Judge.

          Nancy D. Yon, Assistant State's Attorney, Grand Forks, N.D., for petitioner and appellee; submitted on brief.

          Sarah S. Barron, Grand Forks, N.D., for respondent and appellant; submitted on brief.

          OPINION

          TUFTE, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] D.D. appeals a district court order requiring his involuntary hospitalization and treatment, directing law enforcement to seize D.D.'s firearms, and finding that federal and state firearm restrictions applied to him. We affirm the district court's conclusion that the state and federal firearms restrictions are not unconstitutionally vague and apply to D.D. We reverse the order to seize D.D.'s firearms because neither the state nor the district court identified legal authority for issuing a summary seizure order as part of a mental health commitment process.

         I

         [¶ 2] In April 2018, Dr. Steven Hill filed an application for evaluation and emergency admission, request for transportation for emergency detention, and petition for involuntary commitment, alleging that D.D. was mentally ill and in need of emergency treatment. D.D. was admitted to the North Dakota State Hospital. After a preliminary hearing, the district court ordered involuntary hospitalization and treatment at the State Hospital for fourteen days, and found the firearm restrictions under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(d)(4), 922(g)(4), and N.D.C.C. § 62.1-02-01(1)(c) applied.

         [¶ 3] During the treatment hearing, D.D. testified to owning several firearms. He stated that if he was prohibited from possessing firearms, he would sell them. During closing arguments, the petitioner requested that the district court either order D.D. to provide proof of sale of his firearms before he returned to his residence or authorize the sheriff's department to enter D.D.'s home and seize the firearms. The district court found there was clear and convincing evidence that D.D. was mentally ill, a person requiring treatment, and that no alternative treatment other than hospitalization at the State Hospital was appropriate. The court ordered treatment at the State Hospital for a period not to exceed ninety days. The district court again found that the firearm possession restrictions under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(d)(4), 922(g)(4), and N.D.C.C. § 62.1-02-01(1)(c) applied, and ordered that "[l]aw enforcement shall seize all firearms in the Respondent's possession and residence. Respondent may request return for purposes of sale only, and only by delivery of law enforcement to the selling agent."

         [¶ 4] On May 11, 2018, law enforcement seized about 100 firearms from D.D.'s residence. The State Hospital released D.D. three days later. In the notice of release, Dr. Pryatel explained that D.D. "no longer requires hospitalization." Upon petition, the district court ordered less restrictive treatment, allowing D.D. to participate in outpatient treatment.

         II

         [¶ 5] D.D. argues that the federal and state firearm possession restrictions are unconstitutionally vague.

         A

         [¶ 6] The petitioner claims that this constitutional issue is not properly before this Court because D.D. did not comply with N.D.R.App.P. 44. Rule 44 requires that a party questioning the constitutionality of a statute "in which the state or its agency, officer, or employee is not a party in an official capacity" must give written notice to the attorney general upon filing of the record or as soon as the question is raised. The petitioner, Dr. Hill, is a psychiatrist employed by the Northeast Human Service Center, one of eight regional human service centers within the North Dakota Department of Human Services. Dr. Hill was represented by the Grand Forks County State's Attorney's Office, and his participation in this matter was in his official capacity as a state employee acting on behalf of a state agency, as shown by letterhead ...


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