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In re Didier

Supreme Court of North Dakota

October 29, 2019

In the Matter of Lawrence Didier
v.
Lawrence Didier, Respondent and Appellant Frederick Fremgen, Stutsman County State's Attorney, Petitioner and Appellee

          Appeal from the District Court of Stutsman County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable Cherie LaVonne Clark, Judge.

          Lilie A. Schoenack, Assistant State's Attorney, Jamestown, ND, for petitioner and appellee.

          Tyler J. Morrow, Grand Forks, ND, for respondent and appellant.

          OPINION

          McEvers, Justice.

         [¶1] Lawrence Didier appeals from an order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. On appeal, Didier argues the district court's factual basis was insufficient to legally conclude he met the substantive due process requirement of the inability to control his behavior. Didier also argues he did not receive a fair hearing that comports with procedural due process. We affirm.

         I

         [¶2] Didier has previously been convicted of two counts of sexual assault, one count of gross sexual imposition, and one count of indecent exposure occurring in 1988, 1998, and 2008. After these convictions, in May 2010, the State petitioned the district court to commit Didier as a sexually dangerous individual. In November 2010, the court ordered Didier's commitment pursuant to N.D.C.C. ch. 25-03.3. Didier applied for discharge in April 2018. On January 9, 2019, the court held a hearing on his application. Dr. Deirdre D'Orazio, a doctor of clinical and forensic psychology, completed an annual re-evaluation of Didier. On January 15, 2019, the court issued an order denying Didier's application.

         II

         [¶3] "This Court reviews civil commitments of sexually dangerous individuals under a 'modified clearly erroneous' standard of review." In Interest of Voisine, 2018 ND 181, ¶ 5, 915 N.W.2d 647. "We will affirm a trial court's order denying a petition for discharge unless it is induced by an erroneous view of the law or we are firmly convinced it is not supported by clear and convincing evidence. We give great deference to the court's credibility determinations of expert witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony." In the Interest of Tanner, 2017 ND 153, ¶ 4, 897 N.W.2d 901 (citation omitted). We have explained that the district court is "the best credibility evaluator in cases of conflicting testimony and we will not second-guess the court's credibility determinations." In re Wolff, 2011 ND 76, ¶ 5, 796 N.W.2d 644.

         [¶4] At a discharge hearing, the State bears the burden of proof to show by clear and convincing evidence the committed individual remains a sexually dangerous individual. N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-18(4).

         Under N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-01(8), the State must prove three elements:

(1) the individual has engaged in sexually predatory conduct;
(2) the individual has a congenital or acquired condition that is manifested by a sexual disorder, a personality disorder, or other mental disorder or dysfunction; and (3) the disorder makes the individual likely to engage in further acts of sexually predatory conduct.

Voisine, 2018 ND 181, ¶ 6, 915 N.W.2d 647 (citing Tanner, 2017 ND 153, ΒΆ 4, 897 N.W.2d 901). Additionally, to comport with the statute's language and constitutional substantive due ...


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