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State v. G.C.H

Supreme Court of North Dakota

October 29, 2019

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
G.C.H, Defendant and Appellant

          Certified question from the District Court of Stutsman County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable Cherie L. Clark, Judge.

         CERTIFIED QUESTION NOT ANSWERED, SUPERVISORY JURISDICTION EXERCISED. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART AND REMANDED.

          Joseph Nwoga, Assistant State's Attorney, Jamestown, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Ashley Schell, Fargo Public Defender Office, Fargo, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          CROTHERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] This case is before the Supreme Court on the Stutsman County district court's certified question of law whether a married person under the age of eighteen is a "child" under the Juvenile Court Act. We decline to answer the certified question. However, this is an appropriate case in which to exercise our supervisory jurisdiction and reverse and remand with directions to vacate the judgment and to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         I

         [¶2] G.C.H. is charged with five crimes which allegedly occurred when G.C.H. was sixteen and seventeen years old. G.C.H. was married when the alleged crimes occurred and still is married. G.C.H. filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to his age, claiming the proper jurisdiction was in juvenile court. The district court denied the motion, finding G.C.H. was not a child under North Dakota law because he was married. After other proceedings, G.C.H. filed a motion to certify the question to the North Dakota Supreme Court. The district court granted G.C.H.'s motion and certified the following question:

"Is the Defendant a 'child' under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-04 [sic], who would therefore be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court requiring the District Court to dismiss the above-referenced cases and refer the cases to Juvenile Court?"

         [¶3] G.C.H. argues a married defendant is a "child" under N.D.C.C. § 27-20-02(4)(b) if the individual was under age twenty when the crime is charged, the defendant has committed delinquent acts, and the delinquent acts were allegedly committed while under the age of eighteen. Therefore, G.C.H. argues jurisdiction belongs in the juvenile court rather than the district court.

         II

         [¶4] G.C.H. argues the requirements of N.D.R.App.P. 47.1(a)(1) are met and the Supreme Court should answer the certified question of law. The State did not oppose the motion to certify the question. A state district court may certify questions of law to the Supreme Court when two conditions are met:

"(A) There is a question of law involved in the proceeding that is determinative of the proceeding; and
(B) It appears to the district court that there is no controlling precedent in the decisions of the ...

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