Gasser v. Dorgan, 9391

Decision Date19 December 1977
Docket NumberNo. 9391,9391
Citation261 N.W.2d 386
PartiesJerry M. GASSER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Byron L. DORGAN, Tax Commissioner, Office of State Tax Commissioner, State of North Dakota, Defendant-Appellee. Civ.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Jerry M. Gasser, pro se.

Robert W. Wirtz, Special Asst. Atty. Gen., State Tax Dept., Bismarck, for defendant and appellee.

PAULSON, Judge.

The plaintiff, Jerry M. Gasser (hereinafter Gasser), appeals, pro se, from the order of the Grand Forks County District Court entered on July 30, 1977, in which order the court denied Gasser's motion: (1) to quash a subpoena duces tecum which had been issued by the defendant, Byron L. Dorgan, Tax Commissioner, Office of State Tax Commissioner, State of North Dakota (hereinafter Dorgan), against the First National Bank in Grand Forks (hereinafter First National Bank) to obtain certain bank records and documents pertaining to Gasser; and (2) to issue a "permanent restraining order" enjoining Dorgan from obtaining or attempting to obtain any information pertaining to Gasser from the First National Bank. Gasser has also filed, pro se, a During June of 1977, Gasser was sent a letter from the office of the North Dakota Tax Commissioner informing him that the individual income tax forms he filed for the 1976 tax year were incomplete in that they lacked sufficient information from which a tax liability, if any, could be determined. Subsequently, two agents of the North Dakota Tax Commissioner met with Gasser and requested certain business records from him relating to the 1976 tax year. Gasser refused to make the requested records available to the agents. Dorgan then issued, pursuant to subsection 6 of § 57-01-02 and § 57-38-56, of the North Dakota Century Code, an administrative subpoena duces tecum which was served upon First National Bank requesting the bank's controller to appear and testify before Dorgan or his designated agent on July 29, 1977, and to produce, on that date, certain bank records and documents pertaining to Gasser. A copy of the subpoena duces tecum was also served upon Gasser.

motion with this court to suppress the use, in subsequent proceedings, of any evidence acquired by Dorgan from the First National Bank pertaining to Gasser. Dorgan has filed a motion to dismiss Gasser's appeal and a motion to dismiss Gasser's motion to suppress.

On July 26, 1977, Gasser filed, pro se, a complaint and a motion in the Grand Forks County District Court requesting the court to quash the subpoena duces tecum and to permanently enjoin Dorgan from obtaining or attempting to obtain any information pertaining to Gasser from the First National Bank. Gasser raised the following issues as grounds for his requested relief:

(1) Whether Dorgan, acting in his capacity as the North Dakota Tax Commissioner, has authority to issue an administrative subpoena duces tecum without court approval and in noncompliance with the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure;

(2) Whether compliance with the subpoena duces tecum by the First National Bank would constitute an unlawful search and seizure in violation of Gasser's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution; and

(3) Whether compliance with the subpoena duces tecum by the First National Bank would violate Gasser's constitutional rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

A hearing on Gasser's motion was held in the district court at which hearing Gasser appeared, pro se, and Dorgan appeared through counsel. The district court issued an order denying Gasser's motion and dismissing the motion with prejudice against Gasser. In its order the district court concluded that Dorgan was authorized by the North Dakota Legislature to issue an administrative subpoena duces tecum and that the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure were not applicable to its issuance. The district court further concluded that compliance with the subpoena duces tecum by the First National Bank would not constitute a violation of Gasser's Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.

On July 29, 1977, Gasser filed a notice of appeal from the district court's order and also moved for a stay of the order pending his appeal. The district court denied the motion for a stay. On that same date, July 29, 1977, the controller of the First National Bank complied with the subpoena duces tecum by testifying and by permitting a duly authorized agent of the State Tax Commissioner to examine bank records and documents pertaining to Gasser for the year 1976.

On August 8, 1977, Gasser filed with this court a Motion for Mandatory Injunction Pending Appeal from Order Denying Injunction, in which motion he requested this court to order Dorgan to return all materials obtained from the First National Bank until the appeal from the order had been heard. This court denied Gasser's request on the same date, that is, August 8, 1977.

On October 3, 1977, Gasser filed a motion requesting this court to suppress the use, in Dorgan has filed with this court a motion to dismiss Gasser's appeal on the ground that the appeal is moot because the act sought to be enjoined has already been completed. Dorgan has also filed a motion to dismiss Gasser's motion to suppress evidence.

subsequent proceedings, of any evidence acquired by Dorgan from the First National Bank pertaining to Gasser.

Dorgan, through counsel, and Gasser, pro se, have presented oral arguments before this court on the motion to dismiss the appeal, and briefs have been filed by both parties.

In this opinion, we shall consider Dorgan's motion to dismiss Gasser's appeal and Dorgan's motion to dismiss Gasser's motion to suppress evidence.

MOTION TO DISMISS APPEAL

Gasser requests this court on appeal to reverse the order of the district court in which that court refused to quash the subpoena duces tecum or to enjoin Dorgan from obtaining information from the First National Bank pertaining to Gasser. Dorgan requests this court to dismiss Gasser's appeal on the ground that the appeal is moot. Subsequent to the district court's refusal to enjoin the enforcement of the subpoena duces tecum the First National Bank made bank records and documents available to the Tax Commissioner in compliance with the subpoena duces tecum. Dorgan asserts that the appeal from the denial of the injunction is, therefore, moot.

It is well-settled law that the courts cannot render advisory opinions and that an appeal will be dismissed if the issue becomes moot or academic, leaving, no actual controversy to be determined. Peoples State Bank of Velva v. State Bank of Towner, 258 N.W.2d 144 (N.D.1977); Goetz v. Gunsch, 85 N.W.2d 881 (N.D.1957). An appeal becomes moot when by the lapse of time or by events occurring prior to the appellate court's determination the appellate court is unable to render effective relief. Kirchmeier v. Hjelle, 129 N.W.2d 373 (N.D.1964).

The case of Goetz, supra, involved an appeal from an order of the district court denying a stay of execution upon two judgments. Prior to the determination of that appeal both judgments were paid. This court...

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12 cases
  • Spence v. North Dakota Dist. Court
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • April 21, 1980
    ...v. North Dakota Dist. Court, Etc., 271 N.W.2d 574 (N.D.1978); State ex rel. Vogel v. Garaas, 261 N.W.2d 914 (N.D.1978); Gasser v. Dorgan, 261 N.W.2d 386 (N.D.1977). This court will decline to exercise its original jurisdiction unless it is shown that the interests of the State are directly ......
  • State ex rel. Peterson v. Olson, 9999
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    • June 25, 1981
    ...merely incidental but must be of primary importance, and the public must have an interest or right which may be affected. Gasser v. Dorgan, 261 N.W.2d 386 (N.D.1977); State v. Omdahl, 138 N.W.2d 439 The instant case involves matters which are publici juris, i. e., the sovereignty of the Sta......
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    ...the sovereignty of the State, the franchises or prerogatives of the State, or the liberties of its people are affected. Gasser v. Dorgan, 261 N.W.2d 386 (N.D.1977). To warrant the exercise of this Court's original jurisdiction the interest of the State must be primary, not incidental, and t......
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    ...Forum Publishing Co. v. City of Fargo, 391 N.W.2d 169, 170 (N.D.1986); St. Onge v. Elkin, 376 N.W.2d 41, 43 (N.D.1985); Gasser v. Dorgan, 261 N.W.2d 386, 389 (N.D.1977); Peoples State Bank of Velva v. State Bank of Towner, 258 N.W.2d 144, 145 (N.D.1977); Wiederanders v. Wiederanders, 187 N.......
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