Williams v. North Dakota State Highway Com'r, 870161

Decision Date29 December 1987
Docket NumberNo. 870161,870161
Citation417 N.W.2d 359
PartiesDouglas C. WILLIAMS, Petitioner and Appellee v. NORTH DAKOTA STATE HIGHWAY COMMISSIONER, Respondent and Appellant. Civ.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Hjellum, Weiss, Nerison, Jukkala, Wright & Paulson, Jamestown, for petitioner and appellee.

Steven F. Lamb, Asst. Atty. Gen., State Highway Dept., Bismarck, for respondent and appellant.

GIERKE, Justice.

The North Dakota State Highway Commissioner (Commissioner) appeals from a district court judgment reversing the Commissioner's suspension of Douglas C. Williams' driving privileges. We reverse and remand.

Following his August 8, 1986, arrest for driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, Williams requested and received an administrative hearing under Sec. 39-20-05, N.D.C.C. One of the issues at the administrative hearing was "whether the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to believe the person had been driving or was in actual physical control of a vehicle in violation of section 39-08-01 or equivalent ordinance." Section 39-20-05(2), N.D.C.C. On August 21, 1986, the Commissioner's hearing officer determined that the arresting officer had such reasonable grounds and suspended Williams' driving privileges for a period of 91 days.

Pursuant to Sec. 39-20-06, N.D.C.C., Williams appealed the Commissioner's decision to the district court. While the appeal was pending, Williams filed a motion requesting the district court to reverse the Commissioner's decision. The motion was based upon a November 19, 1986, county court Opinion and Order granting Williams' motion to suppress evidence in a criminal proceeding arising from the August 8 arrest. In that Opinion and Order, the county court stated:

"The motion was heard on November 10, 1986, and there were two versions of the events that lead [sic] to the halting of the defendant.

"If one were to accept the arresting officer's description of those events, one would conclude that there was cause to stop the defendant. If one were to accept the description of those events as put forth by the defendant and his passengers, one would conclude there was not cause to make the stop. 1

"I have examined the record and find that the officer's testimony about those events was inconsistent with prior testimony and unduly indefinite and vague. On the other hand the witnesses for the defense testified in a very definite and consistent manner.

"Therefore, I determine the facts to be as set forth by the defense and accordingly grant the defendant's motion to suppress."

The district court determined that the county court decision was res judicata and, without reviewing the administrative decision, granted Williams' motion to reverse the Commissioner's decision. Judgment was entered and the Commissioner appealed.

The issue on appeal is whether an intervening county court decision on the issue of reasonable grounds or probable cause to arrest is res judicata in an appeal from the administrative decision. We conclude that it is not and reverse the district court judgment.

"Res judicata means that a valid, existing final judgment from a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive, with regard to the issues raised, or those that could have been raised, and determined therein, as to the parties and their privies in all other actions." Peacock v. Sundre Township, 372 N.W.2d 877, 878 (N.D.1985). "The purpose of the doctrine is to require a definite termination of litigation and to prevent the multiplicity, waste, and harassment which would result if a party could compel an adversary to re-litigate matters previously raised at issue and determined." Oakes Mun. Airport Auth. v. Wiese, 265 N.W.2d 697, 700 (N.D.1978). Relying on Sea-Land Services, Inc. v. Gaudet, 414 U.S. 573, 94 S.Ct. 806, 39 L.Ed.2d 9 (1974), Williams also points out that the doctrine of res judicata promotes consistency of results and economy of judicial time, both of which interests would be advanced by application of the doctrine in this case.

The Legislature's authorization of both criminal and administrative proceedings upon the arrest of a motorist for driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor indicates an intention to permit some...

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12 cases
  • Beylund v. Levi
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • February 16, 2017
    ...under § 39–20–05, N.D.C.C., ‘is an exercise of the police power for the protection of the public.’ " Williams v. North Dakota State Highway Com'r, 417 N.W.2d 359, 360 (N.D. 1987) [quoting Asbridge v. North Dakota State Highway Com'r, 291 N.W.2d 739, 750 (N.D. 1980) ]. One of the purposes of......
  • State v. Stewart
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • July 29, 1999
    ...under the influence indicated an intent to permit some issues to be litigated twice. Id. at 82. See also Williams v. North Dakota State Highway Comm'r, 417 N.W.2d 359, 360 (N.D.1987) (holding decision suppressing evidence in DUI prosecution was not res judicata in appeal from administrative......
  • Miller v. Epling
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • June 21, 2012
    ...acquittal or a nol pros in a later civil proceeding involving the same or similar underlying conduct.”); Williams v. North Dakota State Highway Comm'r, 417 N.W.2d 359, 360 (N.D.1987) (administrative license revocation proceedings are civil in nature, separate and distinct from the criminal ......
  • State v. Storbakken
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • July 18, 1996
    ...the issue was resolved against the State in the administrative proceeding. We considered a similar issue in Williams v. North Dakota State Highway Com'r, 417 N.W.2d 359 (N.D.1987). After being arrested for driving under the influence, Williams requested and received an administrative hearin......
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