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ND Supreme: 6-Month Sentence for Contempt Binding

by David Reutter

The North Dakota Supreme Court held that N.D.C.C. 27-10-01.4(1)(b) prohibits a prisoner’s incarceration for contempt of court for more than six months where no specific extension was ordered by the district court or referees.

Tricia Taylor was granted visitation with her two children, but custody was granted to their fathers. In 2015, Taylor fled to the South Dakota Cheyenne River Indian Reservation with the children. She obtained an order from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court awarding temporary custody of the children to her sister.

She was arrested for parental kidnapping, and when released, she was arrested for contempt of court for failing to obey the court’s order to return custody to their fathers. In 2016, in interlocutory review, Taylor asserted that she could not return custody as ordered. Judicial referees and the district court upheld the contempt conviction, and Taylor did not appeal.

After serving six months for contempt, Taylor filed a motion to quash the contempt and grant immediate release per N.D.C.C. 27-10-01.4(1)(b). The district court denied the motion, and Taylor appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court.

The Court reversed the district court’s denial, holding that where the referees and district court failed to find that six months in prison would be “ineffectual to terminate” the contempt, Taylor could not be legally detained longer than the six months provided per rule. 

See: Nygaard v. Taylor, 2017 ND 206, (N.D. Aug. 29, 2017).


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Related legal case

Nygaard v. Taylor