Judge pleased by parts of disciplinary findingBISMARCK (AP) — A district judge who was disciplined by the North Dakota Supreme Court said she was pleased by the court’s conclusion that she did not deliberately withhold evidence when she prosecuted the state’s former workers compensation director.
By: Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press
BISMARCK (AP) — A district judge who was disciplined by the North Dakota Supreme Court said she was pleased by the court’s conclusion that she did not deliberately withhold evidence when she prosecuted the state’s former workers compensation director.
The high court formally admonished Judge Cynthia Feland for failing to turn over an auditor’s memo to Sandy Blunt, a former chief executive of North Dakota’s Workforce Safety and Insurance agency.
The court’s decision concluded Feland’s oversight was not deliberate and did not affect the prosecution of Blunt, who was convicted in December 2008 of a felony charge of misspending state funds. Blunt was fined $2,000 and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service.
Feland said in an emailed statement that she was pleased with the court’s ruling that she did not withhold the memo on purpose.
“It had always been my policy as a prosecutor to provide the defense with all the information in our file,” the judge said in her email late Monday.
Blunt has filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bismarck to seek additional review of his case. His lawsuit contends that Feland deliberately used perjured testimony to convict him.
“I’m hopeful the federal court will see this all a bit differently than the North Dakota Supreme Court,” Blunt’s attorney, Mike Hoffman, said Tuesday.
The memo was written by state auditor Jason Wahl as part of an examination of WSI’s management and spending practices. It said Wahl would not recommend that the agency seek reimbursement of almost $8,000 in moving expenses paid to Dave Spencer, a former agency executive.
During Blunt’s trial, Feland spotlighted the moving-expense dispute as an example of Blunt’s misuse of state funds. She argued Spencer’s employment agreement had called for him to return some expense money if he left the agency voluntarily.
Wahl’s memo concluded Spencer had been forced out, and he was thus not obligated to repay the money. Hoffman argued the memo was favorable to Blunt’s defense and should have been provided, and that Feland’s implication during Blunt’s trial that the money was owed was tantamount to using false testimony.
The Supreme Court concluded Feland was negligent in not providing the memo to Hoffman, but that Blunt’s defense was not harmed because Hoffman had the same information in other documents.