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State v. Kolbjornsen

Supreme Court of Nebraska

December 2, 2016

State of Nebraska, appellee,
Frantz G. Kolbjornsen, appellant.

         1. Judgments: Speedy Trial: Appeal and Error. Ordinarily, a trial court's determination as to whether charges should be dismissed on speedy trial grounds is a factual question which will be affirmed on appeal unless clearly erroneous.

         2. Judgments: Statutes: Appeal and Error. To the extent an appeal calls for statutory interpretation or presents questions of law, an appellate court must reach an independent conclusion irrespective of the determination made by the court below.

         3. Speedy Trial: Prisoners. The statutory procedure under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-3805 (Reissue 2016), rather than the procedure under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-1207 (Reissue 2016), applies to instate prisoners.

         4. Judgments: Appeal and Error. A correct result will not be set aside merely because the lower court applied the wrong reasoning in reaching that result.

         5. Good Cause: Words and Phrases. Good cause means a substantial reason; one that affords a legal excuse.

         6. __:__. Good cause is something that must be substantial, but also a factual question dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

         Appeal from the District Court for Hall County: William T. Wright, Judge. Affirmed.

          Gerard A. Piccolo, Hall County Public Defender, for appellant.

          Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Kimberly A. Klein for appellee.

         [295 Neb. 232] Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy. Kelch, and Funke, JJ.

          Cassel, J.


         Frantz G. Kolbjornsen appeals from a criminal case order denying relief under two different "speedy trial" statutes.[1]Because Kolbjornsen was a Nebraska prisoner at all relevant times, only one statute applied-the one governing intrastate detainers.[2] We conclude that the district court's determination that courtroom unavailability established good cause to extend the time in which to try Kolbjornsen was not clearly erroneous, and we affirm.


         In September 2014, Kolbjornsen began serving sentences imposed for criminal offenses committed in Hamilton County, Nebraska. Approximately 2 months later, the State filed a complaint in the county court for Hall County, alleging that Kolbjornsen committed assault on a peace officer in the third degree. On December 16, the State received a letter from the Department of Correctional Services stating that Kolbjornsen was requesting a quick and speedy disposition of two untried charges, one of which was the charge for assault on a peace officer in the third degree. The State later amended the charge to assault by a confined person, and Kolbjornsen was bound over to the district court after a preliminary hearing. On March 3, 2015, the State filed an information charging Kolbjornsen with assault by a confined person.

         In May 2015, the State filed a motion requesting the district court to advance Kolbjornsen's trial "for speedy trial requirements" and requesting a hearing date as soon as possible. During a hearing on the motion, the court stated that it would [295 Neb. 233] advance the trial from August until May 27 or 28. On May 22. Kolbjornsen moved for continuance, stating that the defense was not ready to proceed to trial. The district court thereafter granted the motion and continued the matter until August 26.

         On August 12, 2015, the district court held a final plea hearing. During the hearing, Kolbjornsen's counsel stated that Kolbjornsen did not "have a problem" if his trial was not held in August. The court explained that various jury courtrooms were going to be unavailable during renovations to the building, including the courtroom in which Kolbjornsen's trial was to be held. After the bailiff said "no jury trials" for October and November, Kolbjornsen's counsel asked, "Could we shoot for October . . . and see if something breaks[?]" The court responded, "Well, basically, what we have been told is nothing is available for October." The court continued the trial until December 16.

         On December 7, 2015, Kolbjornsen filed two motions. One motion requested absolute discharge under § 29-1207. The other motion sought to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction under § 29-3805.

         During a hearing on the motions before Judge William T. Wright, the district court received exhibits and heard testimony of witnesses. Evidence established that the district court for Hall County had two district courtrooms large enough to accommodate jury trials and that those courtrooms were shared by three district judges. In 2015, Hall County began repairs within the courthouse and repairs to the courtrooms were scheduled to begin in October. The courtrooms were unavailable while being repaired. Since October, only one jury courtroom was available for all district court cases. Each of the three district judges was assigned specific dates to conduct jury trials during October through December. The evidence showed that Judge Wright conducted a criminal jury trial for a different individual on August 26 and 27. Judge Wright's bailiff stated in an affidavit that the judge was scheduled to preside over 26 criminal jury trials for June through August in Hall County [295 Neb. 234] and 27 such trials for September through December. The bailiff stated that Judge Wright also was presiding over additional cases in Buffalo County during those times, in addition to civil cases in both Hall County and Buffalo County. The bailiff stated that "all hearings and trials were calendared and docketed at the earliest . . . date available to the court for such purpose" and that "there weren't any earlier available dates to set this case for hearings or trial."

         The district court denied Kolbjornsen's motions. The court found that renovations caused one of the two district court courtrooms to be unusable for jury trials for substantial periods. The order stated that repairs to courtrooms in which jury trials could be held were scheduled to begin in October 2015. that the repairs had not been completed at the time of the order, and that the courtrooms were not available for use while being repaired. The order further stated that from October 25 to the end of 2015, only one jury courtroom was available for all district court cases due to repair work. The court found that all three of the district judges were using one jury courtroom during the months of October, November, and December, and that each district judge was assigned specific dates to conduct jury trials within that timeframe. As to Kolbjornsen's motion under § 29-1207, the court determined that the period from August 26 to December 16 should be excluded under § 29-1207(4)(b) and (f). With regard to Kolbjornsen's motion under § 29-3805, the court found that the reasons it gave on August 12 to continue the matter to ...

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