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Grand Forks man wins right to take $20 ticket to trial

The North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that a candidate for Grand Forks County sheriff has a right to a jury trial in the case of a $20 traffic ticket.

Roland Riemers, who's one of six candidates running for sheriff, was involved in a vehicle crash in July 2009 in Grand Forks, and an officer cited him for following too closely.

Riemers, 66, Grand Forks, said he considered paying the $20 ticket, but decided to fight it after he learned the other motorist's insurance wouldn't cover his medical bills or the cost of the damage to his vehicle because he had been cited and was considered at fault in the crash. He said he's suing the other motorist for $80,000.

Riemers took the ticket case to the state Supreme Court, representing himself, after the Grand Forks Municipal Court refused his request for a jury trial.

Three justices of the five-member state Supreme Court issued a ruling Tuesday that says Riemers has a right to a trial, while two justices issued a dissenting opinion. The higher court's decision requires that Riemers' case be sent to state District Court for a trial.

It was Judge Henry Eslinger of Municipal Court who initially denied Riemers' request for a trial. As a judge, Eslinger is barred from giving his opinion on the justices' decision, but did say the decision, which allows tickets of $20 or more to be taken to trial, could make the District Court system busier.

"It'll cause a great deal more of work for the District Court for things that we didn't think meritorious of a jury trial," Eslinger said.

Riemers said he doesn't think the ruling will have much effect on the court system.

"Even if you publish it on the front page of the paper, six weeks from now everybody will have forgotten it," he said.