Appeal from the Superior Court, Knox County.
Before Dufresne, C.J., and Pomeroy, Wernick, Archibald and
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam.
Lloyd Wayne Northup was convicted of unlawful homicide punishable as murder after a trial by jury. He was thereupon sentenced to serve a life sentence in the Maine State Prison. He seasonably appealed from such judgment of conviction, and the appeal was denied on April 5, 1974. State v. Northup, Me., 318 A.2d 489 (1974).
On October 22, 1974, June Northup filed a complaint, in form for divorce, in the Sixth District Court, Knox Division. In her complaint she described herself as the wife of Lloyd Wayne Northup and alleged that he had been guilty of cruel and abusive treatment. Answer to the complaint was seasonably filed by Lloyd Wayne Northup.
Apparently acting without notice to either June Northup or Lloyd Wayne Northup, the District Court judge dismissed the complaint and assigned as a reason for his dismissal:
"In accordance with the provisions of Title 19, Section 631,
M.R.S.A., the marriage was dissolved by operation of law upon
final conviction and sentence for a life term at the Maine
Lloyd Wayne Northup appealed to the Superior Court. The parties then filed an agreed statement of facts and an agreement "that this action may be reported to the Law Court upon the Complaint, Answer, Agreed Statement of Facts . . . ."
The Superior Court justice then entered an order finding
"that this action involves a question of law of sufficient
importance and doubt as to justify reporting this action to the
Law Court . . . ."
The order then continued:
"It is Ordered that this action be reported to the Law Court
which Court shall, upon the Complaint, Answer, Agreed Statement
of Facts hereto attached, and the decision of the District
Court Judge hereto attached, render such decision as the rights
of the parties require."
We remand the case to the Superior Court so that that court may remand it to the District Court for further action consistent with this opinion.
It is obvious the first question we must decide is whether or not appellant Lloyd Wayne Northup has standing to appeal from the District Court to the Superior Court.
We conclude he has such standing.
In the District Court appellant had joined issue with June Northup's complaint. He was entitled to have that issue resolved. It was error for the District Court to dismiss the complaint without hearing or without an adjudication of the issue ...