EN BANC CALENDAR
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Monday, May 4, 2009, 9:00 a.m.
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Jeremy Jackson, Appellant – Case No. A08-624: Appellant Jeremy Jackson was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder and first-degree murder committed for the benefit of a gang; this is a direct appeal from that conviction. Under Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.01, subd. 1, the prosecution is required to disclose before trial the names and addresses of intended prosecution witnesses and to provide the defense with access to any written or recorded statements by those intended witnesses. However, if the prosecution certifies to the court that providing the defense with that information may endanger the integrity of a continuing investigation or subject such witnesses or others to physical harm or coercion, subdivision 3(2) of Rule 9.01 allows the prosecution to postpone disclosure until the witnesses are sworn to testify at the trial. After the prosecution so certified ten intended witnesses, the district court ordered the prosecution to provide defense counsel with redacted copies of the witnesses’ statements to police. Defense counsel was permitted to examine, but not copy, unredacted versions of the documents. Defense counsel was barred from disclosing certain information, including the identities of the witnesses, to Jackson himself until the start of the trial. Jackson asks the supreme court to decide whether, by blocking his access to the identities of the witnesses against him and to unredacted copies of their statements to police, the district court violated his right to a fair trial. In addition, Jackson asks the court to decide whether his right to a fair trial was violated by the introduction of irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial evidence, including testimony by lay witnesses and police officers concerning the culture and activities of gangs. (Hennepin County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Everado Cruz-Ramirez, Appellant – Case No. A08-1420: Appellant Everado Cruz-Ramirez was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder and attempted murder after a drive-by shooting that resulted in the death of one person and injuries to three others. On direct appeal from the conviction, Cruz presents the following issues: (1) whether the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder was premeditated or that Cruz intended to kill any of the victims; (2) whether the district court erred in its instructions to the jury; (3) whether the admission of testimony by an expert on gang behavior deprived Cruz of a fair trial; and (4) whether the district court erred in entering judgment on all 18 counts of the indictment (six counts of first-degree murder and 12 counts of attempted murder) when Cruz committed at most one murder and three attempted murders. (Hennepin County)
Tuesday, May 5, 2009, 9:00 a.m.
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Tyeric Lamar Lessley, Respondent – Case No. A08-1926: Respondent Tyeric Lessley, charged with second-degree murder, waived his right to a jury trial over the prosecution’s objection. The prosecution asked the district court judge hearing the case to recuse himself. The district court judge declined to recuse and the prosecution’s motion to remove the district court judge from the case was denied by the chief judge of the district. The prosecution then appealed the district court’s rulings to the court of appeals, which dismissed the appeal on grounds that the prosecution had failed to show that the district court’s rulings had a critical impact on the state’s ability to prosecute the case. Three issues are before the supreme court on the prosecution’s appeal: (1) whether the chief judge of the district erred in not reassigning the matter to a different district court judge; (2) whether the district court erred in allowing Lessley to waive a jury trial; and (3) whether Article I, § 4 of the Minnesota Constitution requires that the state agree to a defendant’s waiver of a jury trial in a criminal case. (Hennepin County)
Rachel Fleeger, Plaintiff vs. Wyeth, and its division Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Defendants, Greenstone, Ltd., Defendant – Case No. A08-2124: Plaintiff Rachel Fleeger contends that hormone replacements prescribed for her beginning in 1995 caused her to develop breast cancer, which was diagnosed in 2001. Fleeger, a Pennsylvania resident, sued defendants Wyeth (incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New Jersey), its division Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (headquartered in Pennsylvania), and Greenstone, Ltd. (a Delaware limited liability company headquartered in New Jersey), all manufacturers of hormone replacement drugs, in federal court in Minnesota. Fleeger’s case was transferred by the federal Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, where thousands of similar cases are pending. See In re Prempro Products Liability Litigation, MDL-1507 (E.D. Ark.). After the case was transferred, defendants Wyeth and Greenstone moved for summary judgment on grounds that Fleeger’s claims were time-barred. Under the laws of Pennsylvania, where Fleeger lives, injured plaintiffs have two years in which to file suit. Under the laws of Minnesota, where Fleeger’s lawsuit was filed, injured plaintiffs have six years in which to file suit. See Minn. Stat. § 541.05, subd. 1(10) (2008) (prescribing that actions for tort resulting in personal injury must be filed within six years).
Until 1977, Minnesota law provided that when a case arose outside of Minnesota that was time-barred under the laws of the place where it arose, such case could be filed in Minnesota only if the plaintiff was a Minnesota resident. Minn. Stat. § 541.14 (1976). Section 541.14 was repealed in 1977. In 2004, the legislature enacted Minn. Stat. § 541.31, subd. 1(a) (2008), which provides that if a claim is substantively based on the law of another state, the statute of limitations of that state applies. However, Minn. Stat. § 541.31, subd. 1(a) applies only to claims arising from incidents occurring on or after August 1, 2004. Minn. Stat. § 541.34 (2008).
Defendants moved for summary judgment on grounds that the federal court should apply Pennsylvania, not Minnesota, law to Fleeger’s claims, and that under Pennsylvania law Fleeger’s claims are time-barred. At defendants’ request, the federal court agreed to certify to the Minnesota Supreme Court for decision the question of which state’s statute of limitations should apply. The certified question has been restated as follows: In a case commenced in Minnesota, does the Minnesota statute of limitations apply to the personal injury claims of a non-Minnesota resident against a defendant not a resident of Minnesota, where the events giving rise to the claims did not occur in Minnesota and took place before August 1, 2004? (Certified question from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas)
Wednesday, May 6, 2009, 10:00 a.m.
Buffalo High School, Buffalo, Minnesota
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Meng Vang, Appellant – Case No. A08-588: Appellant Meng Vang was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder and aiding and advising first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang. On appeal from his convictions, Vang presents the following issues: (1) whether the district court’s admission of evidence of gang affiliation and activity, including testimony from a police officer on gang behavior, deprived Vang of a fair trial; (2) whether the district court erred in its instructions to the jury, warranting a new trial; (3) whether the district court erred in allowing two prosecution witnesses to testify that they were fearful of or had been threatened by someone other than Vang; (4) whether the district court erred in limiting Vang’s ability to present evidence concerning the federal sentencing system in connection with two jailhouse informants who testified against him; (5) whether Vang’s convictions for aiding and advising first-degree murder should be vacated because the prosecution failed to prove premeditation beyond a reasonable doubt; and (6) whether the district court’s sentence of two consecutive life terms plus 62 years is disproportionate to the offense and unfairly exaggerates Vang’s criminality. (Anoka County)
Thursday, May 7, 2009, 10:00 a.m.
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Kenneth Eugene Andersen, Appellant – Case No. A08-1521: Appellant Kenneth Andersen was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder. On appeal from his conviction, Andersen presents the following issues: (1) whether evidence obtained during a search of Andersen’s property pursuant to a warrant should have been suppressed because the application for the warrant contained material misrepresentations of fact; (2) whether Andersen’s conviction must be reversed because the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) whether the prosecution should be required to prove that the evidence it introduced at trial was not obtained as a result of investigators’ recording of phone calls between Andersen, his attorney, and a defense investigator. (Becker County)
In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Barton Carl Winter, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 271433 – Case No. A08-1014: An attorney discipline case that poses the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate under the facts of the matter.
Monday, May 11, 2009, 9:00 a.m.
Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center
The Business Bank, Appellant vs. Kevin C. Hanson, et al., Respondents, Option One Mortgage Corporation, Respondent, The United States of America, Defendant – Case No. A07-1832: In 2004, respondents Kevin and Colleen Hanson executed a mortgage in favor of appellant The Business Bank securing the payment of “up to $200,000” of a total of more than $500,000 borrowed by North American Pet Distributors and guaranteed by Kevin Hanson. In addition, the mortgage provided that it would remain in effect until four promissory notes from the bank to North American were paid in full. In 2005, the Hansons executed a mortgage in favor of respondent Option One Mortgage Corporation. Although The Business Bank’s mortgage was recorded, Option One’s title search did not find it. In 2006, after North American Pet Distributors defaulted on its loan obligations to The Business Bank, the bank sought to foreclose the Hansons’ mortgage. The district court ruled that The Business Bank’s mortgage was prior to Option One’s mortgage. However, the court of appeals reversed on grounds that The Business Bank’s mortgage violated Minn. Stat. § 287.03 (2008) and therefore was invalid. Section 287.03 states that “[n]o instrument . . . relating to real estate shall be valid as security for any debt, unless the fact that it is intended and the initial known amount of the debt are expressed in it.” On appeal from the decision of the court of appeals, The Business Bank asks the supreme court to decide whether a properly recorded mortgage is valid under Minn. Stat. § 287.03 when the correct mortgage tax has been paid and the amount secured by the mortgage is specified but the mortgage does not specify the exact amount of the underlying debt due from the obligor to the creditor. (Hennepin County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Dontaro Lashaun Riddley, Appellant – Case No. A08-1018: Appellant Dontaro Riddley was convicted after a jury trial of aiding and abetting first-degree murder during the commission of an aggravated robbery and was sentenced to life in prison. On appeal from his conviction, Riddley presents the following issues for decision by the supreme court: (1) whether the district court erred in admitting evidence that Riddley participated in a robbery on the night of the murders for which he was convicted; (2) whether the district court erred in admitting evidence that, on the night of the murders, Riddley gave a friend two pairs of shoes, suggesting that Riddley had participated in a second robbery; and (3) whether the district court erred in striking for cause from the jury panel an African American prospective juror whose brother had been shot by police 15 years earlier and whose son had been prosecuted in juvenile court by one of the attorneys prosecuting Riddley. (Hennepin County)
EN BANC NONORAL: Geronimo Sanchez, et al., Relators vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent – Case No. A08-2281: Under Minn. Stat. § 290.014 (2004), Minnesota may collect income taxes from a “resident individual” who is “domiciled” in Minnesota. Geronimo and Kathleen Sanchez owned a home in Apple Valley, Minnesota, which they sold on June 18, 2004. The Sanchezes established a South Dakota mailing address, obtained South Dakota drivers licenses, registered their car and a motor home in South Dakota, opened bank accounts in South Dakota, and registered to vote in South Dakota. However, the Sanchezes did not purchase or rent a residence in South Dakota. After the sale of their house, the Sanchezes left Minnesota and traveled in their motor home throughout the United States, but spent no time in South Dakota during the rest of 2004. For 2004, the Sanchezes claimed Minnesota residency only through June 18, 2004. The Commissioner of Revenue assessed taxes, penalties, and interest on grounds that although the Sanchezes moved out of Minnesota in 2004 they did not change their domicile. The Sanchezes appealed to the Minnesota Tax Court, which concluded that the Sanchezes were responsible for taxes as residents of Minnesota for all of 2004. The issue before the supreme court is whether the Sanchezes were domiciled in Minnesota after June 18, 2008, and therefore are liable for Minnesota income taxes for the entire year. (Minnesota Tax Court)
Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 9:00 a.m.
Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center
Steven Brua, et al., Respondents vs. The Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association, Appellant – Case No. A07-1866: After Michael Brua was killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2003, his father, mother, and brother, respondents here, brought a dram shop action against Bend In The Road, a bar in Freeborn County, and its owners, claiming property damage and pecuniary loss. Bend In The Road was insured by appellant Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association. The insurance policy issued to Bend In The Road limited coverage for “bodily injury” to $100,000 per occurrence, which the policy defined as including “pecuniary loss,” and provided an annual aggregate policy limit of $300,000. Bend In The Road and its owners settled with the Brua family by, in part, assigning to the family the bar’s claims against its insurer for coverage. The Brua family then sued Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association over the amount of coverage available under the bar’s liquor liability policy. The district court ruled that the policy issued to Bend In The Road failed to comply with Minn. Stat. § 340A.409 (2008), which requires proof of financial responsibility on the part of applicants for liquor licenses. Proof of financial responsibility may be given by, among other things, an insurance policy providing a specified minimum amount of coverage for “bodily injury.” The court ruled that section 340A.409 requires that coverage for pecuniary loss be independent of other coverages and cannot be merged with coverage for bodily injury. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue is whether Minn. Stat. § 340A.409 requires separate stated limits of insurance for pecuniary loss. (Ramsey County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Larry Pearson, petitioner, Appellant, Case No. A07-1605 and Larry Demetrius Pearson, petitioner, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A08-1821: Appellant Larry Pearson was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder. Pearson’s direct appeal was stayed pending a petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied by the district court. Pearson’s appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief and his direct appeal are consolidated here. Pearson brings three issues before the supreme court: (1) whether the district court erred by admitting as rebuttal evidence a portion of Pearson’s videotaped statement to police; (2) whether Pearson was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel at trial; and (3) whether Pearson was denied a fair trial because of prosecutorial misconduct. (Ramsey County)
Wednesday, May 13, 2009, 9:00 a.m.
Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center
Minnesota Voters Alliance, et al., Appellants vs. The City of Minneapolis, et al., Respondents, Mark Ritchie, in his official capacity as the Secretary of State for the State of Minnesota or his successor, et al., Defendants, and FairVote Minnesota, Inc., intervenor defendant, Respondent – Case No. A09-182: In 2008, the Minneapolis City Council adopted single transferable voting (sometimes called instant runoff voting) for the offices of Mayor and members of the City Council, the Park and Recreation Board, the Board of Estimate and Taxation, and the Library Board. Appellants Minnesota Voters Alliance and six Minneapolis voters filed suit against the city, asking the district court to declare the voting system unconstitutional and contrary to state and federal law. The district court rejected appellants’ claims; the supreme court granted accelerated review of the appeal. The issue before the supreme court is the constitutionality of the voting system as adopted by the city. (Hennepin County District Court)
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Antoine Delany Williams, Appellant – Case No. A07-1502: Appellant Antoine Williams was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree assault and possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. Williams was sentenced to serve 60 months on the firearm possession conviction and 160 months on the assault conviction, to be served concurrently. The court of appeals affirmed the convictions and Williams’ sentences. Williams presents two issues to the supreme court: (1) whether the district court abused its discretion in allowing the prosecution to impeach Williams with two prior drug-related convictions; and (2) whether the district court erred in using Williams’ conviction of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person to increase his criminal history score before sentencing him on the first-degree assault conviction, as provided in State v. Hernandez, 311 N.W.2d 478 (Minn. 1981), where the assault was committed with the firearm. (Hennepin County)