EN BANC CALENDAR
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Monday, May 3, 2010, 9:00 a.m.
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
Thomas Booth, et al., Respondents, Ryan Gades, Respondent vs. City of Cyrus Fire Department, Appellant – Case No. A08-2054: Respondent Thomas Booth was involved in an accident with a truck driven by respondent Ryan Gades. Gades was a volunteer firefighter with appellant City of Cyrus Fire Department, and he was responding to a fire call when the accident occurred. Gades had personal automobile insurance with Progressive, and the City had automobile insurance with Auto-Owners. Thomas Booth and his wife respondent Angela Booth and Gades entered into a “Drake v. Ryan Satisfaction and Release,” in which Gades’ primary liability carrier, Progressive, paid its policy limits, and the Booths released claims they had against Gades. The Booths specifically reserved “any and all claims they may have against  Ryan Gades up to the limits of the excess policy issued by Auto Owners.” The Booths filed suit against Gades and the City, alleging that Gades was negligent in the operation of his vehicle, that his negligence caused the accident, and that the City was vicariously liable for the negligence of Gades. The district court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that the settlement agreement released all claims against Gades, and as a result, there could be no claims of vicarious liability against the City. The Booths appealed, and the court of appeals reversed. The following issues are presented for review: (1) whether excess coverage is available to Gades under the Auto-Owners policy; (2) whether the Drake v. Ryan settlement agreement and release fully released Gades from this action; and (3) whether the release of Gades, the tortfeasor, bars claims against the City for vicarious liability. (Stevens County)
In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Gregory J. Rebeau, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 89977 – Case No. A09-382: A lawyer discipline matter that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate under the circumstances of the case.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 9:00 a.m.
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Edgar Rene Barrientos-Quintana, Appellant – Case No. A09-1613: Appellant Edgar Rene Barrientos-Quintana was convicted after a jury trial of aiding and abetting first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang and aiding and abetting attempted first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release, plus twelve months, for aiding and abetting first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang and to a consecutive sentence of 192 months for aiding and abetting attempted first-degree murder for the benefit of a gang. On appeal from those convictions and sentence, Barrientos-Quintana presents the following issues: (1) whether the district court committed reversible error by failing to give an accomplice-corroboration instruction; and (2) whether the district court erred by convicting him of four counts of aiding and abetting first-degree murder and four counts of aiding and abetting attempted first-degree murder and imposing sentence on all those counts. (Hennepin County)
Jerry Vang, a/k/a Vang Toua Xeng Vang, petitioner, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A09-2297: In 2001, a grand jury indicted appellant Jerry Vang for first-degree drive-by-shooting murder, second-degree drive-by-shooting murder, and attempted first-degree drive-by-shooting murder. Because Vang was a juvenile at the time, respondent State of Minnesota filed a delinquency petition in juvenile court based on the indictment and a motion to certify Vang to adult court for prosecution. A certification study was conducted, along with psychological evaluations of Vang. Vang then waived a certification hearing and pled guilty to first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. The district court certified Vang to adult court, accepted Vang’s guilty plea, and sentenced Vang to life in prison and a concurrent sentence of 200 months. In 2009, Vang petitioned for postconviction relief, claiming that the court should vacate his guilty plea because the juvenile court’s certification order was invalid.
By then, Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2008), required that petitions for postconviction relief be filed in cases like Vang’s, which became final before the statute was enacted, by July 31, 2007. Vang argued that the court should consider his petition because this was his first appellate review of his convictions and the Minnesota Constitution guarantees the right of one appellate review of a conviction; his situation fell within an exception to the time limit because it was in the interests of justice, see Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4(b)(5); and his right to effective assistance of counsel was denied when the State Public Defender refused to file a direct appeal for him after he was convicted. The district court denied the petition for postconviction relief as untimely, and it also found that Vang was not denied effective assistance of appellate counsel and that Vang was properly certified as an adult.
Three issues are before the supreme court: (1) whether Vang’s postconviction petition can be barred as untimely because he has not had one appellate review of his convictions, which is a right he contends is provided by the Minnesota Constitution; (2) whether Vang was denied his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel when the public defender refused to file a timely direct appeal of his convictions; and (3) whether Vang’s guilty plea must be vacated because the district court’s certification order was based on Vang’s waiver of a certification hearing. (Ramsey County)
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
Katherine M. Rucker, Respondent vs. Steven B. Schmidt, Appellant, Rider Bennett, LLP, Appellant – Case No. A08-1730: Appellant Steven B. Schmidt, then a lawyer with appellant Rider Bennett, LLP, represented Robert Rucker in marital dissolution proceedings from respondent Katherine M. Rucker. About two years after the judgment and decree of dissolution was entered, Katherine Rucker sued Robert Rucker for fraud, alleging that Robert Rucker had misrepresented the value of his business during the dissolution proceedings. After a trial, the district court reopened the property settlement in the marital dissolution action and granted Katherine Rucker judgment against Robert Rucker in the full amount she requested. The Ruckers settled the dispute during the pendency of Robert Rucker’s appeal.
Katherine Rucker then sued appellant Schmidt and the Rider Bennett law firm for fraud, alleging that they had conspired with Robert Rucker and the managers of his business to misrepresent the value of the business. The district court dismissed Katherine Rucker’s lawsuit under the doctrine of res judicata, concluding that Robert Rucker and his counsel were in privity. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the matter for trial. The issue before the supreme court is whether a lawyer and his law firm are in privity with their client where (1) the unlawful conduct alleged by the opposing party arises from the lawyer’s actions on behalf of the client and (2) the party against whom res judicata is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate her claims against the client and received a judgment in the full amount of the damages she sought. (Hennepin County)
EN BANC NONORAL: State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Demetrius Devell Dobbins, Appellant – Case No. A09-1872: Appellant Demetrius Devell Dobbins was convicted in 2004 of aiding and abetting first-degree murder; his conviction was affirmed on appeal. State v. Dobbins, 725 N.W.2d 492 (Minn. 2006). In 2009, Dobbins filed a petition for postconviction relief, claiming that: he could not have been convicted of aiding and abetting first-degree murder when the State’s theory was that he committed the offense himself; his right to a speedy trial was violated; a grand-jury violation entitled him to a new trial; his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the law was violated; he received ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel; and newly discovered evidence that his co-defendant offered false testimony entitled him to a new trial. The district court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue is whether the district court erred in denying postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. (Anoka County)
James Leroy Scott, petitioner, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A09-1769: Appellant James Leroy Scott was convicted in 1991 of first-degree murder; his conviction was affirmed on appeal. State v. Scott, 493 N.W.2d 546 (Minn. 1992). In 2008, Scott petitioned for postconviction relief, claiming that he had been convicted on the basis of false scientific evidence, namely, a comparative analysis by the FBI of the lead found in the shotgun pellets that killed the victim with shotgun pellets found in a suitcase linked to Scott, which Scott argued the FBI later disavowed.
By then, Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2008), required that petitions for postconviction relief be filed within two years of the appellate disposition of the petitioner’s direct appeal or, in cases like Scott’s that became final before the statute was enacted, by July 31, 2007. The State moved to dismiss the 2008 petition for postconviction relief as untimely. Scott argued that his situation fell within an exception to the time limit for newly-discovered evidence and in addition should be considered in the interests of justice. See Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subds. 4(b)(2), (5). The district court found that, although Scott asserted the existence of newly-discovered scientific evidence, Scott had not established by clear and convincing evidence that he was innocent, as the statute required. The district court therefore denied the petition for postconviction relief as untimely.
Three issues are before the supreme court: (1) whether the time limit on postconviction petitions under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4, should bar consideration of the petition; (2) if the time limit under Minn. Stat. § 590.01 applies, whether the exception for newly-discovered evidence applies and whether the petition should have been considered in the interests of justice; and (3) whether Scott is entitled to a new trial because his conviction was based on the use of false scientific evidence. (Todd County)
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 9:30 a.m.
New Prague High School
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Michael Stanley Zabawa, Appellant – Case No. A09-1041: Appellant Michael Stanley Zabawa was convicted after a jury trial of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder and one count of attempted first-degree premeditated murder. On direct appeal of his convictions, Zabawa presents the issue of whether the district court erred when it concluded that his statement to police was voluntary. (Waseca County)