EN BANC CALENDAR
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Monday, August 30, 2010
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
Jeremy Grant Rickert, Respondent vs. State of Minnesota, Appellant – Case No. A08-2269: Respondent Jeremy Rickert pleaded guilty in August 2006 to first-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 144 months in prison, followed by ten years of conditional release. Rickert did not file a direct appeal of his conviction.
Under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2008), Rickert had two years in which to petition for postconviction relief. About two months after the statute of limitations under Minn. Stat. § 590.01 expired, Rickert filed a petition for postconviction relief, seeking a reduction in the period of conditional release from ten years to five. Rickert claimed that he had not admitted that any of his offenses occurred after August 1, 2005, when the period of conditional release was increased from five years to ten years, and therefore under Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), it was up to a jury to find facts sufficient to justify the longer period of conditional release.
The district court rejected Rickert’s postconviction petition, both as untimely and on its merits. Rickert appealed the denial of his postconviction petition to the court of appeals. Rickert conceded that his petition was untimely, but argued that Minn. Stat. § 590.01 was unconstitutional because the Minnesota Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to one appellate review of his conviction. The court of appeals reversed the district court’s denial of Rickert’s postconviction petition and remanded the matter for further sentencing proceedings.
On appeal to the supreme court, the State presents the following issues: (1) whether Rickert’s postconviction petition was barred by the two-year statute of limitations imposed by Minn. Stat. § 590.01 (2008); (2) whether the Minnesota Constitution guarantees Rickert one review of his conviction; (3) whether Rickert received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial; and (4) whether the district court erred in sentencing Rickert to ten years, rather than five years, of conditional release. (Scott County)
Dennis Larson, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent, County of Douglas, Respondent – Case No. A09-495: In 1956, the State of Minnesota obtained an easement on certain property near Lake Le Homme Dieu in Douglas County “for highway purposes.” The State used part of the easement for Highway 29. Beside the highway, the State constructed a scenic outlook, a rest stop, and a parking area on the easement. Over the years, the public has used the shoreline near the rest area for swimming and, since 1977, the County has operated the recreation area under a state license.
Appellant Dennis Larson purchased fee title to the land in 2005 and applied to the district court to remove or modify the easement under Minn. Stat. § 117.225 (2008). Section 117.225 allows a property owner who claims that an easement acquired by condemnation “is not being used for the purposes for which it was acquired” to apply to the district court “for an order discharging the easement, upon such terms as are just and equitable.” The district court dismissed Larson’s complaint on grounds that the complaint failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The court concluded that Larson’s complaint failed to show that the State had abandoned the easement entirely and further concluded that Minn. Stat. § 117.225 did not permit the discharge of only a portion of an easement. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal to the supreme court, appellant Larson presents two issues: (1) whether a highway easement that has been developed into a recreational beach area is being used “for highway purposes”; and (2) whether Minn. Stat. § 117.225 authorizes a district court to discharge only a portion of, rather than an entire, easement acquired by condemnation. (Douglas County)
Tuesday, August 31, 2010, 9:00 a.m.
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
Rodney W. Swenson, Respondent vs. Michael Nickaboine d/b/a Northland Quality Builders and SFM Mutual Insurance Company, Relators, and Medica Health Plans, Detroit Lakes Chiropractic, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry/VRU, Meritcare Health System, Intervenors – Case No. A10-380: Respondent Robert Swenson was injured on the job while working for relator Northland Quality Builders, a sole proprietorship owned by Michael Nickaboine. Nickaboine is an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band and Swenson was injured while working on an expansion of Grand Casino Hinckley, which is owned by the Mille Lacs Band. A workers’ compensation judge ruled that under 28 U.S.C. § 1360 (2000) (known as Public Law 280), Swenson’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits could be heard only by the Mille Lacs Band’s Court of Central Jurisdiction. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a hearing on the merits of Swenson’s claim. On appeal to the supreme court, relator Northland Builders and its workers’ compensation insurer, SFM Mutual Insurance, present the following issues: (1) whether a workers’ compensation claim is a civil cause of action under Public Law 280; (2) whether the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals applied the correct standard of review; and (3) whether the workers’ compensation judge correctly applied the law. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Quenton Tyrone Williams, Appellant – Case No. A08-2129: Appellant Quenton Williams was arrested on suspicion of having committed a robbery. Police found Williams was carrying a .38 caliber revolver, for which Williams had no permit. However, the robbery victim and the eyewitnesses to the robbery failed to identify Williams as the suspect. Williams was arrested for possession of a gun without a permit, but not for robbery. After a jury trial, Williams was convicted of possession of a gun without a permit. Williams’ conviction for gun possession was affirmed by the court of appeals. Williams presents three questions on appeal to the supreme court: (1) whether police had probable cause to arrest him; (2) whether Minn. Stat. § 624.714, subd. 22 (2008), requires that police know or ask whether a person has a gun permit before arresting him for possession of a pistol without a permit; and (3) whether evidence that Williams was carrying drugs at the time of his arrest should have been suppressed at trial. (Hennepin County)
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
David J. T. Miller, Appellant vs. Linda J. Lankow, et al., Respondents, DCI, Inc., Defendant, Donnelly Brothers, Respondent, Total Service Company, Respondent and Linda J. Lankow, et al., third-party plaintiffs, Respondents vs. Burnet Realty, Inc., d/b/a Coldwell Banker Burnet, et al., third-party defendants, Respondents – Case No. A09-244: In 2003, respondents Total Service Company and Donnelly Brothers repaired moisture and mold problems in a home owned by respondent Linda Lankow. Appellant David Miller purchased the home in 2004. In September 2005, Miller discovered moisture intrusion and mold in some of the same areas. Miller notified respondents Total Service Company and Donnelly Brothers, who inspected the home. On December 27, 2005, Miller’s attorney sent Total Service Company and Donnelly Brothers a copy of a moisture analysis report. The letter accompanying the report indicated that if no response was received from the contractors by January 9, 2006, the matter would be put “into suit.”
In January 2007, Miller hired a contractor to remove the stucco on the house; Miller himself began removing some stucco in January or February 2007. On March 15, 2007, Miller’s attorney notified respondents that he intended to proceed with remedial work starting on March 22, 2007. However, by March 23, 2007, all of the stucco had been removed from the home. In April 2007, Miller sued Total Service, Donnelly Brothers, Lankow, and Mark Geier, Lankow’s real estate agent.
The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that Miller’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations under Minn. Stat. § 513.57, subd. 2 (2008). In addition, defendants claimed that the removal of the stucco from the home constituted spoliation of evidence that entitled them to summary judgment. The district court agreed, and dismissed Miller’s lawsuit. The court of appeals affirmed. On Miller’s appeal, there are two issues before the supreme court: (1) whether the district court properly sanctioned Miller for spoliation of evidence; and (2) whether Minn. Stat. § 513.57, subd. 2, barred any of Miller’s claims. (Hennepin County)
Curtis R. Graff, Respondent vs. Robert M. Swendra Agency, Inc., Appellant – Case No. A09-173: Respondent Curtis Graff was injured in an accident with an underinsured driver. Graff sought benefits under his underinsured motorist policy and an umbrella policy, both issued by American Family Mutual Insurance Company. Graff claimed that he was entitled to underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage to the full $1 million limit of the umbrella policy based on representations to that effect allegedly made by the appellant Robert M. Swendra Agency before Graff purchased coverage. When American Family denied UIM coverage under the umbrella policy, Graff sued both American Family and the Swendra Agency.
In 2008, Graff settled with American Family and signed a Pierringer release. On the basis of Graff’s release of American Family, the Swendra Agency moved to dismiss Graff’s claims against it. The agency’s motion to dismiss was denied. A jury found the Swendra Agency negligent and awarded damages to Graff. The jury’s verdict was affirmed by the court of appeals. The Swendra Agency’s appeal to the supreme court presents two issues: (1) whether a written release between plaintiff and insurer also releases the plaintiff’s claim against the insurer’s agent; and (2) whether the district court properly applied the collateral source statute, Minn. Stat. § 548.251 (2008), in its calculation of Graff’s damages. (Hennepin County)
Thursday, September 2, 2010, 9:00 a.m.
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Richard J. Coleman, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 136141 – Case No. A09-1656: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.
In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Donald W. Fett, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 29014 – Case No. A09-1862: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
EN BANC NONORAL – Ronald Lindsey Reed, petitioner, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A10-39: Appellant Ronald Reed was convicted of aiding and abetting first-degree murder and of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder; his convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Reed, 737 N.W.2d 572 (Minn. 2007). In 2009, Reed petitioned for post-conviction relief, claiming his prosecution was barred by the statute of limitations, that he was denied the right to represent himself at trial, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on direct appeal, and that he was entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered evidence that one of the state’s witnesses testified falsely. The district court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue is whether the district court erred by denying the petition without an evidentiary hearing. (Ramsey County)
EN BANC NONORAL - Milton K. Sanders, petitioner, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A10-619: Appellant Milton Sanders was convicted of first-degree and attempted first-degree murder; his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Sanders, 598 N.W.2d 650 (Minn. 1999). Sanders petitioned for post-conviction relief in 2000, claiming insufficiency of the evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, and errors in sentencing. Sanders’ petition was denied without an evidentiary hearing and the denial was affirmed on appeal. Sanders v. State, 628 N.W.2d 597 (Minn. 2001). In 2010, Sanders filed a second petition for postconviction relief, claiming ineffective assistance of trial counsel, errors in the district court’s evidentiary rulings during trial, errors in the district court’s instructions to the jury, and insufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. The district court denied Sanders’ second petition without an evidentiary hearing. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue is whether the district court erred by denying Sanders’ second postconviction petition without an evidentiary hearing. (Hennepin County)