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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

September 2016

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Founders Insurance Company, Respondent vs. James Yates, Appellant – Case No. A15-1174: Appellant James Yates, a former resident of Illinois, had motor vehicle insurance through respondent Founders Insurance Company. Founders is not licensed to write motor vehicle insurance in Minnesota. Yates was injured when his car collided with another car in Minnesota. After the accident, Yates sought basic economic loss benefits from Founders under the Minnesota No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 65B.41–.71 (2014).

Founders filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking a ruling that it had no obligation to provide basic economic benefits under Minnesota law. While the declaratory judgment action was pending, Yates was awarded over $19,000 in an arbitration proceeding. Yates filed a motion with the district court to confirm the arbitration award, while Founders sought to vacate the arbitration award. The district court confirmed the arbitration award. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the arbitrator exceeded his authority in awarding basic economic loss benefits under Minn. Stat. § 65B.50 when the insurer is not licensed to write motor vehicle insurance in this state.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether Minn. Stat. § 65B.50, subd. 2, requires an out-of-state insurer that is not licensed to write motor vehicle insurance in Minnesota to provide basic economic loss benefits to a policyholder when the insured vehicle is involved in an accident in Minnesota. (Ramsey County)

Nina Wilson, Respondent vs. Mortgage Resource Center, Inc., Respondent, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Appellant – Case No. A15-0435: In respondent Nina Wilson’s job application for a customer service representative position with Mortgage Resource Center, she falsely stated that she had earned a GED. MRC hired her, and she worked there for a number of months. When MRC was unable to confirm Wilson’s GED, it asked her to provide documentation substantiating the GED. When Wilson did not respond, MRC concluded that she had made false statements on her application and fired her.

Wilson applied for unemployment benefits. An unemployment law judge determined that Wilson was discharged for employment misconduct and was therefore ineligible for benefits. The court of appeals reversed, finding that Wilson’s misrepresentation was not material to MRC’s decision to hire her and therefore it did not constitute employment misconduct.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether Wilson’s false statement in her application falls within the statutory definition of employment misconduct. (Department of Employment and Economic Development)
 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Robin Lyne Hensel, Appellant – Case No. A15-0005: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Robin Hensel with disorderly conduct for disturbing a meeting, Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(2) (2014), for a June 7, 2013 incident at the Little Falls City Counsel meeting. Hensel filed a motion to dismiss, arguing, in part, that Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(2), on its face was overbroad, in violation of the First Amendment, and unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied the motion.

A jury trial was held. Hensel requested a jury instruction that, if the jury found that her conduct consisted only of expressive conduct, it must find that the expressive conduct constituted fighting words to find her guilty. The district court denied the request. The jury found Hensel guilty. The court of appeals affirmed Hensel’s conviction.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(2), violates the First Amendment; and (2) whether Hensel is entitled to a new trial because the district court denied her request for a jury instruction related to fighting words. (Morrison County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Adam John Lilienthal, Appellant – Case No. A15-1713: Following a jury trial, appellant Adam Lilienthal was found guilty of several offenses, including first-degree premediated murder. The district court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Lilienthal is entitled to a new trial because the district court violated Lilienthal’s Fifth Amendment right to remain silent by admitting evidence of his post-arrest, pre-Miranda silence in the State’s case-in-chief and allowing the State to comment on his silence during closing argument; and (2) whether Lilienthal is entitled to a new trial because the district court denied his request for a defense-of-dwelling instruction. (Anoka County)

 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Jonas David Nelson, Appellant – Case No. A15-1821: Following a jury trial, appellant Jonas Nelson was found guilty of several offenses, including first-degree premediated murder. The district court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented:  (1) whether Nelson is entitled to a new trial because the district court denied his motion to suppress his confession; and (2) whether the automatic imposition of a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of release constitutes cruel and unusual punishment when the offense was committed a week after Nelson’s eighteenth birthday and Nelson contends that he differs from the typical adult offender. (LeSueur County)

Nonoral: STRIB IV, LLC, Relator vs. County of Hennepin, Respondent – Case No. A16-0423: Relator STRIB IV, LLC, is a single-member limited liability company organized under Minn. Stat. ch. 322B (2014). STRIB IV owns 39.63 acres of real estate in Medina, Minnesota. Eight acres of the subject real estate are used for hay production under a farm lease. STRIB IV challenged respondent Hennepin County’s denial of favorable tax treatment for its property under Minn. Stat. § 273.111 (2014), which is commonly referred to as the Green Acres law, for purposes of the County’s January 2, 2011 assessment. The Minnesota Tax Court held that STRIB IV is not entitled to favorable tax treatment under the Green Acres law.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the following issue is presented: whether a single-member, limited liability company may qualify for a Green Acres tax benefit under Minn. Stat. § 273.111. (Minnesota Tax Court)

 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Willie Edd Reynolds, Respondent vs. State of Minnesota, Appellant – Case No. A14-0906: In August 2008, appellant the State of Minnesota charged respondent Willie Reynolds with failure to register as a predatory offender. Reynolds pleaded guilty, but there was no plea agreement with the State. The district court convicted Reynolds and sentenced him to 1 year and 1 day in prison. Three months after the sentencing, the district court, acting sua sponte and without conducting a hearing, amended Reynolds’s sentence by adding a 10-year conditional-release term under Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5a (2012) (stating that “when a court commits a person to the custody of the commissioner of corrections for violating subdivision 5 and, at the time of the offense, the person was assigned to a risk level III under section 244.052,” a 10-year period of conditional release “shall” apply “after the person has completed the sentence”).

In October 2013, Reynolds filed a motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9. He asked the district court to vacate the conditional-release term because it was not supported by a jury’s finding or his admission that he was a risk-level-III offender at the time of the offense, in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a sentencing jury as required by Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004).

The district court treated Reynolds’ motion as a petition for postconviction relief. It held that Reynolds’ challenge was time-barred under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4a (2014), and that his claim failed. The court of appeals reversed the district court.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Reynolds must use the postconviction statute, Minn. Stat. ch. 590 (2014), to raise a claim that his sentence was imposed in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a sentencing jury; and (2) whether a sentence that was imposed in violation of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a sentencing jury is a “sentence not authorized by law” that a district court may correct at any time under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9. (Hennepin County)

Nonoral: Brian Keith Hooper, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A16-0225: Following a jury trial, appellant Brian Hooper was convicted of first-degree premediated murder in 1998. At trial, L.F., C.K., C.B., and L.J., all testified that Hooper had confessed to the killing. Hooper’s conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. He has filed three prior postconviction petitions. The district court denied these petitions, and the supreme court affirmed on appeal.

In July 2015, Hooper filed his fourth petition for postconviction relief, claiming that L.F., C.K., C.B., and L.J. had recanted their trial testimony. In prior postconviction petitions, Hooper had claimed that three of these witnesses, C.K., C.B., and L.J., had recanted their trial testimony. The district court summarily denied Hooper’s fourth postconviction petition. With respect to the three witnesses that were the subject of prior postconviction petitions, the district court concluded that these claims were time-barred and procedurally barred by State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 243 N.W.2d 737 (1976). The district court further concluded that Hooper’s claim with respect to the fourth witness, L.F., was time-barred and that Hooper had not shown that he was entitled to a new trial based on L.F.’s recanted trial testimony.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court erroneously concluded that Hooper was not entitled to a new trial based on L.F.’s recantation; and (2) whether the district court erred in determining that Hooper’s fourth petition for postconviction relief was time-barred and that his claims with respect to the recantation of C.K., C.B., and L.J. were Knaffla-barred. (Hennepin County)

 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Alan Klapmeier, Respondent vs. Cirrus Industries, Inc., Appellant, Cirrus Holding Company, Ltd., Defendant – Case Nos. A14-1725, A1-2217: A jury found in favor of appellant Alan Klapmeier on his claims against respondent Cirrus for beach of a non-disparagement clause in a settlement agreement, awarding him lost profits and out-of-pocket expenses, and the district court entered a $10 million judgment in his favor. In connection with its filing of a post-trial motion, Cirrus obtained a supersedeas bond in the amount of $12 million to secure payment of the judgment against it. The district court denied Cirrus’s post-trial motion, and Cirrus maintained the bond while it appealed the decision. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the district court should have granted Cirrus’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. After Klapmeier’s petition for review as denied, the court of appeals addressed Cirrus’s requested taxation of costs and disbursements.

As part of Cirrus’s request to tax costs and disbursements as the prevailing party, it sought $192,000 in premiums paid for the bond and $743,750 in borrowing costs to provide collateral for the bond. Klapmeier objected to the request for taxation of borrowing costs and sought discovery and an evidentiary hearing on the claimed costs. The court of appeals awarded $128,000 in premiums and $542,583.33 in borrowing costs related to the appeal, denied the request for discovery and a hearing, and left open the question whether additional costs were taxable in the district court.

The following issues are before the supreme court: (1) whether the supreme court has authority to review the court of appeals’ taxation order, either by appeal or by writ of prohibition, notwithstanding the statement in Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 139.04 that “[t]here shall be no appeal from the taxation of costs and disbursements;” and (2) whether the court of appeals’ taxation of borrowing costs was proper. (Minnesota Court of Appeals)

Nonoral: Menard, Inc., Relator/Cross-Respondent vs. County of Clay, Respondent/Cross-Appellant – Case No. A16-0415: Relator Menard, Inc., challenged Clay County’s 2011-2014 property tax assessments of its Moorhead, Minnesota store. Following a trial, the tax court concluded Clay County had overstated the store’s market value in each tax year and, therefore, reduced the assessed value each year using primarily a cost approach to valuation. While the tax court lowered the assessed value of the property, it did not adopt the valuation proposed by Menard. The tax court granted in part and denied in part the parties’ post-trial motions for amended findings and conclusions by making minor corrections to the order that, overall, did not significantly change the valuation determination.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the tax court erroneously valued the store by weighing the sales comparison and the cost approaches; (2) whether the tax court’s highest-and-best use determination for the store is unsupported by the record; and (3) whether the tax court erroneously determined the value of the store under both the sales comparison and the cost approaches. (Minnesota Tax Court)
 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Leona Rose deLottinville, Appellant – Case No. A15-1481: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Leona deLottinville with two counts of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia after police found methamphetamine, hydrocodone, and a bong in her boyfriend’s apartment. DeLottinville filed a motion to suppress, arguing, in part, that the police illegally arrested her in her boyfriend’s home pursuant to a felony warrant for her arrest and that the drugs and drug paraphernalia were discovered as a result of her illegal seizure.

The district court ruled that the police illegally arrested deLottinville. It concluded that she was a guest who had a reasonable expectation of privacy in her boyfriend’s apartment and that the warrant for her arrest did not authorize the police to enter the boyfriend’s apartment in order to arrest her. Instead, the district court determined that the police either needed a search warrant for the boyfriend’s apartment or an exception to the warrant requirement must apply. The court suppressed all evidence found in the apartment and dismissed all charges. The court of appeals reversed the district court.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether appellant’s federal and state constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures were violated when police entered the home in which she was an overnight guest without a search warrant and arrested her pursuant to an arrest warrant. (Meeker County)