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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

June 2019

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, June 3, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor 

Jason Maurice Fagin, Respondent vs. State of Minnesota, Appellant – Case No. A17-1705: On March 22, 2012, respondent Jason Fagin was arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired. The deputies brought Fagin to the sheriff’s department and read him the implied-consent advisory. A deputy asked Fagin to submit to a blood or a urine test. Fagin refused.

Appellant State of Minnesota charged Fagin with, among other offenses, first‑degree test refusal. In July 2012, Fagin pleaded guilty to the test-refusal charge. After he was convicted, Fagin did not pursue a direct appeal.

In May 2017, Fagin filed a petition for postconviction relief, arguing that the rule announced in Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. __, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016), and applied in State v Trahan, 886 N.W.2d 216 (Minn. 2016), and State v. Thompson, 886 N.W.2d 224 (Minn. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 1338 (2017) (the “Birchfield rule”) applied retroactively to his test-refusal conviction. Fagin argued that under the Birchfield rule, the test-refusal statute was unconstitutional as applied to him because he refused a warrantless blood and urine test, and the deputies did not demonstrate that exigent circumstances existed.

The district court summarily denied the postconviction petition. The court of appeals reversed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) which party bears the burden of proof with respect to exigent circumstances when a defendant challenges a final test-refusal conviction based on the retroactive application of the Birchfield rule; and (2) whether the district court properly denied Fagin’s postconviction petition without a hearing because Fagin did not allege sufficient facts to demonstrate that police could not compel him to submit to a blood or urine test. (Washington County)

In re the Matter of: Matthew Lawson Thornton, Appellant vs. Jessica Ortiz Bosquez, Respondent – Case No. A18-0223: Appellant Matthew Thornton and respondent Jessica Bosquez are the parents of a child born in 2014. When the parties’ relationship ended, Thornton commenced a custody proceeding. Following a 2-day trial, the district court found that Bosquez had engaged in domestic abuse against Thornton, as defined in Minn. Stat. § 518B.01 (2018), but that the statutory presumption against joint custody had been rebutted with respect to joint physical custody. See Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(b)(9) (2018) (stating that “the court shall use a rebuttable presumption that joint legal custody or joint physical custody is not in the best interests of the child if domestic abuse, as defined in section 518B.01, has occurred between the parents”). After considering the best interests of the child, the district court awarded the parties joint physical custody and awarded Bosquez sole legal custody.

Thornton appealed. Among other arguments, he asserted that the district court had misapplied the presumption against joint custody in cases involving domestic abuse. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court erred in applying the rebuttable presumption in Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(b)(9); and (2) whether the district court’s findings of fact are in accord with the evidence and whether they support the conclusions of law. (Ramsey County)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Chadd A. Smith, Respondent vs. Carver County and Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust, Relators – Case No. A19-0199: Respondent Chadd Smith, a former deputy sheriff for the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Smith alleged that he had developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his employment. See Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 15(d) (2018) (defining “post-traumatic stress disorder”). Relators Carver County and Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust denied primary liability. The matter proceeded to a formal hearing where the compensation judge found that Smith failed to establish that he sustained a compensable injury. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further consideration.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the WCCA erred in holding that Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 15(d), limits the fact-finder’s authority to evaluate the credibility of diagnosing experts and to choose between conflicting expert opinions; (2) whether the WCCA exceeded the proper scope of review by reversing the compensation judge’s determinations regarding the persuasiveness and credibility of the parties’ expert opinions; and (3) whether the WCCA exceeded the proper scope of review by reversing the compensation judge’s denial of compensation. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Israel Esquivel Villanueva, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0395952 – Case No. A18-2015: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Donald Albert Strobel, Respondent – Case No. A18-0057: Respondent Donald Strobel was convicted of first-degree sale of a controlled substance in connection with conduct that occurred after the effective date of the 2016 Drug Sentencing Reform Act (DSRA). Act of May 22, 2016, ch. 160, §§ 1-22, 2016 Minn. Laws 576, 576-92. In calculating Strobel’s criminal-history score, the district court added half a felony point for a 2012 conviction of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance. On appeal, Strobel challenged the district court’s calculation of his criminal history score. Concluding that the 2012 conviction could not be classified as a felony if it qualified as a gross misdemeanor under subdivision 4(a) of the DSRA-amended version of Minn. Stat. § 152.025 (2018), the court of appeals reversed Strobel’s sentence and remanded to the district court for resentencing.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether Strobel’s 2012 conviction may be classified as a felony if it qualifies as a gross misdemeanor under subdivision 4(a) of the DSRA-amended version of section 152.025. (Wabasha County)

Nonoral: Keith Richard Rossberg, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A19-0298: In 2013, a jury found appellant Keith Rossberg guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree intentional murder. The district court convicted Rossberg of first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release. The supreme court affirmed the conviction on direct appeal. State v. Rossberg, 851 N.W.2d 609, 620 (Minn. 2014); see also Rossberg v. State, 874 N.W.2d 786, 791 (Minn. 2016) (affirming the denial of Rossberg’s petition for postconviction relief).

In 2018, Rossberg filed a motion to reduce his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9, which relied in part on Minn. Stat. § 611.02 (2018). Rossberg’s main argument was that he was incorrectly convicted of first-degree murder because the jury also returned a guilty verdict for second-degree murder. The district court ruled that Rossberg’s claim under Minn. Stat. § 611.02 is not within the scope of Rule 27.03 and that his claim is time-barred.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Rossberg’s claim is time-barred; and (2) whether Minn. Stat. § 611.02 requires adjudication to be withheld on the primary offense when a defendant is also convicted of a lesser included offense. (Wright County)

Monday, June 10, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Nathan C. McGuire, Appellant vs. Julie A. Bowlin, Respondent, Thomas M. Bowlin, Defendant, Joy M. Szondy, Respondent, Chelon L. Danielson, Respondent, Cheryl Hewitt, Respondent – Case No. A18-0167: Appellant Nathan McGuire was the head coach for the girls’ basketball program at Woodbury High School. After his coaching contract was not renewed, McGuire brought defamation claims against several parents of his former players. The district court ultimately dismissed all of the defamation claims on summary judgment. The district court concluded that “McGuire, by virtue of his coaching position, is a public official” under Minnesota law and that he failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact with respect to actual malice. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether McGuire is a “public official” for purposes of his defamation claims. (Washington County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Michael Paul Valentine Jaros, Appellant – Case No. A18-0039: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Michael Jaros with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and false imprisonment for a June 2016 incident. During a jury trial, a detective testified that a forensic analysis of Jaros’s cell phone was performed. The detective stated that Jaros’s cell phone contained a number of pornographic photographs that showed violence towards women and “some of which corroborated [the complainant’s] story about what had happened.”

Jaros did not object to this testimony, but he later asked for a mistrial. The district court denied the motion for a mistrial but struck the testimony. The district court provided immediate curative and cautionary instructions to the jury. In the final jury instructions, the district court instructed the jurors that if the court had asked them to disregard something they had seen or heard, they must do so.

The jury found Jaros guilty of all counts. The court of appeals affirmed his convictions.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the test announced in State v. Cox, 332 N.W.2d 555 (Minn. 1982), applies to the denial of a motion for a mistrial based on improper evidence being presented to the jury; and (2) whether Jaros is entitled to a new trial based on the detective’s testimony about the pornographic images found on Jaros’s cell phone. (Otter Tail County)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Nonoral: Maureen Ndidiamaka Onyelobi, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A19-0003: In 2014, a jury found appellant Maureen Onyelobi guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. Her conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Onyelobi, 879 N.W.2d 335 (Minn. 2016). In 2018, Onyelobi filed a petition for postconviction relief on three grounds. First, Onyelobi argued that a search warrant obtained by law enforcement to search her storage locker lacked sufficient probable cause and the items found during the search should not have been presented to the grand jury as part of her indictment. Second, Onyelobi argued that the district court gave the jury an ambiguous instruction. Third, Onyelobi argued that she received ineffective assistance of counsel from both her trial and appellate lawyers. The postconviction court denied Onyelobi’s request for postconviction relief, finding that her claims are either procedurally barred by State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn. 1976), or fail on the merits.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues include whether Onyelobi’s claims are procedurally barred by Knaffla or have sufficient merit. (Hennepin County)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Joel Jennissen, et al., Appellants/Cross-Respondents vs. City of Bloomington, Respondent/Cross-Appellant – Case No. A17-0221: The City of Bloomington decided to adopt a system for “organized collection” of solid waste, under which a city contracts with a specific collector or group of collectors to remove trash in defined areas. After a statutorily-required notice and hearing process, the City in 2015 adopted an ordinance, effective December 31 of that year, implementing organized collection. The City also executed a 5-year contract with a consortium of trash collectors to provide trash collection services. Prior to adoption of the organized collection ordinance, the City had used “open collection,” in which residents were free to privately contract with any licensed collector.

Residents of the City who oppose organized collection proposed a charter amendment that would require voter approval prior to the adoption of an organized-collection system; the proposed charter amendment stated that it “shall supersede any ordinances, ordinance amendments, or charter amendments related to solid waste adopted by the City Council in 2015-2016.” The City refused to place the proposed charter amendment on the ballot, reasoning among other things that the proposed amendment impaired the City’s existing contract with the consortium of collectors, interfered with the City’s legislative process, and was preempted by the Minnesota Waste Management Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 115A.01.99 (2018) (the “Act”).

The residents sued the City in an effort to compel it to place the proposed charter amendment on the ballot. The district court granted summary judgment to the City, reasoning that the Act occupied the field of “the process a municipality must follow in order to implement organized collection.” The district court rejected the City’s argument that the proposed charter amendment unconstitutionally impaired the City’s contract with the consortium and did not address the City’s argument that the proposed amendment was an improper referendum. The residents appealed the preemption issue, the City cross‑appealed the impairment-of-contracts and improper-referendum issues, and the court of appeals affirmed. The court of appeals ruled that the Act preempted the residents’ proposed charter amendment, without addressing the other issues. The supreme court reversed with respect to the preemption issue and remanded to the court of appeals for consideration of the remaining issues. Jennissen v. City of Bloomington, 913 N.W.2d 456, 462 (Minn. 2018).

On remand, the court of appeals again affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment, concluding that the proposed charter amendment was in fact an improper referendum. The court of appeals also rejected the City’s contention that the proposed charter amendment impaired the obligation of contracts, reasoning that the City’s contract with the consortium had terminated by its own terms.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the proposed charter amendment is an improper referendum; and (2) whether the proposed charter amendment unconstitutionally impairs the City’s contract with the consortium. (Hennepin County)