Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

March 2007


Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, March 5, 2007, 9:00 a.m.

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Kurt Thomas Bird, Appellant – Case No. A06-888:  Appellant Kurt Thomas Bird appeals from his conviction of first-degree murder and first-degree domestic abuse murder.  The issue before the court is whether Bird is entitled to a new trial because the district court prevented Bird’s expert witness from testifying that Bird was psychotic at the time of the shooting and from describing the effects of psychosis, information that Bird contends would have assisted the jury in determining whether he acted “in the heat of passion” or “manifested extreme indifference to human life” at the time of the shooting.  (Hennepin County)

John A. Woodhall, Jr., et al., Appellants vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A05-2424 AND State of Minnesota, by its Commissioner of Transportation, Respondent vs. Grove City Grain and Feed Company, Respondent Below, Timothy R. Pieh, et al., Appellants - Case No. A05-2425:  Appellants John and Donna Woodhall II, John and Diane Woodhall III, and Douglas and Carmen Woodhall (in No. A05-2424) and Timothy and Mary Pieh (in No. A05-2525) owned land acquired by condemnation by the State of Minnesota through its Commissioner of Transportation.  In each case the appellants appealed to the district court from the determination of the value of the land being acquired, and in each case the district court dismissed the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on grounds that the appellants had not served notice of the appeal on all of the parties entitled under the statute to notice.  The applicable statute, Minn. Stat. § 117.145 (2006), requires service of notice of the appeal “on all respondents and all other parties to the proceedings having an interest in any parcel described in the appeal who are shown in the petitioner’s affidavit of mailing * * * as having been mailed a notice of the report of the commissioners.”  At issue are:  (1) whether strict compliance with the statute is necessary for the district court to have subject matter jurisdiction over a condemnation award appeal; and (2) whether appellants complied with the statutory notice provision in each of these cases.  (Kandiyohi County)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007, 11:00 a.m.

Hamline Law School

David Granville and Marlyss Granville, as parents and natural guardians of Kailynn Granville, a minor, Appellants (Case No. A05-1377), Jacqueline Johnson, as parent and natural guardian of Shanel Andrews, a minor, Appellant (Case No. A05‑1378) vs. Minneapolis School District, Special School District No. 1, Respondent: After Kailynn Granville and Shanel Andrews were injured during a physical education class, their parents (appellants David and Marlyss Granville in No. A05-1377 and appellant Jacqueline Johnson in No. A05-1378) separately sued respondent Minneapolis School District for negligence.  Their cases are consolidated on appeal.  The school district moved for summary judgment in both cases on grounds of statutory immunity.  Under Minn. Stat. § 466.12 (2006), a school district that cannot obtain liability insurance at a cost of $1.50 or less per pupil is immune from tort liability.  The limit of $1.50 per pupil is unchanged since the statute was enacted in 1969.  The district court concluded that the statute was unconstitutional and denied the school district’s motion for summary judgment.  The court of appeals reversed.  The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the statute is unconstitutional because it violates appellants’ equal protection rights and deprives them of a remedy for the school district’s negligence.  (Hennepin County) 

Wednesday, March 7, 2007, 9:00 a.m.

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol

State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Daniel Alan Kuhlman, Respondent – Case No. A05-568:  In August 2005 a car registered to respondent Daniel Alan Kuhlman was photographed by Minneapolis’ automated traffic law enforcement system running a red light.  Kuhlman was cited for the traffic violation, but the complaint was dismissed on grounds that the Minneapolis ordinance instituting the camera system was preempted under Minn. Stat. § 169.022 (2006), which allows local authorities to adopt traffic regulations provided those regulations are not in conflict with state law.  The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal, holding that the Minneapolis ordinance conflicts with state law, and is therefore preempted, because it makes owners, rather than drivers, presumptively liable and because it places the burden of proof on the vehicle owner to prove he or she was not driving the vehicle at the time of the violation.  Appellant State of Minnesota presents the Supreme Court with the following issues for review:  (1) whether Minn. Stat. § 169.022 (2006) preempts the city’s authority to enact the automated traffic law enforcement system; (2) whether the automated enforcement system is authorized under Minn. Stat. § 169.04 (2006), which allows cities like Minneapolis to “regulat[e] traffic by means of police officers or traffic-control signals”; and (3) whether the automated system can be enforced by severing section 474.660 of the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, which places the burden on the owner of the vehicle to name the driver, from the remaining sections of the ordinance.  (Hennepin County)

Wensmann Realty, Inc., et al., Appellants vs. City of Eagan, Respondent – Case No. A05-1074:  Appellant Rahn Family, LP, owns the Carriage Hills Golf Course in Eagan.  The partnership sold the land to appellant Wensmann Realty, Inc., contingent upon respondent City of Eagan amending its Comprehensive Guide Plan to allow residential development of the property, which was then zoned as a park district.  The city declined to amend its comprehensive plan, citing among other things the benefit the property provided as “open space.”  The district court ordered the city to amend its comprehensive plan to designate the property for residential development or commence eminent domain proceedings against it.  The court of appeals reversed the district court.  The issues before the Supreme Court are:  (1) whether the city’s denial of the rezoning application was arbitrary and capricious; and (2) whether the city’s denial of the rezoning application constituted a regulatory taking of the property for which it must compensate appellants.  (Dakota County)

Thursday, March 8, 2007, 9:00 a.m.

EN BANC NONORAL:  Leon M. Perry, petitioner, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A06-1562:  On appeal from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief after his conviction of first-degree murder, appellant Leon Perry presents the following issues for review:  (1) whether Minn. Stat. § 609.11 (2004), which provides for a minimum sentence for a defendant convicted of the use of a dangerous weapon in the commission of a crime, describes a separate crime for which Perry should have been separately indicted; and (2) whether Perry’s claim is barred by State v. Knaffla because it was not raised in Perry’s direct appeal.  (Hennepin County)

EN BANC NONORAL:  Pierre LaMont Leake, petitioner, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A06-1357:  On appeal from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief after his conviction of first-degree murder, appellant Pierre LaMont Leake presents the following issues for review:  (1) whether the district court improperly communicated with the jury during its deliberations; (2) whether the district court improperly admitted testimony that was subject to the spousal privilege; (3) whether the district court improperly instructed the jury; and (4) whether Leake received the effective assistance of counsel.  (Hennepin County)

Monday, March 12, 2007, 9:00 a.m.

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Susan Lee, Respondent vs. Fresenius Medical Care, Inc., Appellant – Case No. A05-1887:  When respondent Susan Lee’s employment by appellant Fresenius Medical Care was terminated for cause, Lee had accumulated 181.86 hours of paid time off.  Under Minn. Stat. § 181.13(a) (2006), “wages or commissions” actually earned and unpaid at the time of discharge are immediately due and payable upon demand by the employee.  Under Fresenius Medical’s employee handbook, employees terminated for cause forfeit earned paid time off.  The district court denied Lee’s claim for payment, citing the employee handbook.  The court of appeals reversed.  The issue before the Supreme Court is whether payment of unused vacation time is governed by statute or by contract between employer and employee.  (St. Louis County)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007, 9:00 a.m.

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

In re Commissioner of Public Safety, Petitioner.  Dale Lee Underdahl, Respondent vs. Commissioner of Public Safety, Appellant – Case No. A06-1000:  Respondent Dale Lee Underdahl was charged with driving while intoxicated and his driver’s license was revoked.  During the implied consent proceedings, the district court ordered the state to produce the computer source code for the Intoxilyzer 5000EN.  The court of appeals denied the petition of appellant Commissioner of Public Safety for a writ of prohibition to prevent the district court from enforcing its order.  At issue before the Supreme Court are:  (1) whether the source code is admissible information, or is likely to lead to the discovery of admissible information, considering the limited scope of an implied consent hearing; (2) whether respondent’s request for the source code constitutes a challenge to the formal adoption of the Intoxilyzer that must be brought under the Administrative Procedures Act rather than in the courts; and (3) whether the state has possession, custody, or control of the source code such that the commissioner can be required to produce it.  (Anoka County)

In re the Estate of Howard C. Kinney, Deceased – Case No. A05-1794:  On the day before their wedding in 1969, Howard and Lillian Kinney signed an antenuptial agreement under which each essentially waived any claim against the other’s estate.  After Howard’s death, Lillian contested the validity of the 1969 antenuptial agreement.  The district court found that Lillian knew the extent of Howard’s assets before signing the antenuptial agreement and that the agreement was supported by sufficient consideration, but invalidated the agreement on grounds that Lillian did not have the opportunity to consult with independent legal counsel before signing it.  The court of appeals affirmed.  The issue before the Supreme Court is whether an antenuptial agreement governed by common law, rather than by Minn. Stat. § 519.11 (2006), is invalid in the absence of proof that each party had the opportunity to consult with independent counsel before signing.  (Ramsey County)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007, 9:00 a.m.

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Susan Ranae Jackson, Appellant – Case No. A05-247:  Appellant Susan Ranae Jackson was charged with possession and sale of methamphetamine based on evidence obtained under a nighttime search warrant.  The district court found that the issuance of a nighttime warrant was not justified in Jackson’s case under Minn. Stat. § 626.14 (2006), but did not constitute a violation of Jackson’s constitutional rights and therefore did not require suppression of the evidence.  Jackson was convicted on the charges.  The court of appeals affirmed the conviction.  At issue before the Supreme Court are:  (1) whether the execution of a nighttime search warrant unsupported by sufficient facts is a constitutional, and not merely a statutory, violation; and (2) if it is a constitutional violation, whether the violation requires suppression of the evidence obtained during the search.  (Itasca County)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Kenneth M. Holker, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 46267 – Case No. A06-896:  An attorney discipline matter that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter. 

EN BANC NONORAL:  State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Ronald Joseph Lemmer, Appellant – Case No. A05-2481:  Appellant Ronald Joseph Lemmer was charged with operating a motorboat under the influence of alcohol, and his driving privileges were revoked.  At the hearing on Lemmer’s petition for review of his license revocation, the district court concluded that officers had no particularized and objective basis for stopping Lemmer’s boat and reinstated his driving privileges.  Lemmer then moved to dismiss the criminal charges based on the court’s ruling in the implied consent proceeding.  Minnesota Statutes § 169A.53, subd. 3(g) (2006) provides that an implied consent hearing “shall not give rise to an estoppel on any issues arising from the same set of circumstances in any criminal prosecution.”  At the omnibus hearing, Lemmer provided the court with a copy of an earlier decision by a district court in Goodhue County that declared section 169A.53, subd. 3(g), unconstitutional as a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers and enjoined the state from enforcing it, from which the state did not appeal.  The district court dismissed the criminal charges against Lemmer based on the Goodhue County district court’s reasoning, but the court of appeals reversed and reinstated the charges.  The issues before the Supreme Court are:  (1) whether the state is enjoined by the order issued by the Goodhue County district court from enforcing section 169A.53, subd. 3(g); (2) whether section 169A.53, subd. 3(g), is unconstitutional as a violation of the separation of powers; and (3) whether the state is estopped in this case from relitigating issues decided in the implied consent hearing.  (Scott County)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007, 9:00 a.m.

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Inquiry into the Conduct of the Honorable Rex D. Stacey – Case No. A06‑305:  A judicial discipline matter that presents the issue of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.