EN BANC CALENDAR

 

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

 

January 2006

 

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

 

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office.

 

 

Tuesday, January 3, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Supreme Court Courtroom,

State Capitol

 

            State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Troy Demetrius Mayhorn, Appellant – Case No. A04-1971:  On appeal from his conviction for conspiracy to commit first-degree premeditated murder, appellant Troy Demetrius Mayhorn presents the following issues for review:  (1) whether the trial court erred in allowing the state to introduce audiotapes of various telephone calls appellant made from jail; (2) whether the prosecutor committed misconduct during her cross-examination of appellant; and (3) whether the sentence imposed violated Minnesota sentencing guidelines.  (On appeal from Clay County District Court.)

            In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Vicki Lynn Fagre-Stroetz, a Minnesota attorney, Registration No. 180701 – Case No. A05-718:  An attorney discipline matter that presents the issue of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.

            Wednesday, January 4, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Supreme Court Courtroom,

State Capitol

            State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Darryl Andre Harris, Appellant – Case No. A04-1923:  On appeal from his conviction for first-degree felony murder, appellant Darryl Andre Harris presents the following issues for review:  (1) whether the district court erred in its evidentiary rulings; and (2) whether the trial court erred in not instructing the jury it could consider lesser-included offenses.  (On appeal from St. Louis County District Court.)

            In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Jerome M. Rudawski, a Minnesota attorney, Registration No. 9416X – Case No. A05-484:  An attorney discipline matter that presents the issue of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.

Thursday, January 5, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Supreme Court Courtroom,

State Capitol

            Gerald Lietz, et al., Plaintiffs, Jaenty, Inc., d/b/a Taco John’s Restaurant, Appellant vs. Northern States Power Company, Respondent, Seren Innovations, Inc., Respondent, Cable Constructors, Inc., Respondent, and Sirti, Ltd., Respondent – Case No. A04-901:  On December 11, 1998, while installing an anchor for a utility pole in downtown St. Cloud, respondent Cable Constructors, Inc., struck an underground gas line.  The resulting explosion damaged a Taco John’s restaurant owned by appellant Jaenty, Inc.  Appellant sued for property damage on December 31, 2001.  The district court dismissed appellant’s complaint as barred by Minn. Stat. § 541.051, subd. 1(a) (2004), which bars claims for damages resulting from improvements to real property unless such claims are brought within two years of discovery of the damage.  A divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed.  The question on appeal is whether the utility pole anchor that pierced the gas line was an improvement to real property.  (On appeal from Stearns County District Court.)

            State Farm Fire and Casualty, et al., Respondents vs. Aquila, Inc., d/b/a People’s Natural Gas, f/k/a UtiliCorp United, Ind., d/b/a People’s Natural Gas/Energy One, Appellant, Northern Pipeline Construction Company, Defendant, Robert Sauer, et al., Defendants, George Rucker, et al., Nominal Defendants – Case No. A04-1816:  In 1990, respondent Northern Pipeline Construction Company installed a natural gas pipeline serving a trailer park owned by respondent Aquila, Inc.  Unbeknownst to anyone, a portion of the new gas pipeline passed through the park’s sewerline.  On February 13, 2002, more than eleven years later, a contractor using an auger to unclog the sewer drains struck and ruptured the gas pipeline; the resulting explosion destroyed several homes in the trailer park.  Appellants are homeowners and their insurers who sued Northern Pipeline and Aquila for negligence in the installation of the gas line.  The district court dismissed appellants’ complaint on grounds it was barred by Minn. Stat. § 541.051, subd. 1 (2004), which bars claims arising from a defective or unsafe condition in an improvement to real property brought more than ten years after the substantial completion of the construction of the improvement.  A divided panel of the court of appeals held the gas pipeline was an improvement to real property with respect to Northern Pipeline, but with respect to Aquila was an addition to Aquila’s distribution system rather than an improvement to real property.  The court of appeals therefore affirmed the dismissal of the claims brought against Northern Pipeline, but reversed the dismissal with respect to claims brought against Aquila.  The issue on appeal is whether the gas pipeline installed in 1990 was an improvement to real property.  (On appeal from Olmsted County District Court.)

Monday, January 9, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Courtroom 300,

Minnesota Judicial Center

            Richard Antone, Respondent vs. Israel Mirviss, Appellant – Case No. A04-1367:          In 1986, appellant Israel Mirviss prepared an antenuptial agreement for respondent Richard Antone.  In 1998, Antone’s wife filed for divorce.  The district court concluded the antenuptial agreement did not govern assets owned by Antone before the marriage, but nevertheless awarded those assets to Antone.  On appeal, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that, as a matter of law, a portion of the appreciation in those assets during the marriage was marital property.  After the district court, on remand, awarded a portion of the appreciated value of the property to Antone’s wife, Antone sued Mirviss for legal malpractice.  The district court dismissed Antone’s suit as untimely, holding Antone’s malpractice claim arose on the day of Antone’s marriage.  A divided panel of the court of appeals reversed, holding Antone’s claim did not arise until the district court’s property award to his wife.  At issue on appeal is when Antone’s legal malpractice claim arose.  (On appeal from Hennepin County District Court.)

            In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Carl Anton Knutson, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 289917 – Case No. A05-808:  An attorney discipline matter that presents the issue of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006, 9:00 a.m., Courtroom 300,

Minnesota Judicial Center

            State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Philip Randall Vance, Appellant – Case No. A05-15:  On appeal from his conviction for first-degree premeditated murder, appellant Philip Randall Vance presents the following issues for review:  (1) whether the district court erred in refusing to admit evidence at trial tending to connect others to the crime; (2) whether the district court erred in allowing witnesses to testify to threats made against them; and (3) whether the district court erred in admitting audiotapes of conversations between appellant and police officers without a limiting instruction to the jury.  (On appeal from Dakota County District Court.)

            In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Edward F. Rooney, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 9321X – Case No. A04-1959:  An attorney discipline matter that presents the issue of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.

 

            NONORAL:  Estelle Busch, Relator vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent – Case No. A05-656:  After her retirement in 1999, pro se relator Estelle Busch spent 40 to 60 hours each week playing slot machines at various local casinos.  For the year 1999, Busch reported her gambling winnings on her federal income tax return, and reported gambling losses equal to her winnings as itemized deductions.  For 2000 and 2001, Busch reported her gambling losses on Schedule C, as a trade or business.  On audit, the Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue disallowed Busch’s gambling losses, on grounds her gambling was not a trade or business.  The Minnesota Tax Court affirmed.  The issues on appeal are:  (1) whether an IRS audit of Busch’s 2001 tax return forecloses the Commissioner’s determination as to the nature of Busch’s gambling activities; and (2) whether the Commissioner erred in determining Busch’s gambling does not constitute a trade or business.  (On appeal from Minnesota Tax Court.)

            NONORAL:  State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Lennell Maurice Martin – Case No. A04-279:  Appellant Lennell Maurice Martin was convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree assault, and kidnapping.  On appeal, the supreme court affirmed the admission of a statement made by the victim identifying the appellant as his assailant.  In the same appeal, appellant contended the district court erred in communicating with the jury outside of the presence of appellant or his counsel.  Because the district court file did not indicate whether the district court’s communications with the jury concerned substantive issues or merely housekeeping matters, the case was returned to the district court for documentation of the communications.  The district court having heard testimony from the judge who presided over the trial and the in-court deputy assigned to the trial, the matter is again before the court on the question of whether the district court erred in communicating with the jury outside of the presence of appellant or his counsel.  In a supplemental pro se brief, appellant raises numerous other issues he claims violated his constitutional rights and deprived him of a fair trial.  (On appeal from Anoka County District Court.)