EN BANC CALENDAR
Before the Minnesota Supreme Court
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Monday, May 1, 2023
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor
William Findling, et al., Appellants, vs. Group Health Plan, Inc., et al., Respondents – Case Nos. A21-1518, A21-1527, A21-1528, A21-1530: Appellants William Findling, Heather Busby, Mark Dolan, and Kim Skaro each requested health records from one or more of their health care providers, respondents Group Health Plan, Inc., d/b/a Health Partners; Regions Hospital; Essentia Health; Innovis Health, LLC; Fairview Health Services; HealthEast Care Systems; and Allina Health Systems. Appellants allege that the responses they received were not compliant with the requirements of the Minnesota Health Records Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 144.291–.298 (2022) (“MHRA”). The supreme court has held that the MHRA does not, itself, grant a private right of action for such allegations. Larson v. Nw. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 855 N.W.2d 293, 301–02 (Minn. 2014). But appellants asserted that a private right of action is available to them under the private attorney general provision of Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subd. 3a (2022), and/or the Minnesota Patients’ Bill of Rights, Minn. Stat. §§ 144.651–.652 (2022) (“MPBR”).
Appellants’ cases were all assigned to a single judge. The district court granted respondents’ joint motion to dismiss, concluding that appellants failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because a private right of action was not available to them under either the private attorney general statute or the MPBR.
The court of appeals affirmed. It concluded there was no reason to think that the Legislature contemplated private enforcement of the MHRA under the private attorney general statute. And it concluded that neither of the two provisions of the MPBR relied upon by appellants, Minn. Stat. § 144.651, subd. 1, and Minn. Stat. § 144.652, subd. 2, creates a private right of action.
The supreme court granted review on the following issues: whether a civil action for a health system’s alleged violation of its obligation under the MHRA to provide a patient’s medical records is authorized by (1) the private attorney general statute, or (2) the MPBR. (Hennepin County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Brent Douglas Buchan, Appellant – Case No. A22-0868: A grand jury indicted appellant Brent Douglas Buchan for first-degree premeditated murder. Buchan pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial. Before trial, Buchan filed a motion to suppress the statements he made to police. The district court denied the motion to suppress, concluding that Buchan validly waived his invoked right to counsel prior to questioning. During trial, the district court admitted evidence of Buchan’s prior bad acts and the dying declaration of the victim. The jury found Buchan guilty as charged, and the court imposed a sentence of life without the possibility of release.
On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court committed reversible error in violation of Buchan’s Sixth Amendment right to confrontation by allowing the State to introduce the unconfronted testimonial dying declaration, (2) whether the district court committed reversible error when it denied Buchan’s motion to suppress, and (3) whether the district court committed reversible error by allowing the State to introduce inadmissible character evidence. (Hennepin County)
Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Richfield High School – 9:25 a.m.
Alejandro Cruz-Guzman, as guardian and next friend of his minor children, et al., Appellants, vs. State of Minnesota, et al., Respondents, Higher Ground Academy, et al., intervenors, Respondents – Case No. A22-0118: Appellants Alejandro Cruz-Guzman, et al., commenced this class action on behalf of children enrolled in the Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools. According to appellants, their “claims all arise from racial and socioeconomic segregation in Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools, for which they allege the State is responsible.” The defendants are respondents State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Senate, the Minnesota House of Representatives, the Minnesota Department of Education, and the Commissioner of Education. Three charter schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as parents of some of the students attending those charter schools, intervened as defendants/respondents.
The district court certified the following question as important and doubtful under Rule 103.03(i) of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure: “Is the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution violated by a racially imbalanced school system, regardless of the presence of de jure segregation or proof of a causal link between the racial imbalance and the actions of the state?” The court of appeals answered “the certified question by stating that the existence of a racial imbalance in the student body of a school, as compared to other schools in the same school district or school system, is not a per se violation of the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution, unless the racial imbalance is caused by intentional, de jure segregation.”
The supreme court granted review on the following issues: (1) whether it is necessary to prove intentional, de jure segregation in order to establish that a racially segregated school system is not general, uniform, thorough, or efficient and therefore violates the Education Clause, and (2) if de jure segregation is not required, what standard of causation is required to prove that a racially segregated school system violates the Education Clause. (Hennepin County)
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor
State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Raeleen Kay Johnson, Appellant – Case No. A21-1360: The State filed a complaint in Waseca County alleging that appellant Raeleen Johnson committed several offenses, including falsely reporting a crime. At trial, the State presented evidence that Johnson called a Waseca police officer from Mankato and falsely reported a crime. The jury found Johnson guilty of the charged offense and the district court entered a judgment of conviction. On appeal, Johnson argued the State failed to prove the element of venue—the charged offense occurred in Waseca County—because she called the officer from Mankato, which is in Blue Earth County. The court of appeals affirmed her conviction, concluding the language of the statute prohibiting falsely reporting a crime unambiguously provides for venue in both the county where Johnson made the false report and the county where the officer received the false report.
The supreme court granted review on the following issue: whether, to prove the venue element of falsely reporting a crime, the State must prove the defendant was in the county of charging when they made the false report. (Waseca County)
Jacqueline Blakey, Appellant, Jerry Blakey, Appellant, vs. Javonda Jones, Respondent, Gina Alexander, et al., Respondents – Case No. A22-0098: Appellants Jacqueline and Jerry Blakey brought a third-party child-custody petition. The district court appointed a guardian ad litem for the child and designated the guardian ad litem as a party to the case. After dismissing the custody petition, the district court discharged the guardian ad litem program and the assigned guardian ad litem.
The Blakeys sought to appeal the dismissal of their custody petition. The court of appeals dismissed their appeal based on their failure to timely serve the guardian ad litem with the notice of appeal. The court of appeals reasoned that the discharge of the guardian ad litem did not affect the guardian ad litem’s “party status on appeal.” Because the Blakeys’ request for custody conflicted with the recommendation of the guardian ad litem, the court of appeals concluded that the guardian ad litem is “an adverse party to this appeal,” and they “needed to timely serve the notice of appeal” on the guardian ad litem.
The supreme court granted review on the following issue: whether Minnesota Rule of Civil Appellate Procedure 103.01, subdivision 1, requires service of the notice of appeal on a guardian ad litem who was discharged by the district court in a custody matter. (Ramsey County)
Monday, May 8, 2023
Non-oral: Toby Earl Johnson, Appellant, vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A22-1609: In 2000, appellant Toby Johnson was convicted of aiding and abetting first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of release after 30 years. Johnson’s conviction was based on his guilty plea and admission that he participated in the kidnapping and murder of an adult male.
In 2001, Johnson filed a petition for postconviction relief and asked to withdraw his guilty plea. The district court denied the petition and the supreme court affirmed on direct appeal. Johnson v. State, 641 N.W.2d 912 (Minn. 2002).
In 2010, Johnson filed a motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9. The district court denied the motion and the supreme court affirmed on direct appeal. Johnson v. State, 801 N.W.2d 173 (Minn. 2011).
In 2015, Johnson filed another motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9. The district court denied the motion and the supreme court affirmed on direct appeal. Johnson v. State, 877 N.W.2d 776 (Minn. 2016).
In 2022, Johnson filed another motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9. The district court denied the motion.
On direct appeal to the supreme court, appellant’s brief presents the following issue: whether Johnson’s sentence is unauthorized by law because, contrary to Minn. Sent. Guideline 1(B)(16), the sentence imposed by the district court in 2000 is inconsistent with the sentencing worksheet prepared by the Department of Corrections for his sentencing hearing. (McLeod County)