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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

January 2024

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Brian Matthew Nash, Respondent, vs. Commissioner of Public Safety, Appellant – Case No. A22-1238 : Appellant Commissioner of Public Safety revoked the driver’s license of respondent Brian Nash after an analysis of his blood sample indicated the presence of a controlled substance. Nash filed a petition for judicial review of his license revocation, arguing in part that the state trooper who requested the blood sample failed to provide the search-warrant advisory required by Minn. Stat. § 171.177, subd. 1 (2022). The district court affirmed the revocation. The court of appeals reversed.

The supreme court granted review of the following issue: whether an advisory that “refusal to take a test is a crime” is sufficient under Minn. Stat. § 171.177, subd. 1. (Hennepin County)
 

Nonoral: Edbert Neal Williams, Appellant, vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A23-0851 : Following a jury trial, appellant Edbert Williams was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and attempted first-degree murder. His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. In September 2022, Williams filed his third postconviction petition, which alleges that new DNA evidence proves his innocence and that he is entitled to relief under the interests-of-justice exception to the postconviction statute of limitations. Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2022). The district court denied the petition.

On appeal to the supreme court, Williams raises the following issues: (1) whether his new DNA evidence proves his innocence; and (2) whether the district court erred when it concluded that he is unable to satisfy the interests-of-justice exception to have the merits of his claim reviewed. (Ramsey County)
 

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Nonoral : Howard Thompson, Relator, vs. On Time Delivery Service, Inc., and Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Assigned Risk Plan, administered by Superior Point, Respondents – Case No. A23-0672: Relator Howard Thompson was injured in a vehicle collision while he was working for respondent On Time Delivery Service, Inc. Following a hearing, the compensation judge found that (a) Thompson did not sustain personal injuries to his right hip, right shoulder, or left hand in the collision; (b) his neck and back injuries were temporary and had resolved; (c) his job search was inadequate; and (d) benefits should be paid based upon a weekly wage of $1,801.41. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirmed, concluding that the findings of the compensation judge are supported by substantial evidence.

On appeal to the supreme court, Thompson’s brief presents the following issues: (1) whether the WCCA erred in affirming the compensation judge’s findings regarding the nature and extent of his work injuries; (2) whether the WCCA erred in affirming the compensation judge’s findings that his average weekly wage on the date of the injury was $1,801.41; and (3) whether the WCCA erred in affirming the compensation judge’s findings that he did not conduct a reasonable and diligent job search after August 20, 2018. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)
 

Nonoral: Christopher J. Wendell, Relator, Nancy A. Wendell, Relator, vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent – Case No. A23-1259: Relators Christopher and Nancy Wendell, residents of Wisconsin, in 2019 and 2020 had some of their wages withheld for Minnesota taxes. For both years, the Wendells filed joint Minnesota Individual Income Tax Returns declaring that they had no Minnesota individual income tax liability and requesting refunds of all state tax withheld. The Commissioner of Revenue instead issued orders assessing tax and interest for both years. Moreover, after warning the Wendells in 2019, the 2020 order also assessed a 25 percent frivolous return penalty, as permitted by Minn. Stat. § 289A.60, subd. 7 (2022). The Wendells sought administrative review, and the Commissioner affirmed.

On appeal, the tax court granted two motions for summary judgment to the Commissioner. The first summary judgment order granted the Commissioner’s motion for the 2019 tax year and the 2020 tax year in most respects other than the brokerage and interest income for 2020. The frivolous claim penalty was also affirmed. The tax court later granted the second summary judgment motion, which affirmed as to the Commissioner’s corrected notice of determination for the 2020 tax year, and also affirmed the constitutionality of the frivolous return penalty.

On appeal to the supreme court, relators’ brief presents the following issues: (1) whether the tax court erred in granting each of the two motions for summary judgment to the Commissioner based on the tax court’s alleged erroneous view of the evidence, Minnesota tax law, the burden of proof, and this court’s precedent; (2) whether the penalty for the Wendells’ filing of the 2020 return was improperly imposed and whether the statute allowing the penalty is unconstitutional. (Minnesota Tax Court)
 

Monday, January 8, 2024

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Daniel Johnson, Relator, vs. Concrete Treatments Inc., and Technology Insurance Company, Respondents, and Furniture & Things, Inc., and SFM Mutual Insurance Company, Respondents. Daniel Johnson, Respondent, vs. Concrete Treatments Inc., and Technology Insurance Company, Relators, and Furniture & Things, Inc., and SFM Mutual Insurance Company, Respondents – Case Nos. A23-0543, A23-0544 : Employee Daniel Johnson suffered a back injury in 2005 while employed by Furniture & Things, Inc. He received treatment and received workers’ compensation benefits at that time and continued working there until 2011. In 2016, he began working for Concrete Treatments, Inc., and reinjured his back in October 2018. In December 2018, he was in a motor vehicle accident. He had back surgery in 2021.

Johnson filed a workers’ compensation claim for disability benefits, rehabilitation assistance, and payment of outstanding medical expenses. The compensation judge held a hearing on the claim, at which he also asserted direct claims for the medical expenses incurred at Twin Cities Orthopedics and Power Within Chiropractic. The compensation judge issued findings that Johnson sustained an aggravation to his pre-existing back condition arising out of and in the course of his employment on October 1, 2018; that the 2005 and October 2018 work injuries were substantial contributing factors to his need for medical care and surgery; that the medical treatment provided by Twin Cities Orthopedics and Power Within Chiropractic was reasonable, necessary, and causally related to his work injuries; that he is entitled to temporary total disability benefits and reimbursement of his claimed medical expenses; that he could make direct claims for his medical expenses; and that apportionment was 40 percent to the 2005 injury and 60 percent to the October 2018 injury.

Concrete Treatments and its insurer Technology Insurance Company appealed. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirmed in almost all respects. Over a dissent, however, the WCCA reversed the compensation judge’s findings that permitted Johnson to bring a direct claim for his medical expenses. Concrete Treatments and Technology Insurance filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the supreme court, as did Johnson.

On appeal to the supreme court, the brief of Concrete Treatments and Technology Insurance presents the following issues: (1) whether the WCCA erred in affirming the compensation judge’s findings that Johnson sustained a work injury on October 1, 2018; (2) if Johnson did sustain a work injury on October 1, 2018, whether the WCCA erred in affirming the determination of the compensation judge that the injury was more than a minor, temporary aggravation of an underlying and pre-existing condition; (3) whether Johnson’s own testimony, that he returned to baseline shortly after the October 1, 2018, incident, along with the contemporaneous medical records, demonstrate that the compensation judge’s determinations, as affirmed by the WCCA, are manifestly contrary to the evidence; (4) whether the WCCA made a legal error in affirming the compensation judge’s application of the standard for causation for Gilletteinjuries to a claim for a specific injury; and (5) whether the WCCA erred in affirming the compensation judge’s findings that apportioned liability to the October 1, 2018 injury.

On appeal to the supreme court, Johnson’s brief presents the following issues: (1) whether Minn. Stat. § 176.361 (2022), and/or the case law that interprets it, compels an injured employee’s attorney to establish dual representation of the employee and his treatment provider in order to assert a direct claim for the provider’s unpaid expenses; and (2) whether compelling injured employees and their attorneys to enter into dual representation agreements with treatment providers in order for employees to directly assert claims for their own medical bills furthers the intent of the Workers’ Compensation Act. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)
 

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Alliance Housing Incorporated, et al., Respondents, vs. County of Hennepin, Relator – Case No. A23-0737 : Respondents Alliance Housing Incorporated and North Penn Supportive Housing LLC are nonprofits created to provide affordable housing for individuals with low and very low income. At issue in the tax court was the exempt status of parcels of real property owned by respondents: twelve parcels in south Minneapolis and nine parcels in north Minneapolis. The tax court ruled that the properties are exempt from tax under Minn. Stat. § 272.02, subd. 7(a) (2022).

On appeal to the supreme court, Hennepin County’s brief presents the following issue: Does an institution of purely public charity “use” the property in furtherance of its charitable purpose when it leases the property to an unrelated third party for use as a personal residence? (Minnesota Tax Court)
 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent/Cross-Appellant, vs. David Darnell Jones, Jr., Appellant/Cross-Respondent – Case No. A22-0172 : The State of Minnesota charged David Jones, Jr., with second-degree assault and third-degree assault. The State alleged that Jones committed third-degree assault by punching the victim, causing her to fall to the ground unconscious, and that he committed second-degree assault by later wielding a 2 x 4 board at the victim while she lay on the ground. Following a trial, the jury found Jones guilty of both counts.

The court of appeals affirmed the conviction for second-degree assault but reversed the conviction for third-degree assault as a lesser-included offense. The court of appeals held there was sufficient evidence to sustain the second-degree assault conviction using the test for direct evidence, but there was insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction using the test for circumstantial evidence.

The supreme court granted review on the following issues: (1) whether review for the sufficiency of evidence on the dangerous-weapon element of second-degree assault requires application of the standard of review for circumstantial evidence; and (2) whether, under the circumstantial evidence standard of review, the State presented sufficient evidence to prove that the 2 x 4 board Jones used was a dangerous weapon. (Crow Wing County)

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center
 

Binkley for President 2024, et al., Petitioners, vs. Steve Simon, Minnesota Secretary of State, Respondent – Case No. A23-1900 : This matter involves an election dispute brought directly before the supreme court under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44 (2022). Petitioners Binkley for President 2024 and Ryan Binkley (Binkley), filed a petition asking the supreme court, in part, to direct respondent Steve Simon, Minnesota Secretary of State, to include Binkley’s name on the ballot as a candidate for United States President in Minnesota’s presidential nomination primary election, which will be held on March 5, 2024, and to declare Minnesota Statutes section 207A.13, subdivision 2(a) (2022), unconstitutional. Minnesota’s major political parties “determine which candidates are to be placed on the presidential nomination primary ballot for that party.” Minn. Stat. § 207A.13, subd. 2(a); see also Minn. Stat. § 207A.11(d) (2022) (stating that chapter 207A “only applies to a major political party that selects delegates at the presidential nomination primary to send to a national convention”). Petitioners assert that Binkley’s name will not be on the 2024 presidential nomination primary ballot for the Republican Party of Minnesota because he does not meet the criteria the party established to be on that ballot.

The following legal issues are identified in the petition: (1) whether it is an unlawful delegation of power under the U.S. Constitution’s Electors Clause, which was in part intended to avoid political parties’ influences, intrigues, and cabals, for a Minnesota state law to delegate to the state political party chairs the choosing of presidential primary candidates for a presidential primary ballot; and (2) whether the Legislature, under the U.S. Constitution’s Electors Clause, is constitutionally authorized to delegate its authority solely to state political party chairs to choose presidential primary candidates for a presidential primary ballot. (Original Jurisdiction)