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MN Supreme Court May Calendar

Thursday, April 26, 2018  
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May 2018
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Click here to watch oral arguments livestreaming

Monday, April 30, 2018
JeanAnn Fenrich, individually, and as trustee for the heirs of Gary Fenrich, Appellant vs. The Blake School, et al., Respondents – Case No. A17-0063:This appeal concerns the liability of respondent The Blake School for an automobile accident involving a student who was driving his family’s vehicle to a post-season cross country meet. Appellant JeanAnn Fenrich was injured and her husband was killed in the accident. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment to the school on the claims brought by Fenrich. The district court concluded that the school did not owe a duty “to protect third-party non-students” from injury caused by the negligent driving conduct of a student.

The court of appeals affirmed on a different basis. The court of appeals concluded that a school may owe a duty of reasonable care to members of the general public if the school’s own conduct creates a foreseeable risk of injury to a foreseeable plaintiff. The court of appeals determined, however, that the school did not assume a duty of reasonable care here because the automobile accident was not foreseeable.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether a school may owe a duty of care to protect members of the general public from harm caused by the driving conduct of a student; and (2) whether the automobile accident in this case was foreseeable. (Watonwan County)

Nonoral: Joseph Haywood Campbell, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A17-1943: Following a trial, appellant Joseph Haywood Campbell was found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder for the benefit of a gang, first-degree premeditated murder, and second-degree intentional murder. The trial court convicted Campbell and sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of release. The supreme court affirmed Campbell’s conviction on direct appeal, noting there was “overwhelming” evidence of his guilt. State v. Campbell, 861 N.W.2d 95, 103 (Minn. 2015).

Campbell filed a petition for postconviction relief, alleging that a witness wanted to recant; that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel; and that one of the trial prosecutors failed to disclose exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and failed to correct false testimony at trial. The district court denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. It ruled that Campbell’s claim of witness recantation did not satisfy the requirements of the three-prong test set forth in Larrison v. United States, 24 F.2d 82 (7th Cir. 1928), and adopted by the courts of this state, seeState v. Caldwell, 322 N.W.2d 574, 585-86 (Minn. 1982), because the court was not satisfied that the testimony given by the witness was false or that the witness was a material witness, and because given the overwhelming evidence of petitioner’s guilt, the jury would not have reached a different conclusion absent the witness’s testimony. The district court ruled that Campbell’s other claims were known, or could have been known, to him on direct appeal, and were therefore barred by the rule of State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (Minn. 1976).

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court erroneously denied Campbell an evidentiary hearing. (Ramsey County)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Edward John Lapenotiere, Jr., Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A17‑0456:Appellant Edward Lapenotiere was charged with second-degree and third-degree sale of a controlled substance under Minn. Stat. §§ 152.022, subd. 1(6)(i), 152.023, subd. 1(1) (2016), for a sale made in a school zone. Minnesota Statutes § 152.01, subd. 14a(2) (2016), defines a “school zone” as “the area surrounding school property . . . to a distance of 300 feet or one city block, whichever distance is greater, beyond the school property.” Among other evidence at trial, the State submitted an aerial map to show the location of the school and the location of Lapenotiere’s house. A jury found Lapenotiere guilty of both charges.

Lapenotiere then filed a petition for postconviction relief, asserting, among other claims, that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the sale occurred in a school zone because his house, where the sale occurred, is on a block that does not share a border with a school. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision denying postconviction relief, concluding that the evidence established that Lapenotiere’s house is within the defined school zone, whether measured by distance or area.

At issue before the supreme court is whether the evidence established that the sale occurred within a school zone as defined by Minn. Stat. § 152.01, subd. 14a(2). (Morrison County).

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Joel Jennissen, et al., Appellants vs. City of Bloomington, Respondent – Case No. A17‑0221:Prior to 2015, respondent City of Bloomington structured its solid waste collection systems under an “open collection” system, in which residents are free to hire a city-licensed collector to collect their trash. In December of 2015, the City adopted an ordinance providing for an “organized collection” system for solid waste collection. Under an organized collection system, the city contracts with a specific collector or group of collectors to remove trash in defined areas. Minn. Stat. § 115A.94, subd. 1 (2016). The Minnesota Waste Management Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 115A.01-.99 (2016) (“Act”) contains provisions that regulate the process a municipality must take when transitioning from open collection to organized collection. See Minn. Stat. § 115A.94.

Petitioners, who are residents of the City, proposed an amendment to the City’s charter that would require voter approval prior to the adoption of an organized collection system, and which purported to invalidate the December 2015 ordinance. The city council refused to place the proposed charter amendment on the ballot on the basis that it was unconstitutional and was preempted by the Act. Petitioners sued the City in district court, seeking to compel the City to place the proposed charter amendment on the next general election ballot. The district court granted summary judgment to the City, ruling that the Act occupied the field of “the process a municipality must follow in order to implement organized collection,” and therefore the proposed charter amendment was preempted by the Act. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Minn. Stat. § 115A.94 preempts the proposed charter amendment relating to organized collection. (Hennepin County)

Monday, May 7, 2018
Thomas Funk, et al., Appellants vs. Thomas O’Connor, et al., Respondents – Case No. A16-1645: Appellants are residents of Victoria who brought three separate actions against respondents, who were members of the Victoria City Council, alleging violations of Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law, Minn. Stat. §§ 13D.01–.08 (2016). The district court consolidated the three actions into a single action. Following a bench trial, the district court found that the council members had violated the Open Meeting Law multiple times. Although the district court imposed civil penalties against the council members, the district court denied the residents’ request to remove the council members from office, reasoning that “the proceedings before [the court were] the first judicially alleged violations against them.” See Minn. Stat. § 13D.06, subd. 3 (“If a person has been found to have intentionally violated this chapter in three or more actions brought under this chapter involving the same governing body, such person shall forfeit any further right to serve on such governing body . . . .”). The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Minn. Stat. § 13D.06, subd. 3, requires public officials to have notice and the opportunity to cure violations of the Open Meeting Law in two prior actions before they can be removed from office for a third violation; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion by consolidating the three actions into one action.  (Carver County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Christopher Lee Holloway, Appellant – Case No. A16-1489:Appellant Christopher Holloway was charged with third-degree and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for an incident with a 14-year-old. At the time of the incident, Holloway was 44 years old. For both offenses, the State is required to prove that at the time of the offense, the complainant was at least 13 years old but less than 16 years old and that the defendant was older than the complainant by more than a specified number of months. See Minn. Stat. §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b) (2016).Mistake of age is a defense, but only if a defendant is no more than 120 months older than the complainant. See Minn. Stat. §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b). Following a trial, a jury found Holloway guilty of both counts. The court of appeals affirmed his conviction. 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the limitation on who may raise a mistake of age defense in Minn. Stat. §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), and 609.345, subd. 1(b), violates federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection or substantive due process; and (2) whether Minn. Stat. §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), and 609.345, subd. 1(b), are strict liability offenses. (Olmsted County)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Martin M. Harstad, et al., Respondents vs. City of Woodbury, Appellant – Case No. A16-1937:Martin Harstad and his land development and holding companies (collectively, Harstad) sought to develop land in the City of Woodbury. Harstad submitted a subdivision application for a 183-home residential development. While communicating about the application, the City proposed that Harstad pay a “major roadway assessment” of $1,389,444, which was intended to fund infrastructure improvements associated with the development.

Harstad brought an action against the City, challenging the legality of the major roadway assessment. The district court declared the assessment unenforceable. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the assessment is “invalid and unenforceable” because a statutory city lacks express or implied authority under Minn. Stat. § 462.358, subd. 2a (2016), to impose a road assessment “as a condition of approving a developer’s subdivision application.”

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Minn. Stat. § 462.358, subd. 2a, authorizes statutory cities to impose a requirement for financial security in the form of a negotiated infrastructure fee; (2) whether the statute distinguishes between infrastructure improvements based on whether they are located inside or outside of the parcel to be subdivided; and (3) whether the authority to execute and enforce development contracts provided by the statute includes the right to negotiate terms for the provision and use of financial security to assure construction of infrastructure improvements. (Washington County)

Nonoral: KCP Hastings, LLC, Relator vs. County of Dakota, Respondent – Case No. A18-0133:Relator KCP Hastings, LLC owns property in Hastings, Minnesota, upon which sits a retail shopping center. KCP sought review of respondent Dakota County’s estimated assessment of the market value of the property on three particular valuation dates in 2010, 2011, and 2012. After a trial, the tax court adopted market valuations of the property that exceeded the County’s estimated assessments. KCP appealed, and the supreme court affirmed in part, vacated, and remanded. KCP Hastings, LLC v. County of Dakota, 868 N.W.2d 268 (Minn. 2015). The supreme court affirmed the tax court’s use of the mall’s gross building area rather than its gross leasable area, as well as its rejection of KCP’s sales-comparison analysis. But the supreme court found that the tax court erred when it rejected KCP’s discounted-cash-flow (DCF) analysis and when, having rejected both parties’ analyses of the income approach, it failed to consider the income approach in its final valuation.

On remand, the tax court invited the parties to supplement their appraisals in light of the supreme court’s instructions to consider a DCF analysis. KCP moved to exclude the County’s supplemental appraisal because it had argued in the first trial that the DCF method is not a reliable indicator of value in this case. The tax court denied the motion, and after considering all the evidence and the parties’ analysis, again adopted market valuations of the property exceeding the County’s estimated assessment. The tax court’s valuations on remand for 2010 and 2011 were lower than its initial valuations, but the valuation on remand for 2012 was higher than the initial valuation.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues include whether the tax court erred when it: (1) allowed the County to supplement its appraisal on remand; (2) rejected KCP’s expert appraisal under the income approach as valuing a leased fee interest, rather than a fee simple interest; (3) rejected KCP’s appraiser’s vacancy rate, capitalization rates, terminal capitalization rates, and discount rates; (4) found that a particular portion of the property was “excess land” for appraisal purposes; (5) adopted the building size that was affirmed by the supreme court in its 2015 decision; and (6) formed its final valuation by ascribing 30% weight to the sales comparison approach and 70% weight to the income approach. (Minnesota Tax Court)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
In re the Marriage of: Francis Stephen Gill, Appellant vs. Gretchen Zwakman Gill, Respondent – Case No. A16-1421: This appeal arises from a dissolution proceeding between appellant Francis Gill (husband) and respondent Gretchen Gill (wife). During the marriage, husband helped lead a successful gelato company. While the dissolution proceeding was pending, the owners of the company negotiated a sale of the interests in and assets of the company.The purchase agreement included a provision regarding two “earn-out payments,” which were contingent on future company performance. Husband also negotiated an employment agreement with the purchaser. 

In the dissolution proceeding, the district court set the valuation date for the parties’ marital property as a date that was approximately 3 months before the sale of the company closed. The parties agreed to equally divide their interest in the $180 million payment that the purchaser made when the sale of the company closed. But the district court awarded the earn-out payments to husband as his nonmarital property, concluding that the earn-out payments, “if obtained, will be a result of Husband’s significant post-marital labor.” The court of appeals reversed and remanded, concluding that the earn-out payments are marital property because they were “part of the purchase price” for the company and reflected the company’s “value as of the purchase date.”

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the earn-out payments are marital property or nonmarital property. (Washington County)


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