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MN Supreme Court September Calendar

Tuesday, August 21, 2018  
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September 2018
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Click here to watch oral arguments livestreaming

Tuesday, September 4, 2018
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Edwin Thomas Curtis, Appellant – Case No. A17-0373
 The attorney representing appellant Edwin Thomas Curtis requested a mental-health evaluation to determine whether Curtis was competent to stand trial. The district court granted the request. After examining Curtis, the mental-health evaluator recommended the court find Curtis competent as there was no evidence he was incompetent. The district court found Curtis competent. Following a stipulated-facts trial, Curtis was convicted of the charged offense.

On appeal, Curtis argued the district court improperly shifted the burden of proving competency to the defense, citing State v. Ganpat, 732 N.W.2d 232, 238 (Minn. 2007). Questioning the supreme court’s holding in Ganpat, the court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether under Ganpat, the State must show the defendant’s competence by a fair preponderance evidence, and (2) whether the State met that burden here. (St. Louis County)

Donald G. Heilman, Appellant vs. Patrick C. Courtney, as Program Manager for Minnesota Department of Corrections, Respondent – Case No. A17-0863Following his conviction for first-degree test refusal, appellant Donald Heilman was committed to the Department of Correction (DOC). In July 2008, he was released from prison in connection with phase II of the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP). In March 2014, the DOC Hearings and Release Unit (HRU) found that Heilman had violated his conditional release and re-incarcerated him for 180 days. Fifty days later, on May 14, 2014, the DOC released him from custody and provided him a “Notice of Sentence Expiration and Restoration of Civil Rights.”

Following his release, Heilman filed a complaint against respondent Patrick C. Courtney, as Program Manager for Minnesota Department of Corrections, alleging false imprisonment, negligence, and the right to redress of injuries as provided by the Minnesota Constitution. The district court dismissed the complaint. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the court of appeals erred when it disposed of the appeal based on an issue of statutory interpretation without providing the parties an opportunity to be heard on the issue, and (2) whether participants that reach phase II of the CIP are “released from prison” within the meaning of the conditional release statute. (Ramsey County)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Justin Warren, Appellant vs. Richard Dinter, et al., Respondents – Case No. A17-0555Appellant Justin Warren brought a medical-malpractice wrongful-death claim against respondents Dr. Richard Dinter and Range Regional Health Services d/b/a Fairview Range Medical Center (Fairview), arising from the death of appellant’s mother, Susan Warren (Warren). After examining Warren at a medical clinic, a nurse practitioner spoke to Dr. Dinter, a hospitalist at Fairview, about whether Warren should be admitted to the hospital. The medical clinic was not affiliated with Fairview, and there was no written contract between them. The nurse practitioner described Warren’s symptoms and lab results over the telephone, and Dr. Dinter advised the nurse practitioner that Warren did not need to be hospitalized. Three days later, Warren was found dead due to sepsis brought on by a staph infection.

Appellant claims that Dr. Dinter was negligent in refusing to admit Warren to Fairview. The district court granted summary judgment to respondents. A divided court of appeals affirmed. 

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether a physician-patient relationship was established, which imposed a duty of care on the physician.(St. Louis County)

William Woischke, et al., Respondents vs. Stursberg & Fine, Inc. et al., Appellants – Case No. A17-0408: In 2016, appellant Stursberg & Fine entered into an agreement with respondent William Woischke to broker a refinancing agreement and provide other services. The 2016 agreement contained an arbitration clause requiring disputes to be arbitrated in Pennsylvania. To lawfully renegotiate the refinancing agreement, Stursberg & Fine was required to hold a Minnesota limited broker license. See Minn. Stat. §§ 82.81, subd. 1, 82.63, subd. 13 (2016). It was not aware of this requirement, and it did not hold the license at the time it entered into and performed under the 2016 agreement. Stursberg & Fine later applied for and was granted the required license, but Woischke refused to pay under the 2016 agreement on the ground that Stursberg & Fine lacked the license at the time it entered into and performed under the 2016 agreement, which was therefore void.

Woischke sought a declaratory judgment in district court that the 2016 agreement was void. Stursberg & Fine commenced arbitration proceedings in Pennsylvania, and later moved the district court to dismiss the case and compel arbitration. The district court granted Stursberg & Fine’s motion, reasoning that the 2016 agreement was not void and the arbitration clause was enforceable. It dismissed the case and ordered the parties to arbitrate. The court of appeals accepted jurisdiction of the appeal after receiving briefing on that topic. It later issued a decision on the merits reversing the district court, reasoning that the 2016 agreement was void, and remanding for the district court to determine whether any of the services performed under the 2016 agreement did not require a broker’s license.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether, under City of Rochester v. Kottschade, 896 N.W.2d 541 (Minn. 2017), the court of appeals should have remanded the case to the district court to vacate the dismissal order and stay the case pending arbitration, and (2) whether the 2016 agreement was void.(Pine County)

Thursday, September 6, 2018
Nonoral: Jeremy Jackson, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A17-1939: Following a jury trial, appellant Jeremy Jackson was convicted of first-degree murder committed for the benefit of a gang and attempted first-degree murder committed for the benefit of a gang. The supreme court affirmed Jackson’s convictions on direct appeal. State v. Jackson, 770 N.W.2d 470 (Minn. 2009).

In June 2017, Jackson filed his fifth petition for postconviction relief, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The district court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether Jackson’s claims are time-barred by Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2016), (2) whether Jackson’s claims are procedurally barred by State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn. 1976), and (3) whether Jackson’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel lack merit. (Hennepin County)

Monday, September 10, 2018
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Joseph Christen Thoresen, Appellant – Case No. A17-1854: Following a jury trial, appellant Joseph Thoresen was convicted of first-degree premediated murder. The State’s theory was that Thoresen, along with his girlfriend, killed the victim. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the girlfriend pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified at Thoresen’s trial.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether there was sufficient evidence to corroborate the testimony of the girlfriend, who was an accomplice to the murder, and (2) whether the district court committed reversible error when it denied Thoresen’s requests for jury instructions on evaluating the credibility of a witness who is a substance abuser or who could be charged with aiding an offender. (Itasca County)

Nonoral: Jack Willis Nissalke, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A18-0337:Following a jury trial, appellant Jack Nissalke was convicted of first-degree murder. The supreme court affirmed Nissalke’s conviction on direct appeal. State v. Nissalke, 801 N.W.2d 82 (Minn. 2011).

In October 2017, Nissalke filed his second petition for postconviction relief, alleging several grounds for relief, including newly discovered evidence and ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether Nissalke’s claims are time-barred by Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2016), (2) whether Nissalke’s claims are procedurally barred by State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn. 1976), and (3) whether Nissalke’s claims lack merit. (Winona County)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Juan Manuel Ortega-Rodriguez, Appellant – Case No. A17-0450Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellantJuan Manuel Ortega-Rodriguez with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(h) (2016). Appellant waived his right to a jury and submitted his case to the district court. Finding that appellant intentionally touched his penis to the 10-year-old victim’s vagina with a sexual intent, the district court found appellant guilty of the charged offense. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the language of Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(h) (2016), prohibits sexual contact with a child under the age of 13, as defined by Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 11(c) (2016). (Ramsey County)

Nonoral: Joel Marvin Munt, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A18-0202:Following a bifurcated trial, a jury found appellant Joel Munt guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, one count of drive-by shooting, two counts of first-degree aggravated robbery, three counts of second-degree assault, three counts of kidnapping, and three counts of criminal vehicular operation causing injury and rejected his not-guilty-by-reason-of-mental-illness defense. The evidence presented a trial established that Munt drove his Chevrolet Suburban into his ex-wife’s car, injuring his three children who were passengers in his ex-wife’s car, and then shot his ex-wife. Afterwards, Munt threatened a passerby with a gun, stole a couple’s car at gunpoint, and then drove off with his three children in the stolen car. The district court imposed a life sentence without the possibility of release for first-degree premediated murder, two consecutive 57-month sentences for first-degree aggravated robbery, a consecutive 36-month sentence for second-degree assault, three consecutive 36-month sentences for kidnapping, and three concurrent 365-day sentences for criminal vehicular operation. The supreme court affirmed Munt’s convictions and sentences on direct appeal. State v. Munt, 831 N.W.2d 569 (Minn. 2013).

Munt filed a motion to correct his sentence pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9. The district court denied the motion.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented include: (1) whether Munt may be convicted of only one offense under Minn. Stat. § 611.02 (2016), and (2) whether Munt’s multiple sentences violate Minn. Stat. § 609.035 (2016) or Minn. Stat. § 609.04 (2016). (Blue Earth County)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
County of Hennepin, Respondent vs. Sandip C. Bhakta, et al., Appellants – Case No. A17-1539: Respondent Hennepin County took, by eminent domain, property belonging to appellants the Bhaktas, and a panel of court-ordered commissioners determined the amount of just compensation. The Bhaktas appealed the award to the district court for a jury trial. Prior to trial, the Bhaktas filed a number of motions in limine to exclude certain evidence at trial. The district court denied the motions immediately before trial. The jury returned a verdict unfavorable to the Bhaktas, who appealed on several grounds, including denial of the evidentiary motions in limine.

The court of appeals questioned its jurisdiction over the evidentiary issues under the rule of Sauter v. Wasemiller, 389 N.W.2d 200 (Minn. 1986), noting that the Bhaktas had not moved for a new trial in the district court. Following briefing, the court of appeals dismissed the appeal in part, concluding that the Bhaktas’ failure to move for a new trial precluded appellate review of the evidentiary issues.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether a civil litigant must bring a motion for a new trial to preserve issues resolved by the trial court in pretrial motions in limine. (Hennepin County)

Thursday, September 13, 2018, Lincoln High School, Thief River Falls, Minnesota
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Gerald Robinson, Appellant – Case No. A17-0525:Appellant Gerald Robinson was charged with felony domestic assault based on allegations that he physically attacked and injured an adult female in a hotel room. During the jury trial, the victim testified regarding the nature of her relationship with Robinson, and the jury found him guilty.

Robinson appealed his conviction, arguing that his relationship with the victim was not “a significant romantic or sexual relationship” as defined by the Domestic Abuse Act, Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, subd. 2(7) (2016). The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Robinson’s relationship with the victim fits the definition of a significant relationship under the Domestic Abuse Act. (Clay County)


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