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MN Supreme Court November 2019 Calendar

Tuesday, October 22, 2019  
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November 2019
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Click here to watch oral arguments livestreaming  

Monday, November 4, 2019
In re K.M. – Case Nos. A19-0414, A19-0714
: The Washington County District Court issued a search warrant for the home office of appellant K.M., an attorney who handles, among other matters, criminal defense cases. Officers of the Burnsville Police Department executed the warrant, seizing a number of electronic devices that contain files covering K.M.’s entire law practice. K.M. filed a motion in Dakota County District Court under Minn. Stat. § 626.04(a) (2018), asking for the return of her property, arguing that a search of an attorney’s office and seizure of attorney-client communications is unconstitutional. Following an ex parte hearing, the district court denied the motion, finding the search and seizure proper and the seized property was held in good faith as potential evidence in an uncharged matter.

K.M. filed a petition for a writ of prohibition seeking the return of the seized property, which the court of appeals denied in appeal No. A19-0414. The supreme court granted her petition for review, also granting the intervention motion and petition for review filed by K.M.’s clients, appellants John Does 1–4. K.M. also filed an appeal of the district court’s decision under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103 in appeal No. A19-0714. On its own motion, the supreme court granted review of appeal No. A19-0714, and ordered the two appeals consolidated. Finally, the supreme court granted the State’s intervention motion to participate in the consolidated appeals.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether all of K.M.’s seized property, including the seized client files, should be returned and all copies destroyed; and (2) whether further orders are justified to protect attorney-client privileged information. (Dakota County)

Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Andrew Cilek et al., Respondents vs. Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, et al., Appellants – Case No. A18-1140: Respondents Andrew Cilek and Minnesota Voters Alliance (collectively Alliance) brought an action claiming that the Secretary of State unlawfully refused to disclose certain voter registration data requested under the Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 13.01–.90 (2018). The Alliance requested access to “non-private government data” contained in the Statewide Voter Registration System, but the Secretary of State refused to provide access to data that was not part of the “public information list” under Minn. Stat. § 201.091 (2018). 

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Alliance. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that “data on (1) registered voter status, (2) reason for a challenge, and (3) voter history are public data” under the Data Practices Act and Minn. Stat. § 201.091.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether voter registration data other than data in the “public information list” is accessible as public data. (Ramsey County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Luis Damian Cruz Montanez, Appellant – Case No. A19-0170: Appellant Luis Cruz Montanez was charged with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault. Montanez, represented by a public defender, does not speak English and requires the assistance of a Spanish-language interpreter during court appearances. Montanez filed an ex parte application under Minn. Stat. § 611.21 (2018), requesting $2,000 for interpreter services to facilitate communication with his attorney outside of the courtroom. In support of the application, Montanez included affidavits from the chief public defender for the district and the chief administrator for the State Board of Public Defense indicating that the Ninth District Public Defender’s Office no longer had funds available to hire experts, secure transcripts, hire interpreters, or undertake other costs contemplated by Minn. Stat. § 611.21 for the remainder of 2019.

The chief judge denied the application. Montanez appealed and his criminal case proceeded in district court while the appeal of his application was pending. The Ninth District Public Defender made arrangements with an interpreter for a delayed payment following resolution of the appeal or after the start of the new fiscal year. As a result, Montanez received interpreter services when he communicated with his attorney outside of the courtroom. About a week before Montanez pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, the court of appeals affirmed the denial of his application.  

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) does Minn. Stat. § 611.21 require the county to pay for interpreter services needed to facilitate out of court attorney-client communication if the district public defender no longer has funds available to pay for such services; and (2) is this appeal moot. (Pennington County)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019
State of Minnesota, by its Commissioner of Transportation, Respondent vs. Rosemary R. Elbert, et al., Appellants – Case No. A18-1280: Appellants own property in Lake County between Silver Bay and Little Marais on both sides of Highway 61. The State, by its Commissioner of Transportation (MNDOT), filed a petition to condemn permanent and temporary easements over appellants’ property for improvements to Highway 61. The rights described in the petition made no explicit mention to rights of access, permanent or temporary. The district court approved the petition and appointed commissioners to determine the amount of damages sustained. The commissioners determined that the total damages should be nearly $400,000, with $305,000 being due to lost access to the property. Both parties appealed the commissioners’ determination to the district court and moved for partial summary judgment regarding lack-of-access damages. Appellants argued that during the construction period, MNDOT had the ability to utilize the easements and completely prevent access across the easement area to the remainder of their property. Appellants also argued that they are entitled to recover for construction interferences caused by MNDOT. The district court denied appellants’ motion and granted MNDOT’s motion. The court of appeals affirmed, reasoning that because MNDOT did not seek and appellants did not prove a taking of their right of access, they cannot obtain damages for the right of access under any theory.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether Minnesota should adopt the “fullest extent” rule, under which damages may be based on the government’s fullest possible use of the easement; and (2) whether appellants are entitled to construction interference damages. (Lake County)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Daniel Martin Lieber, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0207731 – Case No. A19-0048: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.

Thursday, November 7, 2019
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Kevin Reek, Appellant – Case No. A19-0153: Appellant Kevin Reek was indicted for aiding and abetting first-degree murder while committing aggravated robbery and second-degree intentional murder based on allegations that he participated in the beating death of an elderly woman inside of her home while searching for money. A jury found Reek guilty of both charges and the district court sentenced Reek to life in prison.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) did the district court’s comments regarding the admission of Spriegl evidence violate Reek’s constitutional rights to an impartial judge and to present a complete defense; (2) did the district court abuse its discretion by ruling that the State could impeach Reek with prior felony convictions if he testified; and (3) should Reek be given a new trial based on the language used in the final jury instruction and the prosecutor’s closing argument regarding accomplice liability. (Ramsey County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Stafon Edward Thompson, Appellant – Case No. A19-0717: Appellant Stafon Thompson was indicted for two counts of first-degree murder based on allegations that he killed a mother and her child in their home during an aggravated robbery. At the time of the offense, Thompson was 17 years old. A jury found Thompson guilty of both charges, and the district court sentenced him to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of release. The supreme court affirmed the convictions and sentence. State v. Thompson, 788 N.W.2d 485 (Minn. 2010).  Thompson filed a habeas corpus petition in federal district court arguing that his two consecutive life terms without the possibility of release were illegal based on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). The federal district court denied Thompson’s petition. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. Thompson v. Roy, 793 F.3d 843 (8th Cir. 2015). Thompson filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, which vacated the Eighth Circuit’s decision and remanded to the federal district court based on its decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016). The federal district court remanded the case to the state district court for resentencing. The district court resentenced Thompson to two consecutive life terms in prison with the possibility of release.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court abused its discretion by resentencing Thompson to two consecutive life terms in prison without holding a hearing. (Hennepin County)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Assata Kenneh, Appellant vs. Homeward Bound, Inc., Respondent – Case No. A18-0174: Appellant Assata Kenneh brought an action against her former employer, Homeward Bound, Inc., which included a claim for sexual harassment under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), Minn. Stat. §§ 363A.01–.44 (2018). The district court granted summary judgment to Kenneh’s employer, concluding that the conduct alleged “does not constitute pervasive, hostile conduct that changes the terms of employment and exposes an employer to liability” for a hostile work environment under the MHRA.

On appeal, Kenneh argued that the district court erred by failing to make factual inferences in her favor and applying the incorrect legal standard. Kenneh also asked the court of appeals to abandon the “severe or pervasive” standard for sexual harassment claims based on a hostile work environment. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether Minnesota should abandon the “severe or pervasive” standard for sexual harassment claims under the MHRA; (2) alternatively, whether Kenneh experienced severe or pervasive sexual harassment; (3) whether Kenneh’s employer took sufficient remedial action such that summary judgment was proper; and (4) whether Kenneh’s employer should be subject to a heightened standard of liability under the employer’s harassment and offensive behavior policy. (Hennepin County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Edward Martin, Appellant – Case No. A18-0893: In 1992, appellant Edward Martin was convicted in California of sexual battery. Martin eventually moved to Minnesota. In 2005, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) informed Martin that he was required to register for life as a predatory offender in Minnesota because of his California conviction. In August 2016, Martin registered with the BCA as homeless. In February 2017, respondent the State of Minnesota charged Martin with failing to register as a predatory offender between August 19, 2016, and September 28, 2016. The State alleged that Martin had failed to comply with a requirement to check in with law enforcement on a weekly basis. See Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 3a(e) (2018).

After a court trial based on stipulated evidence, the district court found Martin guilty. The court of appeals affirmed Martin’s conviction.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the State proved that Martin was required to register as a predatory offender between August 19, 2016, and September 28, 2016. (Hennepin County)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Ronnie Bila Shaka, Appellant – Case No. A18-0778: Appellant Ronnie Bila Shaka was charged with violating a domestic abuse no-contact order that prohibited him from having contact with his wife. When Shaka’s wife failed to appear for the jury trial, the State moved to admit her out-of-court statements to a law enforcement officer regarding Shaka’s contact with her, arguing that the statements were admissible under the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing exception to the Confrontation Clause. In support of its motion, the State submitted recordings of telephone calls Shaka made while in jail awaiting trial. The district court granted the State’s motion and the jury found Shaka guilty. The court of appeals affirmed Shaka’s conviction.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the State established that Shaka forfeited his right to confront his wife. (Hennepin County)

Save Lake Calhoun, Respondent vs. Sarah Strommen, et al., Appellants – Case No. A18-1007: Save Lake Calhoun filed a petition for writ of quo warranto in Ramsey County District Court, claiming that the Commissioner of Natural Resources had exceeded her statutory authority in changing the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska. The district court denied the petition, concluding that Save Lake Calhoun failed to establish an ongoing act necessary to obtain quo warranto relief.

The court of appeals reversed and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of Save Lake Calhoun, concluding that the district court erred by denying the petition for writ of quo warranto because Save Lake Calhoun had presented “a sufficient claim for the ongoing exercise of power” by the Department of Natural Resources. The court of appeals also addressed the merits of the claim and determined that the Commissioner of Natural Resources lacks authority under Minn. Stat. §§ 83A.015–.07 (2018), to change a lake name that has existed for more than 40 years.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the Legislature gave the Commissioner of Natural Resources authority to change the name of a lake that has been known by its current name for more than 40 years; (2) whether a writ of quo warranto is appropriate; and (3) whether Minnesota should abolish or limit the common-law writ of quo warranto. (Ramsey County)


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