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MN Supreme Court March 2020 Calendar

Tuesday, February 25, 2020  
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March 2020
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
here to watch oral arguments livestreaming  

Monday, March 2, 2020
Lyndsey Olson, Respondent vs. John Lesch, Appellant – Case No. A18-1694: Respondent Lyndsey Olson brought a defamation action against appellant John Lesch, who is member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. The defamation action arose from a letter that Lesch sent to the newly elected mayor of Saint Paul in January 2018. Among other matters, Lesch questioned Olson’s suitability for the position of Saint Paul City Attorney. Lesch filed a motion to dismiss the action, based in part on his claim that he is entitled to legislative immunity. Lesch claimed legislative immunity under Minn. Stat. § 540.13 (2018), which provides immunity for “any act done in pursuance of legislative duties,” and under the Speech or Debate Clause of the Minnesota Constitution, Minn. Const. art. IV, § 10. The district court concluded that Lesch is not entitled to legislative immunity. Lesch filed an interlocutory appeal, and the court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Lesch is entitled to legislative immunity under Minn. Stat. § 540.13; and (2) whether Lesch is entitled to legislative immunity under the Speech or Debate Clause of the Minnesota Constitution. (Ramsey County)

In re the Matter of: Esther Schmalz and the Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Human Services, Renville County Human Services – Case No. A18-2156: Between 1987 and 2002, respondent Esther Schmalz and her husband Martin sold three parcels of farmland to their sons by warranty deeds, reserving for themselves a life estate in each parcel. In 2015, then 85-year-old Esther entered a long-term care facility while 93-year-old Marvin continued to reside at the couple’s homestead property. In 2017, Esther submitted an application for medical-assistance long-term care (MA-LTC) benefits. Renville County conducted an evaluation of the assets owned by the two spouses as a step toward determining her eligibility. The county determined that their assets included the life-estate interests in the farmland parcels. Esther appealed the results of the asset evaluation to the commissioner of human services, who eventually affirmed the county’s asset evaluation and remanded for further action on the application.  On remand, the county determined that Esther was ineligible for MA-LTC benefits. The ineligibility determination was based in part on a conclusion that the life-estate interests owned by Esther, as the “institutionalized spouse,” were not available assets for purposes of determining eligibility, but the life-estate interests of Marvin, as the “community spouse,” in the same parcels were available assets. Esther appealed this determination to the commissioner as well, and the commissioner eventually affirmed.  Esther appealed the commissioner’s determination to the district court pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 256.045, subd. 7 (2018). The district court reversed the denial of Esther’s application, concluding that the unambiguous language of Minn. Stat. § 256B.056, subd. 4a (2018), provides that Marvin’s life-estate interests are deemed not salable and are therefore not available assets for purposes of determining Esther’s eligibility. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether, under Minn. Stat. § 256B.056, the value of a community spouse’s non-homestead life-estate interest, which the owner of the remainder interest does not intend to purchase, and the community spouse does not sell, is considered available to the institutionalized spouse for purposes of determining eligibility for MA-LTC benefits. (Renville County)

Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Fletcher Properties, Inc., et al., Appellants vs. City of Minneapolis, Respondent – Case No. A18-1271: Appellants Fletcher Properties, Inc., et al., own multi-unit rental properties in respondent City of Minneapolis. This appeal involves constitutional challenges to a Minneapolis civil rights ordinance, which deems it an “unlawful discriminatory practice” for a property owner to use “any requirement of a public assistance program” as “a motivating factor” in the refusal to rent property. Minneapolis, Minn., Code of Ordinances § 139.40(e) (2020). The City enacted the ordinance to increase housing opportunities for households that participate in the Section 8 housing choice voucher program. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment to appellants. The district court concluded that the ordinance deprives appellants of their rights to substantive due process and equal protection under the Minnesota Constitution. The court of appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the constitutional claims and remanded for the district court to consider appellants’ other claims.  

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the ordinance violates the Due Process Clause of the Minnesota Constitution; and (2) whether the ordinance violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Minnesota Constitution. (Hennepin County)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Ignatius Chukwuemeka Udeani, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0300615 – Case No. A18-2139: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 
Nonoral:  Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership, Relator vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent – Case No. A19-1875: Relator Enbridge Energy challenged the valuation of its pipeline system for tax years 2012–2014. At trial, Enbridge Energy made arguments regarding the valuation impact of construction work in progress and external obsolescence. The tax court rejected most of those arguments and applied Minn. R. 8100, weighing the income and cost approaches to valuation equally.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the tax court erred in its application of Rule 8100 by applying equal weight to the two valuation approaches; (2) whether in light of the construction work in progress, the tax court’s decision regarding the value of the pipeline system is supported by the record; and (3) whether the tax court erred in its analysis of the external-obsolescence issue. (Minnesota Tax Court)

Thursday, March 5, 2020
State of Minnesota, Appellant v. John Joseph Jorgenson, Respondent – Case No. A19-0323: In 2018, respondent John Jorgenson was charged with attempted criminal coercion. Minn. Stat. § 609.17 (2018); see Minn. Stat. § 609.27, subd. 1(4) (2018). Jorgenson filed a motion to dismiss the charge based on a lack of probable cause and a violation of his right to free speech under the First Amendment. The district court found sufficient probable cause for the charge but granted Jorgenson’s motion to dismiss the complaint by finding that Minn. Stat. § 609.27, subd. 1(4), is unconstitutionally overbroad. On appeal, the court of appeals agreed with the district court and invalidated Minn. Stat. § 609.27, subd. 1(4), as unconstitutional on its face because it criminalizes a substantial amount of speech protected by the First Amendment.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether Minn. Stat. § 609.27, subd. 1(4), is unconstitutional. (Olmsted County)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Alla K. Popovich, as wife and Guardian Ad Litem for Aleksandr M. Popovich, et al., Appellants vs. Allina Health System, Respondent, Emergency Physicians Professional Association, et al., Defendants – Case No. A18-1987: Appellant Alla Popovich, as wife and guardian ad litem for her husband Aleksandr Popovich, initiated a civil action against several defendants, including respondent Allina Health System. Appellant alleged that her husband received negligent care from emergency room physicians at Unity Hospital and Mercy Hospital, which are owned and operated by Allina. Although the emergency room physicians were not employed by Allina, appellant claimed that Allina is vicariously liable for the physicians’ negligent acts and omissions through the doctrine of apparent authority. The district court granted Allina’s motion to dismiss the action under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e) for failure to state a claim. The district court ruled that a hospital is not vicariously liable for the acts of nonemployees. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether a Minnesota hospital can be vicariously liable for the negligence of an emergency room physician under the doctrine of apparent authority. (Hennepin County)

Abraham Tony Dolo, Respondent vs. State of Minnesota, Appellant – Case No. A19-0063: In 2016, respondent Abraham Dolo was charged with second-degree criminal sexual conduct. During the jury trial, the State asked the district court for permission to play a portion of a video recording of a police investigator interviewing Dolo about the offense. Dolo objected and argued that under Minn. R. Evid. 106, the district court should play the entire recording of the interview for the jury because playing only a portion would be misleading and prejudicial. The district court overruled Dolo’s objection. On cross-examination, the police investigator was not allowed to testify regarding Dolo’s statements during portions of the interview not played for the jury. The jury convicted Dolo of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Dolo did not file a direct appeal.  In 2018, Dolo filed a postconviction petition seeking a new trial based on the district court’s refusal to play the entire recording of the police interview for the jury. The district court denied Dolo’s petition for postconviction relief. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed Dolo’s conviction and remanded for a new trial because the district court failed to fully consider the proper application of Rule 106 and the outcome of the jury trial was affected.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether Minn. R. Evid. 106 required the district court to play the entire recording of the police interview for the jury. (Hennepin County) 

Wednesday, March 11, 2019 
Lillian S. Jensen, Respondent vs. Donnelly Custom Manufacturing Co. and TRIFAC Workers Compensation Fund, administered by Meadowbrook Insurance Group, Relators, and Douglas County Hospital, HealthPartners, CentraCare St. Cloud Hospital, and Anesthesia of St. Cloud, Intervenors – Case No. A19-1595: Respondent Lillian Jensen sprained her thumb in a work-related injury. In 2015, a compensation judge found that Jensen had continuing, subjective, right-hand symptoms related to the thumb sprain, but she did not demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) resulted from the injury. In 2017, Jensen filed a second claim, which sought benefits only for CRPS. The compensation judge found that Jensen failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that CRPS had developed after the first hearing, and stated that her claim for CRPS is “barred by res judicata” or by “principles of res judicata.” The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) concluded that a remand to address the issue of collateral estoppel was required because the compensation judge failed to consider whether Jensen’s condition had worsened or whether new material facts had emerged since the 2015 hearing.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether the WCCA erred in holding that the compensation judge’s decision was not supported by Mach v. Wells Concrete Prods. Co., 866 N.W.2d 921 (Minn. 2015), after the judge conducted a full evidentiary hearing, found substantial evidence showed Jensen’s primary injury had resolved by the 2015 hearing, and found Jensen failed to prove that she develop a consequential injury after the 2015 hearing. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Steven Jeffrey Anderson, Appellant – Case No. A18-1491: In October 2016, the Commissioner of Public Safety notified appellant Steven Anderson that his driver’s license had been administratively revoked for 1 year under Minnesota’s implied-consent law based on an October 2, 2016 incident. Anderson timely filed a petition for judicial review of the October 2016 license revocation. In April 2017, Anderson waived his right to further judicial review of the October 2016 license revocation, and the district court sustained the revocation.  Anderson was arrested for driving while impaired (DWI) on December 18, 2016. Officers took Anderson to a police department and read him the implied-consent advisory. Anderson refused to take a test.  For each of these offenses, the State was required to prove that “one aggravating factor was present when the violation was committed.” Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.25, subd. 1(b), 169A.26, subd. 1(a) (2018). An aggravating factor includes the revocation of a driver’s license under the implied-consent law within 10 years of the current offense. See Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subds. 3, 21–22 (2018). The State alleged that Anderson’s October 2016 license revocation was the aggravating factor for both offenses.  Anderson filed a motion to dismiss the DWI counts, arguing that the State lacked probable cause because there was insufficient evidence of an aggravating factor. The district court denied the motion. Anderson waived his right to a jury trial and other trial rights and stipulated to the prosecution’s evidence in a court trial pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4. The district court found Anderson guilty of all counts. The court of appeals affirmed Anderson’s convictions.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether Anderson’s October 2016 driver’s license revocation may be used as an aggravating factor for his December 2016 second-degree test refusal and third-degree DWI offenses when judicial review of his license revocation had not been completed at the time he committed these offenses. (Anoka County)

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