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MN Supreme Court September 2020 Calendar

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

Monday, August 31, 2020
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Dakota James-Burcham Thompson, Appellant – Case No. A19-0253: Appellant Dakota James-Burcham Thompson was a passenger in a car that was stopped by police.  A sheriff’s deputy asked appellant to identify himself, and he replied Kota.  The deputy asked if that was short for Dakota, and appellant said yes.  The deputy asked appellant to state his middle and last name; appellant gave James as his middle name and Burcham as his last name.  Appellant also told the deputy that Dakota James Burcham was his real name and that he had not gone by any other.  After a jury trial, appellant was convicted of giving a peace officer a fictitious name, Minn. Stat. § 609.506, subd. 1 (2018).  The court of appeals affirmed appellant’s conviction. 

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the State presented sufficient evidence to prove that appellant gave a peace officer a fictitious name.  (Beltrami County)

Robert Pfoser, as special administrator of the Estate of David Pfoser, Respondent vs. Jodi Harpstead, Commissioner Minnesota Department of Human Services, Appellant, and Dakota County Human Services, Respondent Below – Case No. A19-0853:   Following an injury, David Pfoser moved to a long-term care facility and began receiving Medical Assistance for Long-Term Care (MA-LTC) benefits.  Pfoser subsequently transferred proceeds from the sale of property into a pooled special-needs trust, which was restricted to making distributions for his needs that were not covered by MA‑LTC.  Dakota County Human Services imposed a penalty on the asset transfer.  The Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services affirmed the transfer penalty. The district court reversed the decision to impose a transfer penalty, and the court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision.  The court of appeals concluded that the Commissioner’s “factual determination that Pfoser did not receive fair market value or other valuable consideration” when he transferred funds to the pooled special-needs trust is “legally erroneous, arbitrary and capricious, and unsupported by substantial evidence.”

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Pfoser received fair market value or other valuable consideration when he transferred funds to the pooled special-needs trust.  (Dakota County)

Tuesday, September 1, 2020
State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Michael Anthony Casillas, Respondent – Case No. A19-0576:  In 2017, respondent Michael Casillas was charged with felony non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images, Minn. Stat. § 617.261, subd. 1 (2018), based on allegations that he obtained sexual images of his ex-girlfriend and sent the images to other people over her objection.  Casillas filed a motion to dismiss the charge on grounds that the statute violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The district court denied the motion and Casillas was convicted of the offense.  The court of appeals reversed the district court and invalidated the statute as unconstitutional.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Minn. Stat. § 617.261, subd. 1, violates the First Amendment.  (Dakota County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Natasha Renae Berry, Appellant – Case No. A19-0436:  Respondent the State of Minnesota charged appellant Natasha Berry with kidnapping, threats of violence, and false imprisonment, all based on an aiding and abetting theory of liability, as well as aiding an offender to avoid arrest.  A person is required to register as a predatory offender if they are “charged with . . . aiding [or] abetting” certain enumerated offenses and are convicted of “that offense or another offense arising out of the same set of circumstances.”  Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 1b(a) (2018).  Kidnapping and false imprisonment are such enumerated offenses.  See id., subd. 1b(a)(1)–(2).  The parties reached a plea agreement in which Berry would plead guilty to aiding an offender to avoid arrest, and the State agreed to dismiss the other charges.  Berry pleaded guilty to aiding an offender, and the district court convicted her of that offense.  The district court determined that Berry had to register as a predatory offender.  The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Berry is required to register as a predatory offender because the aiding an offender offense she was convicted of arose out of the same set of circumstances as the kidnapping and false imprisonment offenses she was charged with.  (Goodhue County)

Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Donald Hall, Appellant vs. City of Plainview, Respondent – Case No. A19-0606:   Appellant Donald Hall worked for respondent City of Plainview.  After nearly 30 years of employment, the City terminated his employment.  Hall claims that he is entitled to payment for 500 hours of paid time off (PTO), based on a provision in the City’s employee handbook.  When the City failed to pay him for the PTO, Hall sued the City.  The complaint included claims for breach of contract and violation of the Payment of Wages Act, Minn. Stat. § 181.13 (2018).  The district court granted the City’s motion to dismiss the contract and statutory claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e).  The court of appeals affirmed.  The court of appeals concluded that the district court did not err by dismissing the contract claim because the employee handbook “contained a disclaimer that is sufficient to refute Hall’s claim that the handbook language created a contract.”  The court of appeals further concluded that, because the handbook language did not create a contract, “Hall is not entitled to recover accrued PTO under Minn. Stat. § 181.13(a).”

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether an employer can disclaim a statement in an employee handbook, which provides that the employer will pay employees for accrued PTO when they end their employment, through a disclaimer in the employee handbook; and (2) whether a claim under Minn. Stat. § 181.13 requires the existence of a contract between the parties to that claim.  (Wabasha County) 

In re Petition for Reinstatement of Richard A. Sand, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0095540 – Case No. A18-1795:  An attorney reinstatement matter that presents the issue of whether disbarred attorney Richard Sand should be reinstated to the practice of law.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020
State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Guy Gerald Sanschagrin, Respondent, Kristine Knudson Sanschagrin, Respondent, Jeffery Lowell Cameron, Respondent, Linda Kay Cameron, Respondent – Case Nos. A19-1700, A19-1701, A19-1702, A19-170: Respondent homeowners jointly own an undeveloped lot in Shorewood, Minnesota that provides access to Lake Minnetonka.  In May 2017, they installed a seasonal dock that provided access into the lake.  The City of Shorewood then notified respondents that the dock violated city ordinances and would have to be removed.  The City notified respondents that they could file a written appeal to the Shorewood City Council.  Respondents’ letter responding to the notice was referred to the Shorewood Planning Commission and the City withdrew the notice in July 2017.  Then, Shorewood amended the city ordinance governing docks. In May 2018, after respondents installed the dock again, the City notified respondents that the dock violated city ordinances and must be removed.  Respondents stated that the dock was a permitted non-conforming use in place before the ordinance was amended in 2017.  The City eventually issued criminal charges for violation of the city ordinance.  Respondents moved to dismiss, asserting that the City’s failure to respond within 60 days to their 2017 appeal resulted in the dock’s use have been approved under Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 1(c) (2018).  The district court granted the motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether an appeal of a notice of a zoning ordinance violation is a request for action under Minn. Stat. § 15.99; and (2) whether the appeal is moot if the notice of violation is withdrawn.  (Hennepin County)   

St. Paul Park Refining Co. LLC, Respondent vs. Brian Domeier, Appellant – Case No. A19-0573:  In 2010, respondent refinery acquired title to two separately assessed parcels of land in St. Paul Park.  Appellant Brian Domeier has been using a portion of both parcels since 1998.  He has never paid any property taxes on either parcel.  The refinery discovered Domeier’s presence on the parcels in 2016 and subsequently filed suit to be declared the fee owner and to eject Domeier, who counterclaimed for title on the basis of adverse possession.  Domeier claims to have occupied, to possess, and to be entitled to 52.19% of one parcel and 5.32% of the other.  The refinery brought a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that under Minn. Stat. § 541.02 (2018), Domeier was required to pay property taxes on the parcels for 5 consecutive years in order to prevail on the issue of adverse possession.  The district court granted the motion, ruling that Domeier was not entitled to adverse possession of any portion of either parcel. On appeal, the court of appeals concluded that the property-tax requirement in section 541.02 applies whenever a party seeks adverse possession of more than one half of a separately assessed tax parcel.  The court therefore affirmed the district court’s order as to the 52.19% parcel, reversed as to the 5.32% parcel, and remanded for further proceedings. 

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is under what circumstances, if any, the tax-payment requirement of Minn. Stat. § 541.02 applies to a party who adversely possesses only a portion of a separately assessed tax parcel.  (Washington County) 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Raciel Zaldivar-Proenza, Appellant – Case No. A19-0157:  In 2018, appellant Raciel Zaldivar-Proenza was charged with burglary and criminal sexual conduct based on allegations that he entered a friend’s home without consent and made sexual contact with a sleeping adult female.  Respondent the State of Minnesota filed a discovery request to conduct a physical examination of Zaldivar-Proenza under Minn. R. Crim. 9.02, subd. 2(1), to inspect for physical evidence and take photographs.  During the first appearance, Zaldivar-Proenza was not represented by counsel and requested a public defender.  The district court appointed a public defender to appear at the next hearing and granted the State’s discovery request.  Zaldivar-Proenza subsequently filed a motion to suppress the evidence taken during the physical examination based on the violation of his right to counsel.  The district court denied the motion and Zaldivar-Proenza was convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.  On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) was Zaldivar-Proenza denied his constitutional right to counsel during the initial hearing; and  (2) if Zaldivar-Proenza was denied his right to counsel, did the denial constitute structural error.  (Swift County)

Benjamin L. Tapia, Appellant vs. Dakota County Sheriff, Tim Leslie, Respondent – Case No. A19-0627:  Minnesota law prohibits a person from possessing a firearm if they were convicted or adjudicated delinquent of a crime of violence.  Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(2) (2018).  In 1998, appellant Benjamin Tapia was adjudicated delinquent of felony theft of a motor vehicle.  At the time of his adjudication, theft of a motor vehicle was included in the definition of a crime of violence for purposes of whether a person could possess a firearm.  See Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5 (1996) (defining “crime of violence”).  In 2014, the Legislature amended the definition of a crime of violence by adding offenses to and removing offenses from the list of crimes of violence.  See Act of May 16, 2014, ch. 260, § 1, 2014 Minn. Laws 937, 937 (codified at Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5 (2018)).  Motor vehicle theft was one of the offenses removed from the list.  See id.  The Legislature stated that “[t]his section is effective August 1, 2014, and applies to crimes committed on or after that date.”  Id.

In 2017, Tapia applied for a permit to carry a pistol.  Respondent the Dakota County Sheriff issued Tapia a permit.  During an annual review of Tapia’s records the following year, the sheriff’s office discovered Tapia’s 1998 juvenile delinquency adjudication and voided his permit to carry.  Tapia filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in district court, asking for an order requiring the Dakota County Sheriff to issue him a permit to carry.  The district court denied the petition for a writ of mandamus.  A divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Tapia’s 1998 adjudication for theft of a motor vehicle prohibits him from receiving a permit to carry.  (Dakota County)

Nonoral:  Raymond Cortez Steward, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A19-1401:   Following a trial, a jury found appellant Raymond Steward guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, second-degree intentional murder, and second-degree felony murder.  The district court convicted Steward of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release.  Steward’s conviction was affirmed on direct appeal.  State v. Steward, 645 N.W.2d 115 (Minn. 2002).  In 2019, Steward filed a motion to correct his sentence.  He argued that under Minn. Stat. § 611.02 (2018), he should have been convicted of and sentenced for second-degree felony murder, not first-degree premeditated murder.  The district court denied the motion without a hearing. 

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court abused its discretion by denying Steward’s motion to correct his sentence.  (Ramsey County)

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