EN BANC CALENDAR
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Monday, February 28, 2011
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
State of Minnesota, by its Commissioner of Transportation, Respondent v. Gary William Kettleson, et al., Respondents Below, Richard Lepak, Appellant – Case No. A09-1894: Appellant Richard Lepak owns an unimproved parcel of land adjacent to Trunk Highway 61 in Cook County. Respondent Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation began a condemnation action seeking to acquire a portion of Lepak’s land to improve and widen a stretch of Highway 61. The Commissioner sought to use some of Lepak’s land to construct a new access road that would serve three parcels, including Lepak’s. The district court granted the Commissioner’s condemnation petition. A divided court of appeals affirmed the district court.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the 2006 amendments to Minnesota’s eminent domain laws changed the standard for determining whether a proposed taking is for a “public use” or “public purpose;” (2) whether the State, consistent with the 2006 amendments, may condemn private property for the purpose of constructing a private access to an adjoining parcel where the access will not be open for possession, occupation, ownership, and enjoyment by the general public; and (3) whether the State demonstrated adequately that the proposed taking of private property for the purpose of constructing a new private access to an adjoining parcel was necessary to accomplish a “public use” or “public purpose.” (Cook County)
Lawrence James Montanaro, petitioner, Appellant v. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A10-1633: In 1991, a jury found appellant Lawrence Montanaro guilty of several offenses, including first-degree murder. Appellant did not file a direct appeal. In 2010, appellant filed a petition for postconviction relief, which the district court denied. On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether appellant is entitled to a new trial because the district court improperly instructed the jury on self-defense; (2) whether appellant is entitled to a new trial because the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument; and (3) whether appellant’s petition for postconviction relief is untimely. (St. Louis County)
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
KSTP-TV, et al., Appellants v. Ramsey County, Respondent – Case No.A10‑395: In June 2009, appellants KSTP-TV, WDIO-TV, KAAL-TV, and KSAX-TV made a request to respondent Ramsey County under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. ch. 13 (2010), for access to all absentee ballots that were rejected and not opened in the November 2008 Minnesota general election. After Ramsey County did not provide all the information appellants had requested, appellants filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration that absentee ballots maintained by Ramsey County that were rejected and not opened in the 2008 state general election were public data. The district court granted appellants’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that the rejected absentee ballots were public data. The court of appeals reversed the district court. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether rejected absentee ballots are public data under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. (Ramsey County)
Alan and Keri Bearder, individually and as parents and natural guardians of Josiah and Alexa Bearder, minors; et al, Appellants v. State of Minnesota, et al., Respondents – Case No. A10-101: Appellants include 25 children born between 1998 and 2008 whose blood was tested for heritable and congenital disorders as part of the newborn screening program administered by respondent Minnesota Department of Health. The children and their parents sued the Department, alleging that it improperly collected, stored, used, and disseminated their blood samples and test results without obtaining written informed consent, in violation of the genetic information section of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, Minn. Stat. § 13.386 (2010) (Genetic Privacy Act). Appellants sought money damages and injunctive relief to enjoin the State from continuing to “collect, store, use and disseminate genetic information” without written informed consent. The district court granted respondents’ motion for summary judgment. The court of appeals affirmed the district court. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the Genetic Privacy Act requires respondents to obtain written, informed consent before they may store, use, and disseminate newborn blood samples and test results after newborn screening is complete. (Hennepin County)
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. Brian Noel Hester, Appellant – Case No. A09-1784: A jury found appellant Brian Hester guilty of first-degree test refusal after a peace officer from the Lower Sioux Indian Community Police Department arrested him on suspicion of driving while impaired and Hester refused to take a blood or urine test for the presence of alcohol. Hester moved to vacate the judgment of conviction or for a new trial, arguing that Lower Sioux peace officers are not authorized to administer a preliminary breath test or invoke the implied-consent advisory. The district court denied Hester’s motion. The court of appeals affirmed Hester’s conviction.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether officers of the Lower Sioux Indian Community are peace officers under Minnesota law; and (2) whether an officer from the Lower Sioux Indian Community lacks authority to invoke the implied-consent law because the Lower Sioux Indian Community has not complied with the requirements of Minn. Stat. §§ 466.04 and 626.91, subd. 2 (2010). (Redwood County)
Jill Engquist, as parent and natural guardian of Amber Engquist, a minor, Respondent v. Steven Loyas, et al., Appellants – Case No. A09-1760: In July 2006, nine-year-old Amber Engquist was playing hide and seek in the basement of the home of appellants Steven and Christina Loyas when she was bitten by the Loyas’ dog. Respondent Jill Engquist sued the Loyas on Amber’s behalf under Minnesota’s dog-bite statute, Minn. Stat. § 347.22 (2010). Following a jury trial, the jury found respondent was not entitled to any damages because Amber had provoked the dog. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial after concluding that the jury instruction on provocation misstated the law. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether under the dog-bite statute, a jury instruction on provocation that does not specifically exclude inadvertent acts from the issue of provocation is a correct statement of the law. (Chisago County)
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
Ronald E. Troyer, Employee, v. Vertlu Management Company/Kok & Lundberg Funeral Homes and State Auto Insurance Company, Relators, and HealthEast Care System, Respondent – Case No. A10-1930: Ronald Troyer sustained work-related injuries to his low back in the course of his employment with relators Vertlu Management Company/Kok & Lundberg Funeral Homes. Troyer had low-back surgery that involved the implant of a spinal cord stimulator at a hospital that is part of respondent HealthEast Care System. HealthEast purchased the implant hardware from Advanced Neuromodulation Systems. HealthEast charged State Auto its usual and customary charge for the implant hardware, which included a markup from the price it paid to Advanced Neuromodulation Systems. State Auto did not pay HealthEast the full amount that it charged State Auto for that hardware.
HealthEast filed a medical request, seeking payment of the balance for the implant hardware. The compensation judge determined that HealthEast, not Advanced Neuromodulation Systems, was the healthcare provider that furnished the implant hardware to the employee and was therefore allowed to charge State Auto for that hardware. The compensation judge further concluded that the employer/insurer’s obligation for charges from hospitals with more than 100 beds was by statute, 85% of the provider’s usual and customary charge or 85% of the prevailing charge, whichever was lower. The workers’ compensation court of appeals affirmed.
On appeal to the supreme court, two issues are presented: (1) whether the hospital is the healthcare provider of surgical implant hardware used in an employee’s surgery and thus allowed to charge the employer/insurer for the hardware pursuant to Minn. R. 5221.0700, subp. 2.(A).(2) (2009); and (2) if so, whether the compensation judge had the authority to determine the reasonable value of surgical implant hardware in an amount less than 85% of the hospital’s usual and customary charge pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 176.136, subd. 1b.(b) (2010), in the absence of an asserted, lower prevailing charge. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)
In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Jay Gerard Swokowski, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 199710 – Case No. A10-1756: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based upon the facts of the matter.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Judicial Center, Courtroom 300
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. Michael William Sahr, Appellant – Case No. A10‑74: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Michael Sahr with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The district court dismissed the complaint midtrial in the interests of justice after the State acknowledged that it could only prove that Sahr touched the complainant’s bare genitals with his hand, which would not satisfy the elements needed to prove first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The following day, the State presented the district court with a second complaint alleging one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The district court refused to sign the second complaint and issued an order prohibiting the State from filing the second complaint, explaining that jeopardy had attached in Sahr’s case.
The State sought a writ of mandamus requiring the district court to sign the second complaint. The court of appeals remanded the case to the district court for the determination of two issues: (1) whether the midtrial dismissal order constituted a finding of insufficient evidence to convict; and (2) whether for double-jeopardy purposes the offense charged in the second complaint is the same offense as the dismissed count.
On remand, the district court made factual findings that its midtrial dismissal order constituted a finding of insufficient evidence to convict Sahr, which was the functional equivalent of an acquittal that barred further prosecution. The court also found that the offense sought to be charged in the second complaint was the same offense as the dismissed count for double-jeopardy purposes. The State appealed the district court’s order to the court of appeals, which issued a writ of mandamus requiring the district court to sign the second complaint.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the court of appeals erred when it determined that the district court’s midtrial dismissal order did not bar the second complaint because the prior case terminated without a determination of guilt or non-guilt; and (2) whether Sahr forfeited his double jeopardy rights because he failed to raise a known defect in the first complaint before jeopardy attached. (Stearns County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. Erik Lerone Jeffries, Appellant – Case No. A09-1391: After being charged with felony domestic assault for an incident on January 22, 2008, appellant Erik Jeffries pleaded guilty to the charged offense, waived his right to a sentencing jury, and agreed to a 48-month stayed sentence, which represented both a downward dispositional departure and an upward durational departure. At the plea hearing, the district court stated that it accepted Jeffries’ plea of guilty and that it found him guilty of felony domestic assault. At the later sentencing hearing, the district court told Jeffries that it was no longer willing to accept his plea and that it was vacating his guilty plea because Jeffries’ criminal history was more extensive than the court had realized. Several months later, Jeffries pleaded guilty to the same offense and waived his right to a sentencing jury. The district court once again accepted Jeffries’ guilty plea, and it sentenced him to 60 months in prison, which was an upward durational departure under the career-offender statute. The court of appeals affirmed Jeffries’ conviction.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether jeopardy attached when the district court accepted and recorded Jeffries’ first guilty plea to felony domestic assault, so that the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibited the State from retrying Jeffries for the same offense after the trial court vacated Jeffries’ initial guilty plea without his consent; and (2) whether Jeffries waived his right to raise a double jeopardy claim on appeal by pleading guilty to felony domestic assault after the district court vacated his original guilty plea to that offense. (Hennepin County)
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Judicial Center, Courtroom 300
Bradley J. Domagala, Respondent v. Eric Rolland, et al., Appellants – Case No. A09-1945: Respondent Bradley Domagala asked appellant Erick Rolland to perform some grading work on his yard. Domagala was injured when the bucket of a skid loader that Rolland was operating fell on Domagala’s foot. Domagala sued, alleging that Rolland negligently and carelessly operated the skid loader and failed to warn him of the dangers associated with unlatching the skid loader’s bucket. The case proceeded to a jury trial. The district court gave two jury instructions that Rolland requested, one of which stated that Rolland had no duty to protect Domagala and one of which stated that Rolland had no duty to warn Domagala. The jury subsequently found that Rolland was not negligent in the operation of the skid loader and that Domagala was 100% negligent at the time of the incident. Domagala moved for a new trial, and the district court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, concluding that the district court abused its discretion by giving the no-duty-to-protect and no-duty-to-warn instructions.
On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the exercise of reasonable care includes an affirmative duty to warn of a dangerous situation in the absence of a special relationship between the parties; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when it instructed the jury that Rolland did not have a duty to protect or a duty to warn Domagala. (Washington County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. Audie Matthews, Appellant – Case No. A10-246: Following a jury trial, appellant Audie Matthews was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of Blaine Christofferson. On appeal to the supreme court, Matthews argues that: (1) he is entitled to a new trial because the distinct court improperly allowed a police officer to testify that a police dog tracked a “fear scent” near the shooting scene; and (2) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. (Ramsey County)