EN BANC CALENDAR
SUMMARY OF ISSUES
Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office
Monday, November 1, 2010
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
State of Minnesota, Appellant v. Brett David Borg, Respondent – Case No. A09‑243: Respondent David Borg was convicted after a jury trial of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. At trial, the district court ruled that appellant State of Minnesota could present evidence in its case-in-chief that a police investigator attempted to communicate with Borg during the investigation by sending him a letter and that Borg did not respond to the letter. The court of appeals reversed Borg’s conviction, concluding that the admission of the police investigator’s statement violated Borg’s Fifth Amendment rights and that this error was harmful. On appeal to the supreme court, the issues are: (1) whether the admission of Borg’s pre-arrest, pre-Miranda silence during the State’s case-in-chief violated Borg’s Fifth Amendment rights; and (2) whether the admission of such testimony was harmful. (Mille Lacs County)
Crossroads Church Prior Lake MN, Relator v. County of Dakota, Respondent – Case No. A10-859: Relator Crossroads Church of Prior Lake purchased a building in Dakota County in 2008 to convert into a church. Respondent Dakota County denied Crossroads an exemption from property taxation for the tax year 2008 because Crossroads did not acquire the property prior to July 1, 2008, as required by Minn. Stat. § 272.02, subd. 38 (2008), to qualify for an exemption for that tax year. Crossroads appealed, and on cross-motions for summary judgment, the Minnesota Tax Court affirmed.
On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are raised: (1) whether the tax court erred in determining that the property was not exempt from property taxes in 2008 because Crossroads did not acquire the property before July 1, 2008, as required by Minn. Stat. § 272.02, subd. 38; (2) whether the tax court’s ruling violated the contracting parties’ constitutional freedom of contract when it determined that Crossroads did not acquire the property prior to July 1, 2008; (3) whether Minn. Stat. § 272.02, subd. 38, violates Crossroad’s freedom from taxation protections provided under the Minnesota Constitution because it places churches and government entities in the same class for taxation purposes; and (4) whether Minn. Stat. § 278.03, subd. 1(3) (2008), violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by requiring a church to provide financial records and other internal documents in order to establish a financial hardship that would qualify it for an exemption. (Tax Court)
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
Leon S. DeCook, et al., Respondents v. Rochester International Airport Joint Zoning Board, Appellant – Case No. A09-969: Respondents Leon and Judith DeCook own land near the Rochester Airport. A portion of their land, which is undeveloped, is subject to building-height and use zoning restrictions imposed by appellant Rochester International Airport Joint Zoning Board because this land lies beneath the approach to one of the airport’s runways. A 2002 amendment to the applicable zoning ordinance subjected more of the DeCooks’ property to building-height and use restrictions and imposed additional restrictions on the use of their land.
The DeCooks began inverse-condemnation proceedings against the Zoning Board, alleging that the zoning ordinances constituted a regulatory taking of their property, for which they were entitled to compensation. The district court dismissed the DeCooks’ complaint on summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the amended ordinance was designed to benefit the Rochester Airport and therefore the DeCooks must be compensated if, as a result of the amended ordinance, their property has suffered a substantial and measurable decline in market value. On remand, a jury found that the 2002 ordinance reduced the value of the DeCooks’ property by $170,000. However, the district court concluded that such a reduction in value did not constitute a regulatory taking as a matter of law. A divided court of appeals again reversed the district court.
On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are raised: (1) when determining whether an ordinance constitutes a regulatory taking, must a court consider the factors articulated in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104 (1978): the economic impact of the regulation on the claimant, the extent to which the regulation interfered with the claimant’s investment expectations, and the character of the government action; and (2) does an ordinance that causes a six-percent decrease in the market value of property, which translates into a $170,000 loss, constitute a regulatory taking. (Olmsted County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. Jack Willis Nissalke, Appellant – Case No. A09-1829: Appellant Jack Nissalke was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder. On appeal from the conviction, Nissalke presents the following issues: (1) whether the district court committed reversible error by entering the jury room during deliberations and answering the jurors’ substantive questions; (2) whether the district court denied Nissalke’s right to present a defense by preventing him from presenting an alternative-perpetrator defense and by preventing him from offering evidence about the police investigation; and (3) whether the prosecutor committed prejudicial misconduct during closing argument. (Winona County)
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
United Prairie Bank – Mountain Lake, Respondent v. Haugen Nutrition & Equipment, LLC, et al., Appellants – Case No. A09-607: Appellants Ilene and Leland Haugen owned two parcels of land in Cottonwood County. After defaulting on loans with entities who are not parties to this litigation, the Haugens entered into a series of transactions in which they transferred nearly all their assets to a third-party and then bought the property back through a newly created entity, appellant Haugen Nutrition and Equipment, LLC (HNE). As part of these transactions, the third-party received loans from respondent United Prairie Bank-Mountain Lake (the Bank) to purchase the Haugens’ assets and real property, and the Haugens used the funds from the asset sales to pay off their outstanding debt. HNE then purchased the assets from the third-party, including obtaining the real property through a contract for deed, with loans from the Bank. In exchange for these loans, HNE gave the Bank promissory notes secured by these assets and a mortgage on the real property. The Haugens signed personal guarantees for all the notes. All of the loan-related documents permitted the Bank to recover costs, including attorney fees, associated with collection efforts. The third-party eventually transferred title to the real property and the contract for deed to the Bank after failing to repay his loans to the Bank.
The Bank sued the Haugens and HNE, seeking recovery of $347,496 due under the contract for deed, with interest. The Bank also sought to recover attorney fees incurred in both the present case and a prior case, which involved a claim that the Haugens’ sale of their property was fraudulent. In addition, the Bank sought to foreclose on the property.
With respect to the Bank’s claim to attorney fees, the district court determined that the Bank was entitled to recover attorney fees expended in “preserv[ing] and protect[ing] its security interests” in the prior case, as well as attorney fees related to the foreclosure claim. The court ultimately awarded the bank $403,821 in attorney fees. In a motion for a new trial, appellants argued they were entitled to a jury trial on the attorney fees issue and that the award of attorney fees was excessive. The district court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed.
On appeal to the supreme court, two issues are presented: (1) whether the Minnesota Constitution guarantees a jury trial on a claim for recovery of attorney fees that are collateral to a contract; and (2) whether the district court’s award of attorney fees was excessive. (Cottonwood County)
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. Dameon Deshay Gatson, Appellant – Case No. A10-247: Appellant Dameon Gatson was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder and first-degree assault. On appeal from those convictions, Gatson presents the following issues: (1) whether the district court erred in denying Gatson’s Batson challenge to the removal of an African-American from the jury; (2) whether there was sufficient evidence to support Gatson’s convictions; (3) whether the district court improperly instructed the jury on the murder charges; (4) whether the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury on lesser-included offenses requested by Gatson; (5) whether the district court improperly allowed respondent State of Minnesota to admit statements that Gatson’s alleged co-defendant had made during his guilty plea colloquy; (6) whether Gatson was denied a fair trial by the prosecutor’s comment during opening statements about the testimony that Gatson’s alleged co-defendant would provide; and (7) whether the district court improperly denied Gatson’s motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. (Hennepin County)
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol
State of Minnesota, Plaintiff, Respondent v. Diane Marie Cox, Defendant, Appellant – Case No. A09-1958: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Diane Cox with issuing dishonored checks with a value of more than $500, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.353, subd. 2a(a)(1) (2008), which is a felony. Under the theft-by-check statute, Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(3)(i) (2008), a person who commits theft by intentionally deceiving another with a dishonored check commits a gross misdemeanor when the property or services stolen is greater than $500 but not more than $1000. Id., subd. 3(4). Cox filed a motion to dismiss with the district court, arguing that it violated her right to equal protection of the law to punish a person who issues dishonored checks more harshly than a person who commits theft by check. The district court denied the motion to dismiss but certified the equal-protection question as important and doubtful to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of Cox’s motion to dismiss. On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Cox’s right to equal protection of the law was violated because the dishonored-check and theft-by-check statutes apply different punishments to the same conduct without a rational basis for the disparity. (Swift County)
In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Dennis R. LeTourneau, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 62443 – Case No. A09-1861: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate upon the facts of the matter.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Judicial Center, Courtroom 300
In the Matter of the Welfare of: M.L.M. – Case No. A09-875: These two cases have been consolidated for oral argument. Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Randolph Johnson with a felony and a misdemeanor arising from the same incident. Johnson pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor. Respondent State of Minnesota filed a delinquency petition against appellant M.L.M., charging her with a felony, two gross misdemeanors, and a misdemeanor arising from the same incident. The juvenile court adjudicated M.L.M. delinquent after she pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor.
Johnson and M.L.M. were each ordered to provide a DNA sample pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609.117, subd. 1 (2008). The statute requires a court to order a person to provide a DNA sample when the person has been charged with committing or attempting to commit a felony and the person is convicted of or adjudicated guilty of “that offense or any offense arising out of the same set of circumstances.” The district court and juvenile court each rejected appellants’ constitutional challenges to the DNA-collection statute. In separate appeals, the court of appeals ruled that appellants’ constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and their rights to equal protection of the law were not violated by the orders requiring them to provide DNA samples.
The issues presented to the supreme court are: (1) whether Minn. Stat. § 609.117, subd. 1, is unconstitutional because it permits a warrantless, suspicionless search and seizure of adults and juveniles convicted of misdemeanors following dismissal of felony charges; and (2) whether Minn. Stat. § 609.117, subd. 1, violates equal protection of the law by denying each appellant the fundamental right to privacy that similarly situated adult and juvenile offenders retain by virtue of their avoidance of a dismissed felony charge. (Hennepin County)
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Judicial Center, Courtroom 300
State of Minnesota, Respondent v. John Allen Koppi, Appellant – Case No. A09-136: Appellant John Koppi was convicted after a jury trial of second-degree test refusal for refusing to submit to a breath test for the presence of alcohol. The court of appeals affirmed Koppi’s conviction. In his brief to the supreme court, Koppi raises two issues: (1) whether he is entitled to a new trial because the district court erroneously defined probable cause in the jury instructions; and (2) whether the district court erred by instructing the jury that the court had already determined that Koppi was given a reasonable amount of time to contact an attorney before deciding whether to submit to a breath test for the presence of alcohol. (Hennepin County)
SCI Minnesota Funeral Services, Inc., et al., Appellants v. Washburn-McReavy Funeral Corporation, et al., Respondents – Case No. A09-935: Appellant SCI Minnesota Funeral Services, Inc., owned all of the common and preferred stock of Crystal Lake Cemetery Association, except for 13.2 shares of preferred stock. SCI sold all of its shares of Crystal Lake to appellant Corinthian Enterprises, LLC, for $1 million. On the same date, Corinthian sold the Crystal Lake stock to respondent Washburn-McReavy Funeral Corporation pursuant to a share purchase agreement for $1 million.
Prior to the transactions, Crystal Lake owned and operated three cemetery businesses in Minnesota. It also owned two vacant parcels of real property. None of the representatives involved in the transactions was aware that Crystal Lake owned the vacant parcels. The value of the two parcels is approximately $2 million.
Appellants sued respondents, seeking, in part, reformation of the agreements to exclude the two parcels from the assets transferred with the stock and rescission of the agreements based on mutual mistake or lack of mutual assent. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment to respondents and denied all of appellants’ requests for relief. A divided court of appeals affirmed the district court.
On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) what standard of review should an appellate court apply to a district court’s decision to grant equitable relief; (2) does Minnesota law permit reformation of a contract based on mutual mistake when the transaction is a sale of stock; and (3) does Minnesota law permit rescission of a contract based on mutual mistake when the transaction is a sale of stock. (Dakota County)
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 – 6:30 p.m.
William Mitchell College of Law – Room 245
LeAnn Taylor, Respondent v. LSI Corporation of America, Appellant – Case No. A09-1410: Respondent LeAnn Taylor worked for appellant LSI Corporation of America. She is married to Gary Taylor, the former president of LSI. After being terminated from LSI, LeAnn Taylor sued LSI, alleging a claim of marital-status discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The district court dismissed Taylor’s complaint on summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed and remanded to the district court.
On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether an actionable claim of marital-status discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act requires a direct attack on the institution of marriage; (2) whether the court of appeals erred by creating a form of employment discrimination without a protected class or classification; (3) whether Taylor presented evidence that she was terminated because of the identity or situation of her spouse; and (4) whether Taylor’s claim of marital-status discrimination fails as a matter of undisputed facts and law because Taylor failed to establish a prima facie case of marital status discrimination. (Hennepin County)