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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

October 2016

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

 

Monday, October 3, 2016

 

Nonoral: Jennifer L. Mandel and Eric P. Mandel, Relators vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent – Case No. A16-0725: Relators Jennifer and Eric Mandel claimed a casualty loss deduction in the fair market value of their personal residence due to damage from the intrusion of rainwater and snowmelt. Respondent Commissioner of Revenue reduced the relators’ casualty loss to reflect the relators’ actual cost of repairs. The tax court granted respondent’s summary judgment motion and denied relators’ cross-motion for summary judgment.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether the tax court erred when it determined that relators’ appraisals were not competent. (Minnesota Tax Court)

 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Manuel Guzman, Appellant – Case No. A15-1773: Following a jury trial, appellant Manuel Guzman was found guilty of aiding and abetting first-degree premeditated murder. The district court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the indictment was untimely, (2) whether the district court abused its discretion by denying appellant’s motion to disclose the entire grand jury transcript, (3) whether the exclusion of alternative perpetrator evidence denied appellant his right to present a defense, (4) whether the district court abused its discretion by admitting evidence that appellant was in custody on an unrelated offense when he made a recorded jailhouse call containing allegedly incriminating statements, and (5) whether the district court committed reversible error in its jury instructions. (Hennepin County)  

 

James Poehler, Appellant/Cross-Respondent vs. Cincinnati Insurance Company, Respondent/Cross-Appellant – Case No. A15-0958: Homeowner James Poehler brought a motion in Hennepin County District Court to confirm an appraisal award in a dispute with Cincinnati Insurance Company over the valuation of a fire loss. The district court confirmed the appraisal award and ruled that Poehler is entitled to preaward interest under Minn. Stat. § 549.09 (2014). The court of appeals reversed that ruling, holding that the provision addressing preaward interest in Minn. Stat. § 549.09, subd. 1(b), “does not apply to appraisal awards pursuant to an insurance policy in the absence of an underlying breach of contract or actionable wrongdoing.”

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the preaward interest provision in Minn. Stat. § 549.09, subd. 1(b), applies to an insurance appraisal award, and (2) whether the loss-payment provisions in the insurance policy that are required by Minn. Stat. § 65A.01, subd. 3 (2014), govern when preaward interest is allowed. (Hennepin County)

 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Lewis Merenstein, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, Kenneth Steiner, Respondent vs. Medtronic, Inc., et al., Appellants – Case No. A15-0858: Lewis Merenstein and Kenneth Steiner brought putative class action claims against Medtronic, Inc., and individual members of the Medtronic Board of Directors in connection with Medtronic’s acquisition of an Irish entity through an inversion. The plaintiffs alleged that structuring the transaction as an inversion caused them to incur significant capital gains taxes and diluted their corporate ownership. The plaintiffs also asserted claims challenging the Board’s decision to reimburse certain officers and directors for the excise taxes they would incur as a result of the transaction. The district court granted Medtronic’s motion to dismiss under Minn. R. Civ. P. 23.09, which governs shareholder derivative actions, and Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The court of appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. Among other rulings, the court of appeals concluded that the district court erred in determining that the plaintiffs’ claims regarding capital gains taxes, share dilution, and excise tax reimbursement are derivative claims that are subject to dismissal under Rule 23.09.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that the claims are direct. (Hennepin County)

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Neal Curtis Zumberge, Appellant – Case No. A15-2013: Following a jury trial, appellant Neal Zumberge was found guilty of several offenses, including first-degree premeditated murder. The district court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court’s exclusion of alleged bad acts by the victim denied appellant his right to present a defense, and (2) whether the district court committed reversible error when it denied appellant’s request for a jury instruction on a lesser degree of homicide. (Ramsey County)

 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Albert Lea High School

Nicole LaPoint, Respondent vs. Family Orthodontics, P. A., Appellant – Case No. A15-0396: Respondent Nicole LaPoint applied for, and after an interview was offered, a job as an orthodontic assistant with appellant Family Orthodontics, P.A. LaPoint then told Dr. Angela Ross, appellant’s owner, that she was pregnant. In discussions between LaPoint and Ross, LaPoint indicated that she had taken a 12-week maternity leave for her previous child, and Ross informed LaPoint of Family Orthodontics’ policy allowing only a 6-week leave. LaPoint indicated that she would consider a 10-week leave. Ross then withdrew the job offer. Contemporaneous records indicate that Ross was concerned about LaPoint’s failure to disclose her pregnancy during the interview, and the impact that a leave longer than 6 weeks would have on the medical practice. Family Orthodontics eventually hired someone else for the position.

 

LaPoint sued Family Orthodontics, asserting pregnancy discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. After denying the parties’ motions for summary judgment, the district court conducted a bench trial. Finding that the length of LaPoint’s requested maternity leave was the “overriding concern” motivating Family Orthodontics to withdraw the job offer, and applying the standard whether LaPoint’s pregnancy “actually motivated” the decision not to hire her, Goins v. West Group, 635 N.W.2d 717, 722 (Minn. 2001), the district court found that LaPoint had not proved her case, and ordered judgment in Family Orthodontics’ favor.

 

The court of appeals reversed. Applying the standard set out in Anderson v. Hunter, Keith, Marshall & Co., Inc., 417 N.W.2d 619 (Minn. 1988), that a plaintiff may prevail if an illegitimate reason “more likely than not” motivated the allegedly discriminatory decision, the court found that both of Ross’s concerns were related to LaPoint’s pregnancy, and therefore the evidence and the district court’s findings showed “a specific link” between LaPoint’s pregnancy and Family Orthodontics’ withdrawal of the job offer.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the court of appeals erred in finding that LaPoint had proved her case of pregnancy discrimination. (Hennepin County)

 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Alie Christine Theodore Dorn, Appellant – Case No. A15-0007: Following a court trial, the district court found that appellant Alie Dorn placed both of her hands on D.E.’s chest and intentionally pushed him twice with such force that he lost his balance and fell into the embers of a bonfire, causing third-degree burns to his right arm and hand. The court also found that although Dorn “intentionally pushed [D.E.] two times,” she “did not intentionally push [him] into the fire.” Based on its findings, the court found Dorn guilty of first-degree assault. Dorn appealed, arguing the State failed to prove that she intended to inflict bodily harm or that the pushes themselves caused any pain. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the State was required to prove that Dorn intended to inflict bodily harm, and (2) whether the pushes themselves caused any pain. (Marshall County).

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. S.A.M., Appellant – Case No. A15-0950: Appellant S.A.M. pleaded guilty in March 2005 to second-degree burglary, a felony. The district court stayed imposition of sentence and placed S.A.M. on probation. In April 2008, after S.A.M. had successfully completed the court-ordered probationary conditions, the court discharged S.A.M. from probation. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609.13 (2014), the conviction was thereafter deemed to be a misdemeanor.

 

In January 2015, S.A.M. petitioned the district court for expungement of several convictions, including the 2005 burglary conviction. S.A.M. brought his petition under the newly adopted Minn. Stat. § 609A.02, subd. 3 (2014). S.A.M. argued that he qualified for expungement of the burglary because it was deemed a misdemeanor by operation of law. The district court denied the petition, reasoning that (1) the statute does not include burglary as one of the felonies that may be expunged, and (2) the burglary could not be expunged under the court’s inherent authority because S.A.M. did not prove that the benefit to him of expungement outweighed the risk to public safety.

 

On appeal to the court of appeals, S.A.M. conceded that the burglary was not listed as one of the felonies that could be expunged. He argued he was eligible for expungement under a different provision, which applies when “the petitioner was convicted of or received a stayed sentence for a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor,” because his burglary had been deemed a misdemeanor by operation of law. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of relief, stating that while S.A.M.’s conviction was indeed now deemed a misdemeanor, it was “uncontested that [he] was ‘convicted of’ a felony offense and he received a stayed sentence for a felony.”

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether a conviction of a felony offense that is deemed a misdemeanor by operation of Minn. Stat. § 609.13, subd. 1(2), is a misdemeanor for purposes of expungement pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609A.02, or must be treated as a felony. (Olmsted County)

 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Stand Up Multipositional Advantage MRI, P. A., Appellant vs. American Family Insurance Company, Respondent, Michael Schultz, et al., Respondents, Ilya Knyazev, et al., Respondents, Thomas Bennerotte, et al., Respondents, Jed Benjamin Iverson, Respondent, Gabriel Johnson, Respondent, Michael Fay, et al., Respondents, Brad Ratgen, et al., Respondents, Landon Barakow, Respondent, Lebertha Porter, Respondent – Case No. A15-0843: Stand Up Multipositional Advantage MRI, P.A. (SUMA), performed magnetic resonance imaging scans for individuals who were injured in automobile accidents and insured by American Family Insurance Company. In 2013, SUMA commenced an action against several defendants, seeking to recover damages for American Family’s failure to make payments directly to SUMA pursuant to assignment and lien agreements signed by American Family insureds. The district court ruled that the assignments and liens were valid. Specifically, the district court concluded that an anti-assignment clause in the American Family policies did not prevent the insureds from assigning their rights to insurance proceeds. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the assignments are “invalid and unenforceable” because the American Family policies contained an anti-assignment clause and because the assignments were made before SUMA billed the patients for the medical services.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court had subject matter-jurisdiction to determine whether the assignments and liens are enforceable, (2) whether American Family waived its argument that the assignments and liens are unenforceable, and (3) whether the assignments and liens are valid and enforceable. (Hennepin County)

 

Eugene Lee Rushton, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A15-0584: Appellant Eugene Rushton pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Because he had two prior convictions of criminal sexual conduct, the district court imposed a sentence of life with the possibility of release. In accordance with Minn. Stat. § 609.3455, subd. 5 (2014), the court was also required to “specify a minimum term of imprisonment based on the sentencing guidelines . . . that must be served” before appellant could be considered for supervised release. Ultimately, the court specified a minimum term of 216 months, which was the top of the presumptive sentencing range. Appellant subsequently filed a motion to correct his sentence arguing that his specified minimum term of imprisonment should be reduced to 144 months because the phrase “minimum term of imprisonment,” as used in Minn. Stat. § 609.3455 refers to 2/3 of the presumptive sentence. The postconviction court denied the motion and the court of appeals affirmed.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether the phrase “minimum term of imprisonment,” as used in Minn. Stat. § 609.3455, subd. 5, refers to 2/3 of the presumptive executed sentence. (Clay County)

 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

In re Petition for Reinstatement of Louis Andrew Stockman, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0241210 – Case No. A15-0689: An attorney reinstatement matter that presents the issue of whether suspended attorney Louis Stockman should be reinstated to the practice of law.

 

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Todd Curtis Peterson, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0230935 – Case No. A15-1818: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.

 

Mitchell Hamline School of Law

 

In re Timothy Leslie, Dakota County Sheriff, Appellant State of Minnesota, by Timothy Leslie, Dakota County Sheriff, Appellant vs. John David Emerson, Respondent – Case No. A16-0283: Minnesota law requires county sheriffs to take a biological specimen for purposes of DNA analysis from people charged with but not yet convicted of certain crimes, including second-degree assault. See Minn. Stat. § 299C.105, subd. 1(a)(1), (3) (2014). In 2006, the court of appeals held that “the portions of Minn. Stat. § 299C.105, subd. 1(a)(1) and (3), that direct law-enforcement personnel to take a biological specimen from a person who has been charged but not convicted violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution.” In re the Welfare of C.T.L., 722 N.W.2d 484, 492 (Minn. App. 2006). In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a Maryland statute providing for the taking of a biological specimen for purposes of DNA analysis of people charged with but not yet convicted of a crime of violence did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Maryland v. King, ___ U.S. ___ 133 S. Ct. 1958, 1967, 1980 (2013).

 

In August 2015, appellant the Dakota County Sheriff initiated procedures to resume taking DNA samples from people charged with crimes. Respondent John Emerson was charged with second-degree assault on January 14, 2016. During Emerson’s first appearance in Dakota County District Court, he made a motion to preclude the Dakota County Sheriff from collecting his DNA. The district court granted the motion.

 

The Dakota County Sheriff filed a petition for a writ of prohibition with the court of appeals, seeking to preclude the district court from enforcing its order prohibiting him from taking a biological specimen from Emerson for purposes of DNA analysis. The court of appeals denied the petition for a writ of prohibition.

 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to prohibit appellant from taking a biological specimen from respondent for purposes of DNA analysis, (2) whether Minn. Stat. § 299C.105, subd. 1(a)(1) and (3), violate the Fourth Amendment or Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution, and (3) whether the district court’s order caused injury to appellant for which there is no adequate remedy. (Dakota County)