Please take the our Access and Fairness Survey. Your feedback is important to us. Responses to the survey will inform website improvements.
Please take the survey after you have completed your business on the Judicial Branch website. Thank you for your participation.
X

EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

November 2016

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Josephine M. Hohlt, Respondent, vs. University of Minnesota, Self-Insured, Relator, and Fairview Health Services, et al., Intervenors – Case No. A16-0349: Respondent Josephine Hohlt injured her hip when she fell on an icy sidewalk while walking to her car after leaving work for the day for relator University of Minnesota. Hohlt’s car was parked in a public ramp owned by the University of Minnesota. Hohlt filed a claim seeking workers’ compensation benefits for her injury. A workers’ compensation judge denied Hohlt’s claim, concluding that although Hohlt was injured in the course of her employment, the injury did not arise out of her employment. Hohlt and the University of Minnesota appealed, and the workers’ compensation court of appeals (“WCCA”) affirmed in part and reversed in part. The WCCA agreed with the compensation judge’s decision that Hohlt’s injury occurred in the course of her employment, but reversed on the decision that Hohlt’s injury arose out of her employment. The WCCA concluded an employee remains in the course of employment for a reasonable period beyond the end of the work day when engaged in activities reasonably incidental to the employment.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the employee’s injury arose out of and in the course of her employment as required by Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 1 (2014). (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

 

Kristel Kubis, Respondent, vs. Community Memorial Hospital Association and Greater Minnesota Self-Insurance Fund, Relators, and Essentia Health Systems, et al., Intervenors – Case No. A16-0361: Respondent Kristel Kubis injured her shoulder when she fell on the stairs while returning to her work station at her employer, relator Community Memorial Hospital. Kubis filed a claim seeking workers’ compensation benefits for her injury. The Hospital denied liability, asserting that the injury did not arise out of Kubis’s employment. A workers’ compensation judge denied Kubis’s claim, concluding the evidence did not establish that her injury arose out of her employment. Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 1 (2014). The workers’ compensation court of appeals reversed, concluding the evidence Kubis offered established that her employment increased her risk of injury and therefore the injury arose out of her employment.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the employee established that her employment increased the risk of injury as set forth in Dykhoff v. Xcel Energy, 840 N.W.2d 821 (Minn. 2013). (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Lawrence Leiendecker, et al., Respondents, vs. Asian Women United of Minnesota, et al., Appellants – Case No. A16-0360: Appellant Asian Women United of Minnesota (“AWUM”) separately sued respondents Lawrence Leiendecker and Sinuon Leiendecker on claims related to previous business relationships between AWUM and the Leiendeckers. After AWUM dismissed its claims, the Leiendeckers sued AWUM and its attorneys, co-appellants Frank T. Mabley and the law firm of Greenstein, Mabley & Wall, LLC, asserting claims of malicious prosecution. AWUM moved to dismiss the malicious prosecution claims under Minnesota’s anti-SLAPP statute, Minn. Stat. §§ 554.01-.05 (2014). The district court, applying the rubric set forth in Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed Dist. v. Stengrim, 784 N.W.2d 834, 839 (Minn. 2010), denied the motion, finding that the allegations in the Leiendeckers’ complaint provided “clear and convincing evidence,” as required under Minn. Stat. § 554.02, that AWUM’s actions were not immune from liability under Minn. Stat. § 554.03.

The Leiendeckers appealed to the court of appeals, and then to the supreme court, arguing that mere allegations cannot serve as evidence for purposes of § 554.02. The supreme court agreed, interpreting the statute to require actual evidence, reversing the district court, and remanding for further proceedings. Leiendecker v. Asian Women United of Minn., 848 N.W.2d 224 (Minn. 2014).

On remand, the district court again considered AWUM’s anti-SLAPP motion, as well as a similar motion brought by the Mabley appellants. It found that the Leiendeckers failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that AWUM’s and Mabley’s acts were not immunized from liability. But the district court again denied the anti-SLAPP motions, ruling that the anti-SLAPP statute requires a judge to make factual findings at a pre-trial stage, thus violating plaintiffs’ jury trial rights.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the procedure set out in Minn. Stat. § 554.02 unconstitutionally deprives plaintiffs of the right to a jury trial. (Hennepin County District Court)

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Mahdi Hassan Ali, Appellant – Case No. A16-0553: In September 2011, appellant Mahdi Hassan Ali was found guilty by a jury of three counts of first-degree murder for his role in a robbery during which three persons were shot to death. Ali was 16 years old when he committed the murders. The district court sentenced Ali to two life sentences with the possibility of release after 30 years for the felony murders of two of the three victims, and a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of release for the premeditated murder of the third.

Ali filed a direct appeal, which was stayed so he could pursue postconviction relief. The district court denied relief and Ali’s appeal from the postconviction order was consolidated with his direct appeal. The supreme court affirmed Ali’s conviction, but reversed the mandatory sentence of life without parole, holding it was unconstitutional under Miller v. Alabama, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2015). The court affirmed the other two sentences, holding that the discretionary imposition of two consecutive life sentences, with the possibility of parole after 60 years, does not violate either the Miller rule or the Minnesota Constitution. State v. Ali, 855 N.W.2d 235 (Minn. 2014).

On remand, the district court resentenced Ali to life with the possibility of release after 30 years, and made that sentence consecutive to the other two life sentences. Ali must serve at least 90 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Ali’s consecutive life sentences are the functional equivalent of a life sentence without the possibility of parole subject to the Miller rule; (2) whether the district court erred by failing to consider whether Ali is permanently incorrigible; (3) whether the district court’s failure to treat Ali’s sentences as the functional equivalent of life without parole violates Ali’s right to equal protection of the law; and (4) whether, assuming Ali’s sentences are not subject to Miller, the district court abused its discretion by failing to consider Ali’s youth and its attendant circumstances when it imposed three consecutive life sentences. (Hennepin County District Court)

 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Anita J. Howard, Appellant, vs. Shelly R. Svoboda, M.D., et al., Respondents – Case No. A15-0896: Appellant Anita Howard brought a medical malpractice action against respondents Shelly Svoboda, M.D., and Noran Neurological Clinic. Respondents requested authorization from Howard under Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 5 (2014), to have an “informal discussion” with one of her treating physicians. Following a dispute over the scope of the informal discussion, the district court issued a protective order that precluded respondents from using the informal discussion to ask about any opinions the physician possessed on the standard of care and causation during periods of time when he was not caring for Howard.

Respondents pursued an interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that “Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 5, allows inquiry into ‘any information or opinion’ the physician possesses, including opinions on the standard of care and causation relating to periods when the physician was not caring for the patient.”

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the court of appeals properly exercised jurisdiction over the interlocutory order; (2) whether the appeal became moot at the court of appeals; (3) whether Minn. Stat. § 595.02, subd. 5, allows a physician to disclose patient information outside the limits of an appropriate medical authorization, notwithstanding the patient’s waiver of the physician-patient privilege; and (4) whether the district court abused its discretion by allowing a limited medical authorization for the informal discussion. (Hennepin County District Court)

 

State of Minnesota, Appellant, vs. Krista Ann Muccio, Respondent – Case No. A15-1951: Respondent Krista Muccio had sexually explicit conversations and exchanged sexually explicit photographs, via Instagram, with a 15-year-old boy. Appellant State of Minnesota charged Muccio, in part, with engaging in electronic communications with a child describing sexual conduct, Minn. Stat. § 609.352, subd. 2a(2) (2014). Muccio filed a motion to declare Minn. Stat. § 609.352, subd. 2a(2), unconstitutional. The district court concluded that Minn. Stat. § 609.352, subd. 2a(2), is facially overbroad and unconstitutional under the First Amendment and dismissed this charge. The State filed a pretrial appeal of the district court’s order. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Minn. Stat. § 609.352, subd. 2a(2), is overbroad on its face, in violation of the First Amendment. (Dakota County District Court)

 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Appellant, vs. Renee Anita Vasko, Respondent – Case No. A15-1172: Appellant State of Minnesota charged respondent Renee Vasko with violating Lester Prairie Municipal Code (“LPMC”) § 5.5.1.2 for keeping a car with expired license plate tabs on property that she owned within the city of Lester Prairie for more than 30 days. Prior to trial, the offense was certified as a petty misdemeanor. Following a court trial, the district court found Vasko guilty and imposed a $100 fine. A divided court of appeals panel reversed Vasko’s conviction.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented in the parties’ briefs: (1) whether the court of appeals improperly raised the issue of an ambiguity in the City’s municipal code sua sponte; (2) whether the rule of lenity should be used to interpret LPMC § 5.5.1.2; (3) whether the court of appeals improperly reversed Vasko’s conviction because it found that the State failed to prove Vasko violated a section of the City’s municipal code that she was not charged with or convicted of violating; (4) whether the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Vasko violated LPMC § 5.5.1.2; (5) whether LPMC § 5.5.1.2 is preempted by state law; and (6) whether LPMC § 5.5.1.2 is unconstitutionally vague. (McLeod County District Court)

 

Nonoral: Reginald Lee Gail, Appellant, vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A16-1124: In November 2004, appellant Reginald Lee Gail was convicted of first-degree felony murder for killing a man during a drug deal, and the supreme court affirmed the conviction on appeal. In October 2006 Gail filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief in which he raised 13 claims. The district court denied the petition without a hearing, and Gail appealed to the supreme court, which affirmed.

In February 2016 Gail filed a second pro se petition for postconviction relief, in which he asserted two claims: (1) the evidence at trial was legally insufficient to support his conviction; and (2) the petition was not barred by the 2-year statute of limitations because it is not frivolous and is in the interests of justice. The district court denied Gail’s request for an evidentiary hearing and denied relief.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the district court abused its discretion when it denied Gail’s second petition for postconviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. (Hennepin County District Court)

 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Ryan Leroy Smith, Appellant – Case No. A15-0570: Appellant Ryan Leroy Smith was convicted of first-degree driving while impaired (“DWI”) following a jury trial. In order to convict Smith of a first-degree DWI offense, the State was required to prove that he had three “qualified prior impaired driving incidents,” as defined by Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subds. 20(2) and 22 (2008 and Supp. 2009), including a prior conviction of criminal vehicular homicide and injury under Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 1(2)-(6) (2004).

On appeal to the court of appeals, Smith argued that the evidence at trial was insufficient as a matter of law to support his conviction because he has never been convicted of violating section 609.21, subdivision 1, though he has been convicted of criminal vehicular operation under a predecessor statute, section 609.21, subdivision 2b. The court of appeals affirmed Smith’s conviction, holding that while the specific statute under which Smith was previously convicted was not specifically referenced in the definition of qualified prior impaired driving incidents, construing the definition to exclude Smith’s prior conviction would result in an absurd result.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the court of appeals correctly applied the absurdity doctrine to determine that Smith’s prior conviction of criminal vehicular operation can be used to enhance his current DWI to a first-degree offense. (Mille Lacs County)

 

Nonoral: Kevin Terrance Hannon, Appellant, vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A16-0498: Appellant Kevin Terrance Hannon was convicted in June 2000 of first-degree murder. On direct appeal, the supreme court reversed the conviction, holding that Hannon’s right to counsel was violated during custodial interrogation. On retrial, Hannon was again found guilty of first-degree murder, and the supreme court affirmed.

Hannon filed a petition for postconviction relief in December 2006 in which he raised a number of issues. The district court denied relief, and the supreme court affirmed. Hannon filed a second petition for postconviction relief in January 2009. The district court concluded that all of Hannon’s 11 claims were both procedurally barred under the Knaffla rule, and time-barred because the petition was filed more than two years after Hannon’s conviction became final. The supreme court affirmed, holding that the claims were time-barred.

Hannon, acting pro se, filed a third petition for postconviction relief in February 2016, in which the district court identified 12 claims. The district court denied relief without a hearing.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the postconviction court abused its discretion when it determined that Hannon’s claims were time-barred by the 2-year statute of limitations. (Stearns County District Court)

 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Appellant, vs. Somsalao Thonesavanh, Respondent – Case No. A15-1716: Appellant State of Minnesota charged respondent Somsalao Thonesavanh with theft of a motor vehicle, Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 17 (2014). The complaint alleged the following: In December 2014, J.V. went out to his driveway and started his car so it would warm up before he went to work. After J.V. went back inside, Thonesavanh started banging on the front door of J.V.’s home. Because J.V. did not know Thonesavanh, he became alarmed and called the police. When a police officer arrived at the scene, he observed Thonesavanh sitting in the driver’s seat of J.V.’s car with the reverse lights illuminated. Thonesavanh filed a motion to dismiss the complaint arguing that it failed to establish that he took the vehicle. The district court granted Thonesavanh’s motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the word “takes” as used in the theft statute requires a person to participate in the movement of a motor vehicle. (Nobles County District Court)

 

Nereus Montemayor, Appellant, vs. Sebright Products, Inc., d/b/a Bright Technologies, Respondent – Case No. A15-1188: Appellant Nereus Montemayor suffered a serious injury at work while using a high-density extruder manufactured by respondent Sebright Products, Inc. Montemayor brought a products-liability action against Sebright, claiming that Sebright failed to warn of the dangers associated with the extruder and that Sebright is strictly liable for the defective design of the extruder. The district court granted summary judgment to Sebright, concluding that Sebright did not owe a duty because, considering the circumstances in their entirety, Montemayor’s injury was not reasonably foreseeable. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court and court of appeals erred in applying a “constellation of circumstances” standard to conclude that the injury was not reasonably foreseeable; and (2) whether genuine issues of material fact exist with regard to the failure-to-warn or product-defect claims. (Dodge County District Court)

 

Thursday, November 9, 2016

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Ralph Joseph Boecker, Appellant– Case No. A15-1058: In January 1998, appellant Ralph Boecker was convicted of felony criminal vehicular operation (“CVO”), in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.21, subd. 2a(2)(i) (1996), for causing substantial bodily harm to another as a result of operating a motor vehicle in a negligent manner while under the influence of alcohol. In January 2015, respondent State of Minnesota charged Boecker with two counts of first-degree driving while impaired (“DWI”). Both charges were enhanced to first-degree DWI based on Boecker’s 1998 CVO conviction. Boecker pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree DWI. The court of appeals affirmed Boecker’s conviction.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether Boecker’s guilty plea to first-degree DWI lacked an adequate factual basis because Boecker’s 1998 CVO conviction is not a predicate felony under Minn. Stat. § 169A.24, subd. 1(3) (2014). (Dakota County District Court)

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Leona Rose deLottinville, Appellant – Case No. A15-1481: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Leona deLottinville with two counts of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia after police found methamphetamine, hydrocodone, and a bong in her boyfriend’s apartment. DeLottinville filed a motion to suppress, arguing, in part, that the police illegally arrested her in her boyfriend’s home pursuant to a felony warrant for her arrest and that the drugs and drug paraphernalia were discovered as a result of her illegal seizure.

The district court ruled that the police illegally arrested deLottinville. It concluded that she was a guest who had a reasonable expectation of privacy in her boyfriend’s apartment and that the warrant for her arrest did not authorize police to enter the boyfriend’s apartment in order to arrest her. Instead, the district court determined that the police either needed a search warrant for the boyfriend’s apartment or an exception to the warrant requirement must apply. The court suppressed all evidence found in the apartment and dismissed all charges. The court of appeals reversed the district court.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether deLottinville’s federal and state constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures were violated when police entered the home in which she was an overnight guest without a search warrant and arrested her pursuant to an arrest warrant. (Meeker County District Court)