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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

February 2017

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, February 6, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Michael William Kirby, Appellant – Case No. A15-0117: Following a vehicle stop in November 2013, respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Michael Kirby with first-degree controlled-substance crime for possessing methamphetamine and with fifth-degree controlled-substance crime for possessing marijuana. A jury found Kirby guilty of both counts. The district court sentenced Kirby to 161 months on the first-degree controlled-substance offense.

While Kirby’s appeal was pending before the court of appeals, the Legislature made significant changes to the statutes addressing controlled-substance crimes. See Act of May 22, 2016, ch. 160, 2016 Minn. Laws 576, 576-592 (codified at Minn. Stat. §§ 152.01, subd. 16a, 152.021-.023 (2016)). In addition, changes were made to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines (2016 Guidelines), including the creation of a new drug-offender grid, on which the presumptive sentencing ranges for first-degree controlled-substance crime are reduced. See Minn. Sent. Guidelines 4.C (2016).

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the presumptive sentencing ranges in the 2016 Guidelines should apply to a defendant whose conviction was not final on the effective date of the 2016 Guidelines. (Steele County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Travis Richard Otto, Appellant – Case No. A15-1454: In August 2013, a state trooper searched appellant Richard Otto and found methamphetamine. Respondent State of Minnesota charged Otto, in part, with first-degree controlled-substance crime. See Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 2(1)(1) (2014) (defining first-degree controlled-substance crime to include possessing “one or more mixtures of a total weight of 25 grams or more containing . . . methamphetamine”). Otto waived his jury trial and other trial rights and agreed to a stipulated-facts trial. One of the stipulated facts was that Otto possessed over 29 grams of methamphetamine. The district court found Otto guilty and sentenced him to 135 months for first-degree controlled-substance crime.

While Otto’s appeal was pending before the court of appeals, the Legislature made significant changes to the statutes addressing controlled-substance crimes (the 2016 Act). See Act of May 22, 2016, ch. 160, 2016 Minn. Laws 576, 576-592 (codified at Minn. Stat. §§ 152.01, subd. 16a, 152.021-.023 (2016)). As part of the 2016 Act, the threshold amount of certain controlled substances a person has to sell or possess was increased for first- through third-degree controlled-substance crime. See Minn. Stat. §§ 152.021-.023 (2016). Under the 2016 Act, a person who possesses 29 grams of methamphetamine commits second-degree controlled-substance crime. See Minn. Stat. § 152.022, subd. 2(a)(1) (2016). In addition, changes were made to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines (2016 Guidelines), including the creation of a new drug-offender grid, on which the presumptive sentencing ranges for first-degree controlled-substance crime are reduced. See Minn. Sent. Guidelines 4.C (2016).

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the 2016 Act should apply to a defendant whose conviction was not final on the effective date of the 2016 Act; and (2) whether the presumptive sentencing ranges in the 2016 Guidelines should apply to a defendant whose conviction was not final on the effective date of the 2016 Guidelines. (Sherburne County)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Todd Burt, Respondent vs. Rackner, Inc. d/b/a Bunny’s Bar & Grill, Appellant – Case No. A15-2045: Respondent Todd Burt commenced an action against appellant Rackner, Inc. d/b/a Bunny’s Bar & Grill, alleging that Bunny’s terminated his employment as a bartender because he refused to share his tips with other employees. Burt asserted that his termination violated the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA), Minn. Stat. §§ 177.21–.35 (2016), which provides that “[n]o employer may require an employee to contribute or share a gratuity received by the employee with the employer or other employees,” Minn. Stat. § 177.24, subd. 3.

The district court granted Bunny’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that the MFLSA “does not contemplate an action for wrongful discharge.” The court of appeals reversed and remanded. The court of appeals held that “Minn. Stat. § 177.27, subds. 7 and 8, unambiguously allow the recovery of damages flowing from an illegal termination.”

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the MFLSA creates a cause of action for retaliatory discharge. (Hennepin County)

State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Randall Samuel Stempfley, Respondent – Case Nos. A15-1247, A15-1255: A jury found respondent Randall Stempfley guilty of aiding and abetting third-degree criminal sexual conduct, in connection with sexual penetration committed by his girlfriend, Tina Smith. At sentencing, the district court granted Stempfley’s request for a mitigated dispositional departure from the presumptive, executed, 140-month prison sentence, staying execution of the sentence and placing Stempfley on probation for 15 years. The court based the departure on Stempfley’s “minor or passive role” in the offense.

The State and Stempfley filed separate appeals, which were consolidated by the court of appeals. The State challenged the district court’s sentencing departure and Stempfley challenged his conviction on sufficiency-of-the-evidence grounds. A divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed both the conviction and sentence.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are present: (1) whether the court of appeals properly raised sua sponte and ruled that two of Stempfley’s felony convictions were nearing decay and therefore exaggerated Stempfley’s criminal-history score at sentencing; and (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion by granting Stempfley’s request for a dispositional departure from the presumptive 140-month prison sentence for the crime of aiding and abetting criminal sexual conduct in the third degree based on his criminal-history score, the record, and Smith’s sentence. (Cass County)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

University of Minnesota Law School

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Berry Alan Willis, Appellant – Case No. A16-0275: Following a jury trial, appellant Berry Willis was convicted of aggravated forgery. At a subsequent restitution hearing, Willis objected to evidence offered by the State. In response to Willis’ objection, the prosecutor argued that the Minnesota Rules of Evidence do not apply to restitution hearings. Based on the prosecutor’s argument, the district court overruled Willis’ objection. After hearing all of the evidence, the district court issued an order requiring Willis to pay restitution. The court of appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the Minnesota Rules of Evidence apply to a restitution hearing. (Hennepin County)

Nonoral State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Eddie Matthew Mosley, Appellant – Case No. A16-1385: Following a court trial, appellant Eddie Mosley was convicted of three counts of first-degree premediated murder. The supreme court affirmed Mosley’s convictions on direct appeal.

In December 2015, Mosley filed a petition for postconviction relief. Mosley alleged that his trial counsel and appellate counsel were ineffective and that he was entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The district court summarily denied Mosley’s petition.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court abused its discretion when it concluded that Mosley’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims were procedurally barred by State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn. 1976), and failed on the merits; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when it concluded that Mosley’s newly discovered evidence claim failed because his alleged newly discovered evidence was evidence that was known or should have been known to Mosely or his counsel at the time of trial. (Hennepin County)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Amanda Joe Carlson Senogles, as parent and guardian of Shungmanitou Washtay Kihega, a minor, Appellant vs. Peter Carlson, Respondent – Case No. A15-2039: Appellant Amanda Joe Carlson Senogles’ then-4-year-old son suffered a severe brain injury at a family party hosted by respondent Peter Carlson at Carlson’s home. Senogles was not present at the party. Carlson’s property borders the Mississippi River, and the child’s injury was caused by drowning in the river. Senogles brought a negligence action against Carlson, alleging that Carlson breached a duty of care to the child by failing to supervise him, based separately on his status as a landowner and on a special relationship allegedly claimed to exist between Carlson and the child. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Carlson, finding he owed no duty of care to the child under the circumstances.

The court of appeals affirmed. With respect to Carlson’s duty as a landowner, it reasoned based upon Lee v. State, Department of Natural Resources, 478 N.W.2d 237 (Minn. App. 1991), review denied (Minn. Feb. 10, 1992), that open water is an “open and obvious” danger to a 4-year old, and concluded based on section 343A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts that Carlson did not owe a duty to the child to protect him from open and obvious dangers. The court also found Carlson had no duty arising out of any special relationship.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are present: (1) whether the danger presented by open water is open and obvious to a 4-year old child; and (2) whether harm was nevertheless foreseeable despite the obviousness of the danger. (Morrison County)