Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

May 2017


Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, May 1, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor 

State of Minnesota, Appellant, vs. Brian William Meger, Respondent – Case No. A15-1823: In 2006, pursuant to a plea agreement, respondent Brian Meger pleaded guilty to failing to register as a predatory offender and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. In 2007, the district court added a 10-year conditional-release term after receiving a letter from the Minnesota Department of Corrections inquiring whether it intended to impose the term on Meger’s sentence under Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 5a (2012) because Meger was a risk-level-III offender at the time he failed to register.

In June 2014, Meger filed a motion to correct his sentence, arguing that his conditional-release term should be vacated because a jury had not found that he was a risk-level-III offender at the time he failed to register. The district court initially denied the motion, but it granted Meger’s motion to reconsider following State v. Her, 862 N.W.2d 692 (Minn. 2015). In Her, the supreme court held that it violates the Sixth Amendment right to a sentencing jury to impose a term of conditional release on a defendant convicted of failing to register as a predatory offender without a jury finding or an admission by the defendant that the defendant was a risk-level-III offender at the time of the offense. 862 N.W.2d at 696. The district court ultimately granted Meger’s motion and vacated his conditional-release term. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) does State v. Her apply retroactively on collateral review to Meger’s 2007 conviction; (2) if Her applies retroactively, what is the appropriate remedy. (Scott County)

Andrew Joseph Dikken, Appellant, vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A16-1883: On September 2, 2013, appellant Andrew Dikken shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend in their home. He turned himself in and was charged via complaint with two counts of second-degree intentional murder. Following a Rule 8 hearing on October 3, 2013, Dikken executed a guilty plea petition, and a guilty plea hearing was set for October 30, 2013. Immediately before the hearing, the State filed notice of intent to seek an indictment in order to bring charges of first-degree murder. At the hearing, the district court refused to accept Dikken’s guilty plea, based on Minn. R. Crim. P. 8.02, subd. 2. On November 12, 2013, the grand jury returned an indictment charging Dikken with six counts of first-degree murder, and the State dismissed the second-degree murder complaint 30 days later. In June 30, 2014, pursuant to a plea agreement, Dikken pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree premeditated murder and one count of first-degree murder while committing a burglary. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of life imprisonment and life imprisonment without the possibility of release.

On June 27, 2016, Dikken filed a petition for postconviction relief, requesting that his guilty plea to the first-degree murder charges be withdrawn. He argued that the court should have accepted his guilty plea to the second-degree murder charges at the October 30 hearing, and because it had not done so, his later guilty plea to the first-degree murder charges was invalid, resulting in manifest injustice. The postconviction court denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court erred in not permitting Dikken to enter a guilty plea at the October 8, 2013 hearing; and (2) if so, whether that error calls into question the validity of his subsequent guilty plea on the first-degree murder charges. (Yellow Medicine County)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor 

In re the Marriage of: Robert Peter Crowley, Respondent, vs. Bridget Marie Meyer, Appellant – Case No. A15-1471: Appellant Bridget Meyer and respondent Robert Crowley shared joint physical custody of their two children following the dissolution of their marriage. In 2013, the district court issued an emergency order, which granted Crowley temporary sole physical custody of the children. In August 2013, the district court ordered that Crowley would retain temporary sole physical custody, without specifying the duration of the custody arrangement. In March 2015, following a nonevidentiary hearing, the district court denied Meyer’s motion to reinstate the original joint physical custody arrangement.

Meyer appealed. In accepting jurisdiction over the appeal, the court of appeals stated that the August 2013 order that continued Crowley’s temporary sole physical custody of the children was “not a true temporary order” because the award of custody was “of indefinite duration” and had been in effect for more than 2 years. Therefore, the court of appeals concluded that the March 2015 order was appealable because the order denied Meyer’s motion to modify “the de facto award of permanent physical custody” of the children to Crowley. The court of appeals subsequently affirmed the denial of Meyer’s motion to modify custody, concluding, first, that any challenge to the August 2013 order was untimely, and second, as to the March 2015 order, that “the district court properly concluded that Meyer failed to establish a prima facie case to modify the current custody arrangement.”

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Minn. Stat. § 518.131 (2016) governs a temporary order modifying child custody for an indefinite period, and whether such a temporary order may subsequently be declared a de facto permanent modification of custody; and (2) whether the March 2015 order denying Meyer’s motion for reinstatement of the original joint physical custody arrangement was an appealable order. (Olmsted County)

Nonoral: Yer Sumner, Respondent, vs. Jim Lupient Infiniti and SFM Risk Solutions, Relators, Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry/VRU, et al., Intervenors – Case No. A16-2077: Respondent Yer Sumner filed a worker’s compensation claim alleging injuries arising out of the course of her employment with relator Jim Lupient Infiniti (“Lupient”), which denied liability. Eleven of Sumner’s medical providers moved to intervene in the proceedings in order to seek reimbursement for their expenses in treating Sumner. Lupient objected to the motions of nine of the eleven intervenors, on the ground that the services they provided were not reasonable, necessary, or causally connected to the injury. Lupient did not object to the motions of intervenors Rehab Results and McCarron-Lake Chiropractic. None of the intervenors attended the hearing. The compensation judge denied the intervenors’ claims under Minn. Stat. § 176.361, subd. 4 (2014), because the intervenors did not file a stipulation regarding their claims and did not appear at the hearing. Sumner and intervenors North Memorial Health Care and Mercy Hospital appealed. The Workers Compensation Court of Appeals affirmed, except as to Rehab Results and McCarron-Lake Chiropractic, ruling that because Lupient did not object to the motions of those intervenors (which had attached documentation regarding their claims to their motions), they were excused from attendance, but the other intervenors were required to attend under the version of section 176.361, subdivision 4 then in effect.

North Memorial and Mercy Hospital then sought a writ of certiorari to the supreme court, which affirmed. Sumner v. Jim Lupient Infiniti, 865 N.W.2d 706 (Minn. 2015). In its decision, the supreme court stated that “when an insurer or self-insured employer fails to return a signed stipulation or to object to the claim within 30 days, the intervenor’s right to reimbursement is deemed established, which relieves the intervenor of its obligation to appear at conferences and hearings.” Id. at 711 (citing Minn. Stat. § 176.361, subds. 3, 4 (2014)).

In further proceedings, the compensation judge relied on the supreme court’s decision to conclude that the failure of Rehab Results and McCarron-Lake Chiropractic to appear at the hearing extinguished their claims. Sumner again appealed, and the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals held that the compensation judge had erred in dismissing those intervenors’ claims because Lupient had not filed objections to their motions to intervene. Lupient sought a writ of certiorari to the supreme court.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether, under Minn. Stat. § 176.361, subd. 4 (2014), an intervenor is required to attend hearings when the employer does not object to the motion to intervene. (Workers Compensation Court of Appeals)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor 

James Friedlander, Plaintiff/Appellant, vs. Edwards Lifesciences, LLC, Edwards Lifesciences Corporation, and Matthew Borenzweig, Defendants/ Respondents – Case No. A16-1916: Plaintiff/appellant James Friedlander filed suit in federal district court in Minnesota, alleging that defendants/respondents Edwards Lifesciences, LLC and Edwards Lifesciences Corporation unlawfully terminated his employment in violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act, Minn. Stat. § 181.932 (2016), because he reported an allegedly dishonest contractual practice to management. Friedlander did not allege that he made his concerns known to anyone who was not already aware of the practice. Defendants/respondents moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing in part that because Friedlander “blew the whistle” on conduct they were already aware of, he did not make his report “in good faith” as required by Minn. Stat. § 181.932, subd. 1(1), and therefore Friedlander’s Whistleblower Act claim failed as a matter of law. The federal district court noted uncertainty whether the rule announced in Obst v. Microtron, Inc., 614 N.W.2d 16, 202 (Minn. 2000)—that for a report to be made “in good faith,” it must have been made with the purpose “to expose an illegality”—had been abrogated by legislative amendments made to the act in 2013. See Act of May 24, 2013, ch. 83, § 1, 2013 Minn. Laws 468. The federal court certified the question to the supreme court, which accepted it pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 480.065 (2016).

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is did the 2013 amendment to the Minnesota Whistleblower Act defining the term “good faith” to mean “conduct that does not violate section 181.932, subdivision 3” eliminate the judicially created requirement that the putative whistleblower act with the purpose of “exposing an illegality?” (United States District Court, District of Minnesota)

Nonoral: Sara Willy, Relator, vs. Northwest Airlines Corp. and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Respondents – Case No. A17-0049: Relator Sara Willy suffered three work-related injuries to her left knee over the course of her employment with respondent Northwest Airlines, which admitted liability under the workers compensation laws. In 2015, Willy filed a Medical Request, seeking approval of treatments for complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) recommended by her physician. Respondents opposed the requested treatment as not reasonable and necessary. In 2016, following an evidentiary hearing, the compensation judge concluded that Willy failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she suffers from CRPS, and denied the treatment protocol recommended by Willy’s physician. Willy appealed to the Workers Compensation Court of appeals, which affirmed. Willy sought a writ of certiorari to this court.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the compensation judge’s finding that Willy does not have CRPS is clearly erroneous. (Workers Compensation Court of Appeals)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Wayzata Senior High School – 9:30 a.m.

State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Maurice Nathaniel Wilson, Appellant – Case No. A16‑1294: Appellant Maurice Wilson was charged by indictment with aiding first-degree premeditated murder and aiding second-degree intentional murder. Wilson and the victim, along with two other men, were subjects of a federal indictment for conspiracy to sell heroin. The State’s theory was that Wilson, acting from jail, instructed two other individuals to kill the victim in order to prevent him from providing evidence against Wilson. The gun used to kill the victim was found in a storage unit rented by one of the alleged shooters.

Wilson pled not guilty, and a jury trial was held. At the trial, the State used a peremptory strike to remove a prospective juror who was an African-American man. The prospective juror was married to a prosecutor who had recently prosecuted a police officer. The officer had been acquitted of most charges, which had disappointed the prospective juror. Three years earlier, another police officer had held the prospective juror at gunpoint while he was parked in his car waiting for a job interview. The defense challenged the strike as being based on race, but the district court ruled that a prima facie case of racial discrimination under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 89 (1986), was not established. Also at trial Wilson sought to introduce evidence to explain why the murder weapon was found in the storage unit by showing that keeping drugs and a gun together could result in an enhanced sentence for a drug crime. The district court concluded that the evidence was too speculative to warrant admission at trial. The jury found Wilson guilty of both counts.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court erred in ruling that Wilson did not make out a prima facie case of racial discrimination to support a challenge to the State’s peremptory strike; and (2) whether the district court violated Wilson’s right to present a defense by refusing to allow Wilson to present evidence suggesting why the murder weapon was found in a storage unit. (Hennepin County)