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Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

December 2017


Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, December 4, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor 

William Fielding, Trustee of the Reid and Ann MacDonald Irrevocable GST Trust for Maria V. MacDonald, et al., Respondents vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Relator – Case No. A17-1177: In 2009, Reid MacDonald created separate trusts (respondents “the Trusts”) for each of his four children. The grantor was domiciled in Minnesota when the Trusts were deemed to become irrevocable in 2011, as well as at all other times between 2009 and the present. In 2014, the Trusts realized capital gains from the sale of stock in a Minnesota Subchapter S corporation and were taxed on this income as Minnesota “resident trusts.” See Minn. Stat. § 290.01, subd. 7b(a)(2) (2016) (defining “resident trust” to include “an irrevocable trust, the grantor of which was domiciled in this state at the time the trust became irrevocable”). The Trusts paid their 2014 Minnesota tax liability under protest, but then filed refund claims, asserting that Minn. Stat. § 290.01, subd. 7b(a)(2), is unconstitutional as applied to them. Relator the Commissioner of Revenue denied the refund claims.

On appeal, the tax court held that Minn. Stat. § 290.01, subd. 7b(a)(2), as applied, violates the Due Process Clauses of the Minnesota and United States Constitutions. The tax court concluded that “the domicile of the grantor at the time a trust became irrevocable—standing alone—is not a sufficient basis to justify the resident tax treatment of an inter vivos trust.” The tax court did not reach the Trusts’ challenge under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether there was a sufficient nexus between the Trusts and Minnesota to permit taxation of the Trusts as Minnesota resident trusts for 2014 consistent with the Due Process Clause; and (2) whether the Commerce Clause prohibits Minnesota from taxing the Trusts as Minnesota resident trusts for 2014. (Minnesota Tax Court)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. W.C. Luther Washington, Appellant – Case No. A16-0834: Appellant W.C. Luther Washington was charged in 2015 with knowingly failing to register as a predatory offender. Washington waived a jury trial and was tried to the court, which found him guilty. The district court’s findings of fact included a finding that Washington’s actions took place during the period of approximately June 9, 2013, through August 4, 2015. The court sentenced Washington within the presumptive range. In determining Washington’s criminal history score, the court included Washington’s December 1996 conviction of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, without objection by Washington.

On appeal to the court of appeals, Washington argued that the district court should not have included the 1996 conviction in his criminal history score because it decayed on September 14, 2014, before his failure-to-register offense concluded. Washington asserted that, for purposes of calculating an offender’s criminal history score, the offense date of a continuing offense is the date the continuing offense ceased. The court of appeals affirmed the district court in a published opinion. The court held, as a matter of first impression, that in the criminal-history-score context, the offense date of a continuing offense is any date on which the offender engages in the proscribed conduct, including the date on which the offender’s continuing conduct begins.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is how, and by whom, the offense date of a continuing offense should be calculated where the offense date determines the offender’s presumptive sentence. (Ramsey County)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Gonzalo Galvan, Appellant – Case No. A17‑0010: The State charged appellant Gonzalo Galvan with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.185(a)(1) (2016), based on the shooting of his live-in girlfriend and her daughter. The State’s theory was that Galvan retrieved a handgun and repeatedly shot both of them after his girlfriend told him that she was leaving Galvan and was taking her daughter and their son along with her. Galvan then called 911 to report that he had shot them.

A jury trial was held. Galvan did not testify or present any witnesses. During closing statements he conceded, through his attorney, that he had committed the killings, but argued that they were not premeditated. The parties agreed that the jury should be instructed on the lesser included offense of second-degree intentional murder. Galvan requested that the jury also be instructed on first-degree heat of passion manslaughter, Minn. Stat. § 609.20(1) (2016), but the district court denied his request. The jury found Galvan guilty of both counts of first-degree premeditated murder, and the district court sentenced him to consecutive life sentences.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to establish that appellant acted with premeditation, and (2) whether the district court correctly denied appellant’s request for a first-degree manslaughter heat of passion instruction. (Hennepin County)

Nonoral: Kenneth Eugene Andersen, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A17-0658: Following a jury trial, appellant Kenneth Andersen was convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Chad Swedberg, and in 2008 he was sentenced to life imprisonment. His conviction was affirmed on June 30, 2010. State v. Andersen, 784 N.W.2d 320 (Minn. 2010). He filed a petition for postconviction relief alleging newly discovered evidence and ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court summarily denied the petition, and this court affirmed that denial as well. State v. Andersen, 830 N.W.2d 1 (Minn. 2013).

Andersen filed another petition for postconviction relief on September 27, 2016, alleging the existence of sixteen categories of newly discovered evidence suggesting an alternate perpetrator, and claiming that this new evidence provided a sufficient showing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that the State wrongfully withheld evidence from him under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The district court denied the petition without a hearing, noting that the petition was barred by the 2-year limitations period in Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4(a) (2016), and finding neither of the possible exceptions to the time bar—newly discovered evidence establishing by clear and convincing evidence that the petitioner is innocent, or that the petition is not frivolous and is in the interests of justice—was applicable. The district court also noted that the petition was barred under the rule of State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn. 1976), because Andersen’s claims could have been raised in his direct appeal.

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether appellant established the existence of newly discovered evidence that on its face established his innocence; (2) whether appellant established his untimely petition was not frivolous and should have been heard in the interest of justice; (3) whether the postconviction court abused its discretion when it found the petition was procedurally barred under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 1 and Knaffla; and (4) whether appellant established exceptional circumstances that warrant a new trial. (Becker County)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Billy Richard Glaze, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A16-2028: In 1989, appellant Billy Glaze was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder during a sexual assault, based on the killings of three women. Glaze was sentenced to three consecutive terms of life imprisonment. On direct appeal, the supreme court affirmed his conviction. State v. Glaze, 452 N.W.2d 655 (1990).

In 2014, Glaze filed a petition for postconviction relief asserting that he was actually innocent of the crimes of which he was convicted. The parties submitted briefs, and the district court ordered the DNA extraction and testing of one of the victims to be completed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, but reserved judgment on the issue of whether to grant an evidentiary hearing. Glaze died in December of 2015, and shortly thereafter the State moved to dismiss the petition as moot. The district court granted the motion, determining that there was no live controversy that could be resolved. It rejected Glaze’s argument that the court should nevertheless decide the case because it is functionally justiciable and of statewide importance. See State v. Rud, 359 N.W.2d 573, 574 (Minn. 1984).

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether appellant’s petition for postconviction relief was moot; and (2) if so, whether the significant public interest exception to the mootness doctrine nevertheless allowed the case to be decided based on appellant’s claim that another known rapist actually committed the crimes of which appellant was convicted. (Hennepin County)

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Adam William Klotz, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0390925 – Case No. A16-1631: An attorney discipline case that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the matter.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Ryan David Petersen, Appellant – Case No. A17-0017: Appellant Ryan Petersen shot and killed a law clerk at his attorney’s law office. The State filed a complaint charging Petersen with second-degree intentional murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 1(1) (2016). Petersen sought to plead guilty to this charge, but the State notified the district court of its intention to file an amended complaint charging first-degree premeditated murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.185(a)(1) (2016), and possession of a firearm by a violent felon, Minn. Stat. § 642.713, subd. 1(2) (2016). The district court denied Petersen’s petition to plead guilty, and a grand jury later indicted Petersen on the first-degree murder and felon-in-possession charges.

Petersen waived his right to a jury trial. Although he admitted the killing, he denied that it was premeditated. At the court trial, Petersen’s significant other testified that Petersen told her he was going to kill his lawyer. The district court found her testimony credible, and found based on that testimony and other evidence that the killing was premeditated beyond a reasonable doubt. The district court therefore found Petersen guilty on all charges.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the finding of premeditation was supported when the district court found that Petersen premeditated the murder of his lawyer, but later intentionally killed the law clerk instead; and (2) whether the district court erred by refusing to accept Petersen’s initial guilty plea. (Ramsey County)

State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Christopher Michael Prigge, Respondent – Case No. A17-0403: In April 2016, a Maple Grove police officer stopped a car that respondent Christopher Prigge was driving. The officer concluded that respondent was under the influence of alcohol and arrested him for driving while impaired. During a search of respondent’s car, the police found a loaded handgun in the bottom of the center console compartment.

The State charged respondent with several offenses, including carrying a pistol while under the influence of alcohol, Minn. Stat. § 624.7142, subd. 1(4) (2016), which prohibits a person from “carry[ing] a pistol on or about the person’s clothes or person in a public place . . . when the person is under the influence of alcohol.” Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the charge for lack of probable cause. The district court granted the motion. The court of appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue is whether a person “carr[ies] a pistol on or about the person’s clothes or person,” in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.7142, subd. 1, when the pistol is in the center console of a car the person is driving. (Hennepin County)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Rochester City Lines Co., Respondent vs. City of Rochester, et al., Appellants, First Transit, Inc., Appellants – Case No. A16-1515: Respondent Rochester City Lines (“RCL”) and appellant First Transit, Inc. were among the bidders who responded to a request for proposals to operate public bus services in appellant City of Rochester during the 2012 to 2016 period (“2012 RFP”). First Transit was the eventual winner of the 2012 RFP. RCL protested the City’s administration of the 2012 RFP, eventually filing a lawsuit in district court alleging bias and arbitrary and capricious actions by the City. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City and First Transit, and the court of appeals affirmed. The supreme court reversed in part and remanded, Rochester City Lines Co. v. City of Rochester, 868 N.W.2d 655 (Minn. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct. 849 (2016), holding in part that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the City awarded the contract based on an unfair and biased process. On October 16, 2017, following a court trial, the district court found that the 2012 RFP process was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.

Meanwhile in June of 2016 the City had issued a request for proposals to operate the bus services during the 2017 to 2021 period (“2016 RFP”). RCL filed a pre-bid protest to the 2016 RFP arguing, in part, that the presence on the City’s evaluation committee of several members who had sat on the similar committee for the 2012 was improper. The City’s designated decision-maker, appellant Justin Templin, denied the pre-bid protest. The City eventually awarded this contract, too, to First Transit. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed, finding that the inclusion of holdover members of the 2012 evaluation committee, in light of RCL’s accusations of bias by the 2012 committee, created an appearance of bias that rendered the RFP process unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious under Griswold v. Ramsey Cty., 65 N.W.2d 647 (Minn. 1954).

On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented include: (1) whether an appearance of bias in a bid process renders the process unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious under Griswold; (2) if so, whether RCL’s accusations of bias created an appearance of bias; and (3) whether RCL forfeited its appearance-of-bias argument by not raising it in a timely fashion. (City of Rochester)

Nonoral: Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation, Relator vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent – Case No. A17-0926: Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation (MERC) challenges as excessive the Commissioner of Revenue’s valuation of its natural-gas pipeline distribution system for purposes of taxing personal property. In a 2016 decision, the supreme court affirmed the decision of the tax court in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the tax court “for further explanation of the beta factors it used to calculate MERC’s cost of equity and to reconsider whether external obsolescence impacted the pipeline distribution system’s market value.” Minn. Energy Res. Corp. v. Comm’r of Revenue, 886 N.W.2d 786, 790 (Minn. 2016). External obsolescence “is a loss in value caused by negative externalities, meaning a loss from factors outside a property that is almost always incurable.” Id. at 797 (quotation omitted).

On remand, the parties filed supplemental briefs that were limited to the issue of external obsolescence. The tax court explained the beta factors it used in its previous decision; it also concluded that MERC “failed to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence,” that its pipeline property “suffered external obsolescence.” The tax court reduced somewhat the Commissioner’s valuation of the pipeline system in every year but one, where it increased the Commissioner’s valuation.

On appeal to the supreme court, the issue presented is whether the tax court, in calculating market valuation under the cost approach, correctly applied the proper standard for determining economic obsolescence affecting state-assessed utility property. (Minnesota Tax Court)