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EN BANC CALENDAR

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

June 2020

SUMMARY OF ISSUES

Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office

Monday, June 1, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Deandre Demetrius Davenport, Appellant – Case No. A19-0538: This appeal arises out of a murder in Duluth in 2017. The State alleged that appellant Deandre Davenport shot and killed the victim during a burglary and robbery attempt. A jury found Davenport guilty of first-degree felony murder and second-degree intentional murder.

 On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the district court plainly and prejudicially erred by failing to instruct the jury that it could not convict Davenport based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice; and (2) whether the grand jury indictment was fatally flawed. (Saint Louis County)

 Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center 

Scott Koehnen, Respondent vs. Flagship Marine Company and Auto Owners Insurance Company, Respondents, and Keith Johnson, D.C., Relator – Case No. A20-0053: Respondent Scott Koehnen injured his back while working for respondent Flagship Marine Company. Relator Keith Johnson, D.C., provided chiropractic services to Koehnen. Koehnen filed a claim petition that sought workers’ compensation benefits, including the payment of Johnson’s outstanding bill. Johnson was served with notice of the proceeding, but elected not to intervene. Koehnen and Flagship ultimately reached a settlement that resolved the claims of Koehnen and the providers that had intervened. Johnson’s claim was not part of the settlement.

 After the settlement was approved, Johnson filed a petition for the payment of medical expenses with the Office of Administrative Hearings. The compensation judge dismissed the petition for lack of standing. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirmed without addressing Johnson’s constitutional arguments. 

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Johnson had standing to pursue a collateral attack on the validity of the award on stipulation by filing a petition with the Office of Administrative Hearings; (2) whether the compensation judge had statutory authority to extinguish the legal rights of a potential intervenor that chose not to intervene in a claim for workers’ compensation benefits; (3) whether Minn. R. 1420.1850 (2019) is invalid and unenforceable; (4) whether the WCCA’s interpretation and application of Minn. Stat. § 176.361 (2018) violates the constitutional principles of due process, equal protection, and separation of powers; and (5) whether Johnson is entitled to an award for payment of his charges in full pursuant to his fee schedule. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

 Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

In re Petition for Reinstatement of Carol Trombley, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0300597 – Case No. A19-0413: An attorney reinstatement matter that presents the issue of whether suspended attorney Carol Trombley should be reinstated to the practice of law. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center 

County of Hennepin, Appellant vs. Tamara J. Laechelt, Respondent – Case No. A19-0473: Appellant County of Hennepin commenced a quick-take condemnation action pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.042 (2018), seeking to acquire easements from a number of landowners—including respondent Tamara Laechelt—in order to complete a road construction project. The district court approved the condemnation, set the quick-take date as November 13, 2015, and appointed commissioners to conduct hearings and file awards for the properties. Over the landowners’ objection, the district court required the commissioners to conduct hearings without waiting for completion of construction. The commissioners held hearings in July 2017 and filed awards on September 28, 2017, including an award of $35,700 to Laechelt. 

On appeal to the district court, the County filed a motion in limine. The County sought exclusion from the upcoming trial of, among other things, “evidence of construction, construction-related interference, or damages claimed to be the result of construction or construction-related interference that occurred after November 13, 2015.” The district court denied the motion, and at trial, Laechelt introduced evidence of post-November 13, 2015 construction activities and interferences. Laechelt sought severance damages of approximately $43,000—including approximately $18,000 in construction-related interference damages—as well as additional damages for the easement taken. The jury returned a special verdict awarding Laechelt damages of $27,915: $2,525 for the property actually taken, and $25,390 for severance damages—without a separate entry for construction-related interference damages, because the special verdict form did not provide space for such an entry.

 The County appealed, asserting that the district court erred by denying its motion in limine. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that even if evidence of post-valuation construction activities should have been excluded, the County was unable to demonstrate that the admission of such evidence was prejudicial.

 On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether, in a quick-take proceeding, evidence of post-valuation construction activities should be excluded, notwithstanding State by Humphrey v. Strom, 493 N.W.2d 554 (Minn. 1992); and if so whether any error was harmless. (Hennepin County)

 Nonoral: Jonas David Nelson, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A19-1451: Appellant Jonas Nelson was convicted of first­degree premeditated murder in connection with the death of his father. Nelson committed the crime in 2014 when he was 18 years and 7 days old. The district court sentenced Nelson to life in prison without the possibility of release. The supreme court affirmed the conviction and sentence for first-degree premeditated murder. State v. Nelson, 886 N.W.2d 505, 507 (Minn. 2016).

 Nelson filed a postconviction petition in 2018, seeking relief from the sentence on the basis that it violates the United States and Minnesota Constitutions. The district court denied the petition for postconviction relief.

 On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether sentencing a person who was just a week beyond his eighteenth birthday to mandatory life in prison without the possibility of release constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution; and (2) whether sentencing a person who was just a week beyond his eighteenth birthday to mandatory life in prison without the possibility of release constitutes cruel or unusual punishment under Article I, Section 5, of the Minnesota Constitution. (Le Sueur County) 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

YAM Special Holdings, Inc., Relator vs. Commissioner of Revenue, Respondent – Case No. A20-0021: This appeal involves a challenge to the tax assessment of respondent Commissioner of Revenue on a portion of the gain from the sale of a controlling interest in an Arizona business, GoDaddy.com. The taxpayer, relator YAM Special Holdings, Inc., reported the gain as nonbusiness income from a capital transaction that served an investment purpose and thus not subject to Minnesota tax. Alternatively, YAM asserted that GoDaddy.com did not operate in Minnesota and that none of the nonbusiness income was apportionable to Minnesota. See Minn. Stat. § 290.17, subd. 6 (2018) (describing limits on taxation of nonbusiness income, including income “derived from a capital transaction that solely serves an investment function”). The Commissioner asserted that the gain was business income, about 1.05 percent of which should be apportioned to Minnesota.

 The tax court upheld the Commissioner’s assessment. The tax court concluded that the subsidiary entities that generated the gain from the sale did not serve an investment function in the overall GoDaddy.com business.

 On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether Minnesota’s imposition of tax on the gain from the transaction is precluded by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution; and (2) whether the tax court properly interpreted Minn. Stat. § 290.17 (2018) in determining the tax treatment of the transaction. (Minnesota Tax Court)

 Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

In re B.H., Appellant, State of Minnesota, intervenor, Appellant vs. Cengiz Gino Yildirim, Respondent – Case No. A20-0127: On March 27, 2019, appellant State of Minnesota charged respondent Cengiz Yildirim with committing third-degree criminal sexual conduct against appellant B.H. on December 9, 2018. During the investigation, B.H. voluntarily provided her cell phone to the police. The police conducted a forensic download on December 17, 2018, and returned the phone to B.H. that same day.

 Yildirim filed a motion to issue a subpoena requiring B.H. to produce her cell phone to his expert for the extraction of data covering a period from November 9, 2018, through March 27, 2019. The district court granted the motion. B.H. filed a motion to quash the subpoena. The district court denied the motion to quash. The district court ordered B.H. to provide her cell phone to Yildirim’s expert and ordered Yildirim’s expert to provide the applicable cell phone data to the district court for an in camera review.

 B.H. filed a petition for a writ of prohibition, asking the court of appeals to prohibit the district court from enforcing its order denying her motion to quash the subpoena. The court of appeals denied B.H.’s petition for a writ of prohibition.

 On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) in order to obtain in camera review of data from the cell phone of a criminal-sexual-conduct complainant, whether a defendant must make a showing equivalent to probable cause by setting forth specific circumstances that establish a fair probability that exculpatory evidence will be found on the cell phone; and (2) whether the district court improperly denied B.H.’s motion to quash under Minn. R. Crim. P. 22.01, subd. 5, because compliance would be unreasonable. (Hennepin County) 

Nonoral: Myron Williams, Relator vs. Farmers Union Industries, LLC and SFM Risk Solutions, Respondents – Case No. A20-0051: Relator Myron Williams was employed by respondent Farmers Union Industries, LLC. On May 1, 2018, and on September 27, 2018, Williams sustained personal injuries in incidents that arose out of and in the course of his employment. On June 17, 2019, the compensation judge granted the petition of the employer and insurer to discontinue temporary total disability benefits. The compensation judge found that Williams did not sustain a traumatic brain injury or a consequential psychological injury in the May 2018 incident. The compensation judge found that Williams did sustain a consequential psychological injury in the September 2018 incident; however, that injury had “reached maximum medical improvement and resolved no later than March 22, 2019.” The compensation judge further found that Williams no longer had work restrictions. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) affirmed the decision of the compensation judge, concluding that the “decision was based on substantial evidence.”

 On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether the WCCA erred in affirming the decision of the compensation judge. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

 Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Kristin Ann Altepeter, Appellant – Case No. A18-2086: A jury found appellant Kristin Altepeter guilty of gross-misdemeanor malicious punishment of a child, Minn. Stat. § 609.377, subd. 2 (2018). The evidence presented at trial established that Altepeter ran an in-home day care. On June 15, 2018, she provided childcare for a 4-year-old boy. While outside in the backyard, the boy continued to climb on the monkey bars after Altepeter had told him they were not safe. At one point, when the boy walked toward the monkey bars, Altepeter held onto his arms, causing bruising on both arms near his elbows.

 The court of appeals affirmed Altepeter’s conviction. The court of appeals concluded that there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction.

 On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) when a malicious-punishment conviction is based on the use of unreasonable force, whether the State is required to prove that the defendant used force in the course of punishment; and (2) if so, whether the State presented sufficient evidence that Altepeter used force in the course of punishment. (Polk County) 

Jamil Joshua Eason, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A19-1664: Following failed plea negotiations, a jury found appellant Jamil Eason guilty of first-degree felony murder in connection with the 2012 death of Jay Arthur Rosio in Minneapolis. Eason filed a notice of appeal, but he voluntarily dismissed the appeal shortly after his brief had been filed.

 In 2016, Eason filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief and requested the appointment of counsel. After the district court denied the petition, the supreme court reversed and remanded so that Eason could “pursue, with the assistance of counsel, a first review by postconviction proceeding.” State v. Eason, 906 N.W.2d 840, 843 (Minn. 2018). On remand, the district court denied Eason’s postconviction petition in part, but granted an evidentiary hearing on Eason’s ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim. Ultimately, the district court denied Eason’s postconviction petition.

 On appeal to the supreme court, the following issues are presented: (1) whether the trial court erred by not instructing the jury on the requested lesser-included offenses; (2) whether the State abused its prosecutorial discretion in withdrawing its plea offer; and (3) whether Eason was denied his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel. (Hennepin County)