Before the Minnesota Supreme Court

October 2023


Summaries prepared by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office


Monday, October 2, 2023

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor


State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Joshua Henry Baion Cummings, Appellant – Case No. A22-0630: In 2020, appellant Joshua Henry Baion Cummings was charged with theft by swindle and theft by false representation based on allegations that he submitted false timesheets and received wages from Medicaid for work as a personal care assistant that he did not perform. Cummings entered an Alford plea to one count of theft by false representation.At sentencing, the State confirmed the amount lost due to the false representation by Cummings was $14,579.62 and the district court ordered Cummings to make restitution payments of $50.00 per month or more.In its findings, the district court noted that Cummings owns a home and could procure an equity line to access money to make the restitution payments.

On appeal, Cummings argued that the district court improperly considered his family homestead and ability to procure a home equity loan as part of his “resources” under Minn. Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1(a)(2) (2022), when assessing his ability to pay restitution. In a nonprecedential opinion, the court of appeals affirmed.

The supreme court granted review on the following issue: Is equity in a defendant’s home a “resource” of the defendant when the defendant resides at the home and the home is co-owned by his non-defendant spouse? (Hennepin County)

Stacy Demskie, et al., Appellants, vs. U.S. Bank National Association, Respondent – Case No. A22‑0777: Appellants Stacy Demskie, Lue, and Michael Demskie brought an action against respondent U.S. Bank National Association. The Demskies allege that U.S. Bank, as a shareholder of Remote Technologies, Inc. (RTI), breached shareholder fiduciary duties and engaged in unfairly prejudicial conduct in violation of the Minnesota Business Corporation Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 302A.001–.92 (2022). The district court dismissed the claims on the pleadings under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.03. The court of appeals affirmed. The court of appeals concluded that “the Demskies did not plead sufficient facts to show that U.S. Bank is a shareholder” of RTI, and therefore, U.S. Bank did not owe or breach any shareholder fiduciary duties to the Demskies.The court of appeals also concluded that the Demskies , as beneficial owners of RTI, cannot commence a shareholder action to seek a buyout under Minn. Stat. § 302A.751, subd. 2.

The supreme court granted review on the following issues: (1) Can “beneficial owners” of a corporation—who have a right to seek a buyout on motion under Minn. Stat. § 302A.751, subd. 2—commence an action rather than waiting for a shareholder to file suit? and (2) Does the notice pleading standard set forth in Walsh v. U.S. Bank, 851 N.W.2d 598 (Minn. 2014), remain the law in Minnesota? (Scott County)


Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor


State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Lyndon Akeem Wiggins, Appellant – Case No. A22-1281: A grand jury indicted appellant Lyndon Akeem Wiggins with several offenses including first-degree premeditated murder under an aiding and abetting theory of criminal liability.  Before trial, Wiggins filed a motion to suppress the State’s evidence, which was denied. At trial, the State presented evidence regarding the death of M.B. In instructing the jurors on the offense elements, the district court used the phrases “or another (or others) caused the death of M.B.,” “or that other person(s) acted with the intent to kill M.B.,” and “or another acted with premeditation.”  The jury found Wiggins guilty as charged.

On appeal to the supreme court, Wiggins raises the following issues: (1) Whether the uncorroborated claims of two tipsters with no track record for reliability and no information about the source of their reports were insufficient to establish probable cause; and (2) Whether the district court erred by instructing the jury it could find Mr. Wiggins guilty if the State proved that he “or another (or others)” committed the crimes.

In the Matter of the Welfare of: D.J.F.-D., Child – Case No. A22‑0654: In January 2020, the State filed a delinquency petition against D.J.F.-D. The juvenile court ordered a mental-health assessment to determine whether D.J.F.-D. was competent to proceed. Based on the assessment, the juvenile court found D.J.F.-D. incompetent to proceed and suspended the proceedings. In June 2021, the prosecuting attorney filed a written notice of intent to prosecute D.J.F.-D. when he was restored to competence, thereby extending the suspension of proceedings until June 2022 under Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 20.01, subd. 7(A). In April 2022, D.F.J.-D. requested an order prohibiting the prosecuting attorney from seeking any additional extensions of the suspension of proceedings. The juvenile court denied the request and the court of appeals granted discretionary review. A divided panel of the court of appeals affirmed the juvenile court’s order.

The supreme court granted review on the following issue: Does Minnesota Rule of Delinquency Procedure 20.01, subdivision 7(A) permit the State to file more than one notice of intent to prosecute following a finding of incompetency? (Hennepin County)


Wednesday, October 4, 2023 – Virtual


In re Petition for Disciplinary Action Against Samuel A. McCloud, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0069693 – Case No. A22-0800: An attorney discipline matter that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the case.


Thursday, October 5, 2023

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor


Fitness International, LLC, Appellant, vs. City Center Ventures, LLC, Respondent – Case No. A22-1057: Appellant Fitness International (“Tenant”) rented commercial property from respondent City Center Ventures (“Landlord”), which property Tenant used as a fitness center. During the peacetime emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, executive orders prohibited the operation of fitness centers for several months. During these closure periods, Tenant stopped collecting membership fees from its members, and it informed Landlord that it believed its obligation to pay rent was excused. Landlord responded with a demand for rent. Tenant eventually paid the rent, covering the duration of the closure, plus late fees.

Tenant later sued Landlord to recover the rent and late fees it paid for the closure periods, claiming that payment of rent was excused on a number of theories, including the doctrine of frustration of purpose. The district court granted summary judgment to Landlord and dismissed the action. The court of appeals affirmed, reasoning in relevant part that frustration of purpose can be a defense to a breach of contract claim and might thereby excuse a party’s failure to perform a required act, but that a party may not “use the defense of frustration of purpose as a sword rather than a shield.” The court also reasoned that Tenant could not established the requirements of the frustration-of-purpose doctrine because the executive orders allowed Tenant to use the leased property for some of the purposes stated in the lease, or for any alternate legal use, as the lease permitted.

The supreme court granted review on the following issues: (1) Can a commercial lease tenant whose purpose in entering into the lease is temporarily frustrated seek to recover rent paid for the period of the frustration? and (2) If a contracting party’s principal purpose for contracting is substantially frustrated by unanticipated events, is frustration of purpose established? (Hennepin County)


Monday, October 9, 2023

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center


State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Michael Allan Carbo, Jr., Appellant – Case No. A22-1823: A grand jury indicted appellant Michael Allan Carbo, Jr. with two counts of first-degree murder while committing criminal sexual conduct. Before trial, Carbo filed a motion to suppress the State’s evidence, which included DNA testing. The district court denied the motion to suppress. The court also denied Carbo’s request to present alternative-perpetrator evidence. Following a jury trial, Carbo was convicted of first-degree murder while committing criminal sexual conduct.

On appeal to the supreme court, Carbo raises the following issues: (1) Whether his convictions must be reversed because the court violated his rights to present a complete defense and to confront witnesses by barring him from raising an alternative-perpetrator defense; (2) Whether he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the genetic information in his DNA, and whether his convictions must be reversed because police unconstitutionally searched that information without a warrant; and (3) Whether the fruit of the warrantless search of his garbage must be suppressed because the search was an unconstitutional physical intrusion upon his effects and because it violated state law which prohibits government agents from secretly collecting and using genetic information.

State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Curtis Lablanche Vanengen, Appellant – Case No. A22-0105: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Curtis Vanengen with third-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexually penetrating the complainant while she was physically helpless. The State alleged that the complainant was physically helpless because she was asleep. Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 9 (2022) (defining “physically helpless,” in part, as the complainant “is . . . asleep or not conscious”). The State also gave notice of intent to seek an upward durational departure based on zone of privacy.See Minn. Sent. Guidelines 2.D.3.b(14) (listing as an aggravating factor that “[t]he offense was committed in a location in which the victim had an expectation of privacy”).

During a jury trial, the State’s evidence established that the sexual penetration occurred in the complainant’s bedroom. The jury found Vanengen guilty of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. It also found that the offense occurred in a location in which the complainant had an expectation of privacy. The district court sentenced Vanengen to 120 months in prison, an upward durational departure, based on the zone-of-privacy aggravating factor. The court of appeals affirmed Vanengen’s sentence.

The supreme court granted review on the following issue: When a criminal sexual conduct complainant is physically helpless because they are asleep, does the fact that the crime occurs in the complainant’s bedroom make the defendant’s conduct significantly more serious than a typical criminal-sexual-conduct offense of this nature? (Hennepin County)


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center


State of Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Sylvester Jones, Appellant – Case No. A21-1713:I n 2019, appellant Sylvester Jones was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, third-degree criminal sexual conduct, and felony domestic assault. Jones entered a straight guilty plea to third-degree criminal sexual conduct. During the plea colloquy, Jones was asked a series of leading questions and agreed that he physically assaulted his girlfriend, and she did not consent to sexual intercourse with him. At the sentencing hearing, Jones told the district court that he did not commit the offense but took the plea deal because he was scared. The district court continued the hearing to give Jones additional time to consult with his attorney about the guilty plea. Jones reappeared for sentencing and the district court imposed a sentence of 153 months in prison.

On appeal, Jones argued that he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea as a manifest injustice under Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1, because the plea is inaccurate. In a nonprecedential split opinion, the court of appeals affirmed.

The supreme court granted review on the following issue: Was Jones’s guilty plea inaccurately entered because he testified that he did not commit the crime charged and the only testimony provided to support his guilty plea was solicited through leading questions? (Hennepin County)

Anoka County, Anoka, Minnesota, Respondent, vs. Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc., Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Appellant, Bureau of Mediation Services, Respondent – Case No. A22-0911: Appellant Law Enforcement Labor Services (the “Union”) petitioned respondent Bureau of Mediation Services (“BMS”) for a determination of an appropriate bargaining unit of clerical and technical employees within the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office. Respondent Anoka County opposed the Union’s petition and proposed a “wall to wall” county-wide clerical and technical unit. BMS conducted a hearing and issued a decision finding that the Union’s proposed bargaining unit was not an appropriate unit, and the only appropriate bargaining unit was a county-wide unit.

In its decision, BMS made findings on the community-of-interest factors outlined in Minnesota’s Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA), specifically those in Minn. Stat. § 179A.09 (2022), concluding that several factors favored the County’s position, several were neutral, and only one favored the Union’s position. BMS also cited to its “policy preference for the establishment of four basic units in County government” and its policy that such units will generally be determined as appropriate, absent compelling reasons otherwise, in order to prevent “over-fragmentation” of bargaining units. The Union sought certiorari review, and the court of appeals affirmed.

The supreme court granted review on the following issue: Did BMS err when it determined that the Union’s proposed bargaining unit was not an appropriate collective bargaining unit, and that the County’s alternative unit was the appropriate bargaining unit? (Bureau of Mediation Services


Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Montevideo High School

State of Minnesota, Appellant, vs. Anthony James Trifiletti, Respondent – Case No. A21-1101: In 2020, respondent Anthony Trifiletti was charged with second-degree murder. The case proceeded to a jury trial and the jury could not reach a verdict. The second jury trial commenced in April 2021 and the eyewitnesses who testified during the first trial were in quarantine based on exposure to COVID-19. Over Trifiletti’s objection, the district court deemed the eyewitnesses unavailable for the second trial and allowed the State to have their prior trial testimony read into the record. The second jury found Trifiletti guilty of second-degree felony murder and second-degree manslaughter. The district court sentenced Trifiletti to 150 months in prison.

On appeal, Trifiletti argued that the district court committed a reversible error by finding an eyewitness unavailable and allowing her prior trial testimony to be used during the second jury trial in violation of the Confrontation Clause. In a precedential split opinion, the court of appeals agreed and reversed the convictions.

The supreme court granted review on the following issue: Was a witness who was recently exposed to COVID-19 constitutionally unavailable when she was supposed to be quarantined per the Minnesota Department of Health? (Ramsey County)