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The Supreme Court Chamber in the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul. (Staff photo: Kevin Featherly)
The Supreme Court Chamber in the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul. (Staff photo: Kevin Featherly)

Supreme Court Calendar: December 2018

The following summaries of upcoming Supreme Court arguments were prepared from information provided by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Melvin Bilbro, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A17-1566: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Melvin Bilbro with committing attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, and second-degree assault against one victim and committing second-degree criminal sexual conduct against a second victim during a February 2008 incident. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Bilbro pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. There was no agreement as to sentence. The state agreed to waive any issues it had with respect to an aggravated sentencing departure and dismiss the other two counts. At a September 2008 hearing, the District Court sentenced Bilbro to 163 months for attempted second-degree murder and to a consecutive 36-month sentence for second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

In July 2017, Bilbro filed a motion to correct his sentence pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9. Bilbro argued, in part, that his consecutive sentences were not authorized by law because they constituted an upward departure under the 2007 Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines and the District Court stated no reason for departing at the time of sentencing.

The District Court denied Bilbro’s motion. It held that Bilbro had to bring his claims in a petition for postconviction relief and that such a petition was time-barred by Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2016). It also concluded that Bilbro’s claims were meritless. The Court of Appeals affirmed. It concluded that Bilbro could bring his claims in a motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9, but that consecutive sentencing was permissive, and not an upward departure, because Bilbro committed his offenses against different people.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented in the parties’ briefs are (1) whether Bilbro was required to bring his claims in a petition for postconviction relief, which would be time-barred; (2) whether Bilbro’s only remedy is withdrawal of his guilty plea; and (3) whether imposition of consecutive sentences constituted an upward departure based on the 2007 Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. (Hennepin County)

State of Minnesota, ex rel. Steven Leino, Appellant vs. Tom Roy, Commissioner of Corrections, Respondent – Case No. A17-1278: Appellant Steven Leino was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2009 and is serving a lifetime conditional release term as part of his sentence. In January 2013, the Department of Corrections revoked Leino’s conditional release because Leino failed to complete a sex offender treatment program. Leino completed sex offender treatment in July 2015 while incarcerated. Between August 2015 and March 2016, four review hearings were held before a Department of Corrections hearing officer, and each time Leino’s incarceration was extended based on a lack of suitable housing options for him in the community. In June 2016, Leino filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, seeking release from incarceration. In May 2017, Leino was released from incarceration. In June 2017, the District Court denied Leino’s request for a writ, and Leino appealed. In April 2018, the Court of Appeals, in a published opinion, upheld the department’s use of review hearings for conditional release violators but rejected all other issues raised by Leino as moot.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented are (1) whether Leino’s appeal of the hearing officer’s decision to extend his incarceration became moot when he was released from incarceration; (2) what is the proper method for an offender to appeal a quasi-judicial decision made by a hearing officer; and (3) whether the department’s use of review hearings to extend incarceration for a conditional release violator is constitutional. (Anoka County)

 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Danny Lee Zinski, Respondent – Case No. A17-0136: Appellant State of Minnesota charged respondent Danny Lee Zinski with burglary and criminal sexual conduct. Zinski pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial. At trial, the state presented relationship evidence, see Minn. Stat. § 634.20 (2016). Zinski did not request, nor did the District Court sua sponte provide, a limiting instruction on the use of relationship evidence. The jury found Zinski guilty as charged. On appeal, Zinski argued the District Court committed plain error when it failed to provide the jurors a limiting instruction on the use of relationship evidence. The Court of Appeals reversed Zinski’s convictions.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the District Court committed plain error when it failed to provide the jurors a limiting instruction on the use of relationship evidence. (Washington County)

State of Minnesota, Appellant/Cross-Respondent vs. Minnesota School of Business, Inc. d/b/a/ Minnesota School of Business, et al., Respondents/Cross-Appellants – Case No. A17-1740: Appellant State of Minnesota brought an action against respondents Minnesota School of Business, Inc., and Globe University, Inc., which alleged violations of the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), Minn. Stat. § 325F.69 (2016), and the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Minn. Stat. § 325D.44 (2016). Following a bench trial, the District Court found that the schools made misrepresentations regarding their criminal justice programs. The District Court ordered restitution for the students who had testified at trial. The District Court also issued a restitution order, which established a notice-and-claim process for other potentially harmed students. The restitution order provided for “a rebuttable presumption of injury and causal nexus.” The schools appealed, arguing that the state failed to prove the elements of a CFA violation and the District Court erred in its restitution orders.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court of Appeals concluded that the state had “proved the necessary elements” of a CFA violation with respect to the testifying students; however, with respect to non-testifying students, the Court of Appeals concluded that “the restitution order’s presumption of injury and causal nexus was not authorized by law.”

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented are (1) whether the District Court fashioned a proper claim process for criminal justice students who did not testify at trial; (2) whether the District Court applied the correct causal-nexus standard; (3) whether the District Court erred by providing for a rebuttable presumption of causal nexus as to the students who did not testify; and (4) if a rebuttable presumption of causal nexus is not permitted, whether the case should be remanded for the claim process to proceed without the presumption. (Hennepin County)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Cesar Rosario Lopez-Ramos, Appellant – Case No. A17-0609: Appellant Cesar Lopez-Ramos was interviewed by a law enforcement officer investigating a report from child protection services regarding the sexual abuse of a minor child. At the start of the interview, the officer called a foreign language line to access a Spanish interpreter, and the interview was conducted using sequential interpretation where the interpreter would translate the officer’s question from English to Spanish and then interpret the response by Lopez-Ramos from Spanish to English. During the interview, Lopez-Ramos admitted to having sexual intercourse with the child and was subsequently charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Prior to the jury trial, Lopez-Ramos filed a motion to exclude his statements during the interview. The District Court denied the motion and the statements were admitted during the jury trial. The jury convicted Lopez-Ramos and he appealed. In a published opinion, the Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s admission of the statements into evidence.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether admission of the appellant’s statements into evidence during the jury trial violated the Confrontation Clause and hearsay rules. (Nobles County)

Andrew Ellis, Appellant vs. John Doe, Respondent – Case No. A17-1611: Appellant Andrew Ellis owns and manages rental property in Minneapolis. In 2017, Ellis filed an eviction action against one of his tenants, alleging nonpayment of rent. In the answer, the tenant denied the rent allegations and asserted a habitability defense pursuant to Fritz v. Warthen, 213 N.W.2d 339 (Minn. 1973). Following a hearing, the housing court concluded that the landlord had violated the statutory covenants of habitability and that the tenant had suffered considerable loss of the use and enjoyment of the property. The housing court issued an order, which the District Court affirmed, providing for the tenant to remain in possession of the premises and granting the tenant’s request for rent abatement.

The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals concluded that the tenant was not required to follow the procedures for a rent-escrow action under Minn. Stat. § 504B.385 (2016) before asserting “a Fritz habitability defense.”

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether a tenant is required to give the landlord written notice of habitability issues before asserting a defense pursuant to Fritz v. Warthen, 213 N.W.2d 339 (Minn. 1973). (Hennepin County)

 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

Adam Bandemer, Respondent vs. Ford Motor Company, Appellant – Case No. A17-1182: Respondent Adam Bandemer, a Minnesota resident, was injured while riding as a passenger in Minnesota in a car manufactured by appellant Ford Motor Company. Bandemer sued Ford and others, alleging with respect to Ford that the vehicle was defectively designed, manufactured, and marketed. Ford moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing among other things that the vehicle was not designed, manufactured, or sold by Ford to a dealer in Minnesota. Following jurisdiction-related discovery, the District Court found that Ford consented to jurisdiction by registering to do business in Minnesota under Minn. Stat. § 303.13 (2016) and designating an agent in Minnesota for service.

The Court of Appeals affirmed on an alternate ground, finding that Ford had sufficient minimum contacts with Minnesota to establish specific personal jurisdiction, based chiefly on Ford’s marketing activities in Minnesota and its collection of vehicle data from Minnesota drivers in its Minnesota service centers. The Court of Appeals concluded that Minnesota’s five-factor test to determine whether personal jurisdiction is proper, see Juelich v. Yamazaki Mazak Optonics Corp., 682 N.W.2d 565, 570 (Minn. 2004), is consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Super. Ct., 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017).

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether Ford’s contacts with Minnesota are sufficient to establish specific personal jurisdiction in relation to Bandemer’s claims. (Todd County)

 

Nonoral: Keith Hapana Crow, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A18-0034: Appellant Keith Crow was convicted of aiding first-degree murder in the course of a kidnapping. Crow was sentenced to the mandatory term of life in prison without release. The Supreme Court affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Crow, 730 N.W.2d 272 (Minn. 2007). Crow’s co-defendant was also convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without release. But the co-defendant was 16 years old when he participated in the crimes, and he therefore had to be resentenced pursuant to Supreme Court decisions holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Jackson v. State, 883 N.W.2d 272 (Minn. 2016). Crow subsequently filed a petition for postconviction relief, asserting that the resentencing of his co-defendant violated his constitutional rights; that the resentencing of the co-defendant left him subject to an unlawfully disparate sentence; that the different treatment between him and his co-defendant violated his right to equal protection of the laws; that the aiding and abetting statute is unconstitutional; that the jury was misinstructed; and that he was unlawfully denied the effective assistance of counsel. The postconviction court summarily denied the petition, reasoning that the mandatory resentencing of Crow’s juvenile co-defendant had no impact on the sentence of Crow, who was an adult at the time of the crime; and that Crow’s remaining claims were procedurally barred under State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (Minn. 1976).

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented relate to whether Crow is entitled to resentencing or a new trial. (Redwood County)

 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, by its Commissioner of Transportation, Respondent vs. Roger D. Krause, et al., respondents below, Douglas Smith, Appellant – Case No. A17-1362: Respondent the State of Minnesota, acting through its Commissioner of Transportation (“MnDOT”), acquired by eminent domain certain real property owned by appellant Douglas Smith. The parties disputed the amount of just compensation. The state’s last written offer, submitted before filing a petition for condemnation, was $361,200. More than 7 years later, the parties settled for $1,081,000. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.031(a) (2016), Smith sought “reasonable attorney fees” and other costs expended. The fee agreement between Smith and his attorneys called for a half-hourly, half-contingent fee. Over the 7-plus-year course of the litigation, the attorneys worked 82 hours. Application of the contract formula resulted in a total fee just over $168,000.

In the District Court, Smith sought reimbursement for the full amount of fees charged by his attorneys. The District Court awarded the full amount, finding that the fee charged was reasonable. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, reasoning that under the lodestar method, the court must first multiply the number of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate, and then determine whether other considerations may justify adjusting the fee upward or downward. At no time in its analysis did the District Court multiply a reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours reasonably expended.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is how to compute reasonable attorney fees in condemnation cases. (Steele County)

 

In the Matter of the Maltreatment Determination of Amanda Restorff and the Order to Pay a Fine and Order of Conditional License for the Family Child Care License of Amanda Restorff – Case No. A17-1433: Appellant Amanda Restorff has a license to operate a day care out of her home. On August 1, 2016, a three-year-old child in Restorff’s care wandered from the yard for approximately a half hour before being found by police approximately two-and-one-half blocks away, by the side of a busy highway. Restorff reported the incident to her licensing worker, and the county began an investigation. The county human services department determined that Restorff had committed maltreatment of the child because he was found out of her care several blocks away from the day care and therefore was unsupervised. The State Department of Health and Human Services eventually allowed Restorff to reopen her day care, but imposed a fine of $1,000 and imposed conditions on her license.

Restorff appealed the maltreatment determination and the order to pay a fine and place conditions on her license, and a contested case hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ recommended a finding that Restorff was responsible for maltreatment by neglect as defined in the Maltreatment of Minors Act, see Minn. Stat. § 626.556, subd. 2(g)(3) (2016), and had failed to comply fully with supervision requirements set out in relevant regulations. Respondent the Commissioner of Human Services adopted the ALJ’s recommendation with slight modifications and issued an order affirming the neglect determination, fine, and conditions. The Court of Appeals affirmed, rejecting Restorff’s arguments that proof of maltreatment by neglect requires more than evidence that supervision safeguards failed on a single occasion, and that a finding of neglect requires a finding of abuse.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the Commissioner correctly applied the Maltreatment of Minors Act, specifically Minn. Stat. § 626.556, subd. 2(g)(3). (Office of Administrative Hearings)

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