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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: March 2019

The following summaries of upcoming Supreme Court arguments for March, 2019, were prepared from information provided by the Supreme Court Commissioner’s Office.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

James Alby, Appellant vs. BNSF Railway Company, Respondent – Case No. A17-1242:  Appellant James Alby was employed by respondent BNSF Railway Company. Alby sued BNSF under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. § 51 (2012). Alby alleged that the negligence of BNSF caused his back injury. Following a jury verdict for Alby, the District Court ruled that the federal postjudgment interest rate applied to the judgment; however, the District Court subsequently granted judgment as a matter of law to BNSF and vacated the judgment in favor of Alby.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court of Appeals reinstated the judgment in favor of Alby, concluding that the District Court erred by granting judgment as a matter of law to BNSF. The Court of Appeals also concluded that the federal postjudgment interest rate applies to a state court judgment under FELA.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the federal or state postjudgment interest rate applies to a state court judgment entered on a FELA claim. (Hennepin County)

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Jose Alarcon, Jr., Appellant – Case No. A17-1325: Appellant Jose Alarcon is required to register as a predatory offender. One of the registration requirements of the predatory offender registration statute is that “[i]f a person leaves a primary address and does not have a new primary address,” the person must register with law enforcement “in the area where the person is staying within 24 hours of the time the person no longer has a primary address.” Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 3a(a) (2018).

A jury trial was held at which the evidence established the following. Alarcon began living in a hotel on December 15, 2014. He submitted a timely change of information form to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that stated that the hotel would serve as his primary address. Alarcon was required to pay for his room in advance, but he did not make his payment on April 3, 2015, because the credit card Alarcon had given hotel staff to pay his rent was declined. The hotel manager put a boot on the unit door to prevent him from entering. After Alarcon did not return to the hotel that weekend, the hotel manager removed his items from the room and made the room available to others. Alarcon returned to the hotel approximately 2 weeks later to collect his things.

The jury found Alarcon guilty of knowingly failing to register as a predatory offender. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the state failed to prove that Alarcon “left” his primary address, within the meaning of the predatory offender registration statute, when it did not prove that Alarcon no longer intended to live at the hotel or was permanently precluded from returning there.(Freeborn County)

 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

Mark Kedrowski, Appellant vs. Lycoming Engines, a division of AVCO Corporation, Respondent – Case No. A17-0538: Appellant Mark Kedrowski was the pilot of a single-engine airplane that crashed shortly after takeoff. Kedrowski, who was severely injured in the crash, sued respondent Lycoming Engines, alleging that the airplane’s engine lost power and caused the crash. The case proceeded to a jury trial, and the jury awarded Kedrowski over $27 million in damages. Lycoming made a post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law, renewing arguments previously made that the causation opinion of Kedrowski’s expert lacked foundational reliability and that Kedrowski was unable to establish causation. The District Court granted judgment as a matter of law, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the District Court abused its discretion in evaluating foundation for the expert opinion; and (2) whether the District Court’s post-trial decision to exclude the causation opinion was fundamentally unfair. (Ramsey County)

In the Matter of Minnesota Living Assistance, Inc., d/b/a Baywood Home Care – Case No. A17-1821: Minnesota Living Assistance, Inc., d/b/a Baywood Home Care employed home health aides. The employees worked 24-hour shifts in client homes. During the relevant time period, the employees worked more than 48 hours per week, and Baywood paid them a daily rate of $165 or $170. In 2014, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry received a complaint that Baywood was not paying overtime as required by the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA), Minn. Stat. §§ 177.21–.35 (2018). The Department conducted an investigation and concluded that Baywood had violated Minn. Stat. § 177.25 by failing to pay overtime wages for work performed “in excess of 48 hours in a workweek.” The Department issued a compliance order, which required the payment of back wages and liquidated damages. Following contested case proceedings, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry granted the Department’s motion for summary disposition with respect to Baywood’s failure to pay overtime wages.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. The Court of Appeals concluded that “genuine issues of material fact preclude a grant of summary disposition.” The Court of Appeals also concluded that the Commissioner’s determination that “split-day pay plans and daily overtime are not permitted under the MFLSA” was “based on an invalid, unpromulgated rule.”

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented are: (1) whether there is a genuine issue of material fact with regard to how the Baywood employees were paid; and (2) whether Baywood’s wage-payment plan violates the overtime requirements of the MFLSA. (Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry)

 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Supreme Court Courtroom, State Capitol Building, Second Floor

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Nigeria Lee Harvey, Appellant – Case No. A18-0205: A Hennepin County grand jury indicted appellant Nigeria Harvey with several offenses, including first-degree premeditated murder. As part of the police investigation, an officer obtained a court order directing Harvey’s cellular provider to disclose the cell site location information for Harvey’s phone during the time surrounding the murder. Before trial, Harvey filed two motions challenging the cell site location information. In the first motion, he argued the court should suppress the cell site location information because it was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In the second motion, Harvey argued the cell site location information was inadmissible because the State failed to establish that the technology used to collect the information was accepted by the scientific community and that the technology had been applied in a manner to ensure reliability. The District Court denied both motions. During jury selection, Harvey objected to the prosecutor’s use of a peremptory challenge, citing Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The District Court overruled Harvey’s objection. The jury found Harvey guilty of first-degree premeditated murder.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the police obtained the cell site location information for Harvey’s phone in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (2) whether the District Court erred when it admitted the cell site location information into evidence; and (3) whether the District Court erred when it overruled Harvey’s Batson objection. (Hennepin County)

Nonoral: In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Lori J. Sklar, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0208218 – Case No. A18-1330: The California Supreme Court suspended respondent Lori Sklar for 1 year, stayed all but 30 days of that suspension, and placed her on probation for 2 years. The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action seeking reciprocal discipline against Sklar. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether it should impose reciprocal discipline on Sklar.

 Thursday, March 7, 2019

St. Thomas Law School

State of Minnesota, Appellant vs. Marie Jessica Hall, Respondent – Case No. A17-0710: Appellant State of Minnesota charged respondent Marie Hall with several offenses, including third-degree murder. Hall submitted her case to the District Court on stipulated evidence. The District Court found Hall guilty as charged.

On appeal, Hall argued the language of the third-degree murder statute required the State to prove she acted without an intent to effect the death of any person and in the absence of such proof, her conviction must be reversed. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the third-degree murder conviction.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the language of the third-degree murder statute requires the State to prove the defendant acted without an intent to effect the death of any person. (Hennepin County)

 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

In the Matter of the Application of Otter Tail Power Company for Authority to Increase Rates for Electric Service in Minnesota – Case No. A17-1300: This appeal arises out of the February 2016 general rate case filed by Otter Tail Power Company. As part of that case, Otter Tail argued that two interstate high-voltage transmission lines in North Dakota and South Dakota—the Big Stone Area Transmission Lines (BSAT Lines)—should not be subject to state retail ratemaking because they are subject to a wholesale tariff approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission rejected Otter Tail’s argument and found that the wholesale costs and revenues of the BSAT Lines should be considered in setting Otter Tail’s retail rates.

The Court of Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Commission’s decision is “preempted by section 219 of the Federal Power Act because it prevents Otter Tail from recovering $13.8 million in revenues, which in turn prevents it from receiving the FERC-approved and section 219-mandated return on equity for its investment in the BSAT Lines.” The Court of Appeals also concluded that the Commission exceeded its statutory authority by directing Otter Tail to include the costs and revenues of the BSAT Lines in a transmission-cost recovery rider.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the Commission had authority to include the BSAT Lines in Otter Tail’s general rate case; and (2) whether the Commission had authority to direct Otter Tail to include the costs and revenues of the BSAT Lines in the company’s existing transmission-cost recovery rider. (Minnesota Public Utilities Commission)

Nonoral: Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust, Relator vs. County of Anoka, Respondent – Case Nos. A18-1678, A18-1679, and A18-1681: Relator Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust filed three separate property-tax petitions challenging the real-estate assessments of respondent Anoka County. Respondent moved to dismiss the petitions arguing the real estate was income-producing property and, therefore, relator was required to comply with the mandatory disclosure requirements of Minn. Stat. § 278.05, subd. 6 (2018) (the “60-day rule”). The Minnesota Tax Court dismissed the petitions, concluding that the real estate was income-producing property and that relator failed to comply with the 60-day rule.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the real estate is income-producing property; and (2) whether relator complied with the 60-day rule. (Minnesota Tax Court)

 Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Misty Kay Roy, Appellant – Case No. A18-0326: On November 21, 2011, the District Court convicted appellant Misty Roy, a member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, of third-degree controlled-substance crime, imposed a stay of imposition of sentence, and placed her on probation for up to 20 years. On July 15, 2017, Roy was arrested on the Red Lake Reservation and charged in the Red Lake Court of Indian Offenses with two gross misdemeanors. She was later convicted. Roy served her sentence at the Red Lake Detention Center from October 22, 2017, to November 12, 2017, at which time she was released to Beltrami County on a pending probation violation in her Minnesota controlled-substance-crime case.

Roy asked to execute her Minnesota sentence. Following a hearing, the District Court revoked the stay of imposition and sentenced Roy to a presumptive sentence of 21 months in prison. The District Court awarded Roy credit for time served at the Beltrami County Jail but denied her request for jail credit for time served at the Red Lake Detention Center. The Court of Appeals affirmed Roy’s sentence.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented are: (1) whether Roy is entitled to custody credit for the time she spent in the Red Lake Detention Center; and (2) whether it violates the Equal Protection Clause to deny Roy custody credit for time she spent in the Red Lake Detention Center. (Beltrami County)

Nonoral: In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Wendy Alison Nora, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0165906 – Case No. A18-1574: The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended respondent Wendy Nora for 1 year. The Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a petition for disciplinary action seeking reciprocal discipline against Nora. The issue before the Supreme Court is whether it should impose reciprocal discipline on Nora.

 Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Courtroom 300, Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Derrick Zechariah Smith, Appellant – Case No. A18-0607: A Hennepin County grand jury indicted appellant Derrick Smith with several offenses, including aiding and abetting first-degree intentional murder while committing a felony. Smith pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial. During discovery, Smith requested recordings of certain jailhouse phone calls. Six days before trial, the State provided Smith the recordings, which contained more than 70 hours of conversations. Smith requested a trial continuance, which the District Court denied. At trial, the State presented the testimony of an accomplice who described Smith’s alleged involvement in the charged offense. The State also presented evidence of prior bad acts allegedly committed by Smith. Defense counsel was not allowed to cross-examine the homicide detective on issues related to the accomplice’s testimony in a separate case. The jury found Smith guilty as charged.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the District Court abused its discretion by denying Smith’s request to continue the trial; (2) whether there was sufficient evidence to corroborate the accomplice’s testimony; (3) whether the District Court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of prior bad acts; and (4) whether the District Court deprived Smith of a fair trial by limiting defense counsel’s cross-examination of the homicide detective. (Hennepin County)

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