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Court of Appeals Digest: Sept. 23, 2019

Civil Published

Psychologists

Discipline

The Minnesota Board of Psychology revoked relator’s license to practice psychology based on a finding that he engaged in sexual misconduct toward a patient. Relator argued that the board did not have authority to discipline him because his license had expired, that the board’s disciplinary proceeding was barred by a statute of limitation, and that the board’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

The Court of Appeals concluded that (1) the Minnesota Board of Psychology is authorized to commence and maintain a disciplinary proceeding against, and to impose discipline on, a psychologist whose license no longer is valid because it was not renewed, so long as the license has not been terminated; and (2) there is no limit on the time in which the Minnesota Board of Psychology may commence a disciplinary proceeding against a licensed psychologist if the complaint alleges the type of sexual misconduct described in Minn. Stat. § 148.941, subd. 7(b)(2). The seven-year limitation period in § 148.941, subd. 7(a), does not apply to such a complaint. Affirmed.

A19-0098 In re License of Thompson (Minn. Bd. of Psychology)

Civil Unpublished

Civil Commitment

SDP; Discharge

Appellant Minnesota Commissioner of Human Services appealed a decision by the Commitment Appeal Panel to grant respondent a provisional discharge from his commitment as a sexually dangerous person to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The commissioner argued that the CAP misread respondent’s proposed provisional-discharge plan, improperly altered that plan, and based its decision on an erroneous credibility determination. On the record as it was presented, the Court of Appeals rejected the commissioner’s arguments, and affirmed the CAP. Affirmed.

A19-0761 In re Civil Commitment of Schmidt (Commitment Appeal Panel)

Civil Commitment

SDP; Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Appellant, who was civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person and a sexual psychopathic personality, challenged the District Court’s denial of his motion to withdraw a civil-commitment stipulation under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02, arguing that (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel and (2) the stipulation was invalid. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant’s argument that his counsel advised him that he would be discharged in three to four years was belied by appellant’s stipulation that his commitment was indeterminate, and that appellant failed to provide any evidence that his counsel was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the commitment proceedings. Affirmed.

A19-0255 In re Civil Commitment of Dunker (Otter Tail County)

Domestic Relations

Child Custody; Best Interests

These were consolidated appeals, in which appellant challenged the District Court’s findings in this custody and support dispute. By notice of related appeal, respondent challenged the District Court’s calculation of appellant’s future child-support obligations and arrears. The Court of Appeals concluded, inter alia, that the District Court’s best-interests findings were supported by the record through testimony and submissions, that there was no error in imputing income to appellant, and that the District Court’s refusal to modify appellant’s unpaid support amount based on his inability to pay a lump sum of $10,903 did not constitute an abuse of discretion. Affirmed.

A18-0141, A18-1594 Claeson v. Denais (Washington County)

Domestic Relations

Child Custody; Modification

Appellant-mother challenged the District Court’s award of additional parenting time to respondent-father, arguing that the increase in parenting time constituted a de facto custody modification and therefore Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(iv) applied to the motion. The Court of Appeals agreed that the increase in parenting time was a de facto custody modification. Reversed and remanded.

A18-2142 Edwards v. Edwards (Dakota County)

Domestic Relations

Child Custody; Guardians ad Litem

In this custody dispute, appellant argued that the District Court clearly erred by implicitly: (1) denying his motion to amend its finding that he agreed to the guardian ad litem’s (GAL) custody recommendation; and (2) declining to make additional findings regarding his child-support obligation, and domestic-abuse and chemical-dependency programming. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court’s finding that appellant assented to the GAL’s custody recommendation was clearly erroneous, noting that appellant unequivocally disagreed with the GAL’s recommendation that respondent be granted sole physical and sole legal custody of the child. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

A19-0156 Ka v. Vang (Ramsey County)

Employment

Retaliatory Discharge

Respondent employer terminated appellant’s employment two years after she suffered a workplace injury that rendered her physically unable to perform the duties of her job. Appellant sued respondent under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, alleging that respondent discharged her for retaliatory and discriminatory reasons. The District Court granted summary judgment in respondent’s favor. Noting that the MWCA does not require employers to create new jobs or alter existing jobs, and that appellant offered insufficient evidence to avoid summary judgment on her disability-discrimination claim, the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence construed in appellant’s favor did not support any of her claims. Affirmed.

A18-2112 Conn v. Bic Graphics USA Mfg. Co. (Brown County)

Judgments

Exemption Rights

Appellant judgment debtors challenged the District Court’s order striking their notice of exemption rights, arguing that the District Court erred by concluding that appellants were not entitled to exemptions for a manufactured home and vehicle. The Court of Appeals concluded that the security agreement reasonably identified the vehicle and the bank’s security interest attached to it, and because appellants granted the bank a security interest in the vehicle, the bank could foreclose on its interest regardless of the vehicle’s exempt status. Affirmed.

A19-0491 Shamrock Sod & Landscaping, Inc. v. Sec. State Bank of Fergus Falls (Douglas County)

Probate

Wills

After the District Court concluded that decedent died without a will and appointed respondent personal representative of decedent’s estate, appellant, decedent’s son and respondent’s brother, filed a motion to vacate, alleging that he found decedent’s handwritten will. The District Court denied appellant’s motion to vacate without holding an evidentiary hearing, a decision appellant challenged. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure provide District Courts with discretion to determine whether an evidentiary hearing is required when deciding a motion to vacate—and the District Court did not abuse that discretion. Affirmed.

A19-0290 In re Keim (Mower County)

Temporary Injunctions

Likelihood of Success

Appellants county and sheriff sought review of an order granting a temporary injunction that precluded appellants from detaining individuals, after their release from state custody, “on behalf of” United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement “without an arrest by an immigration officer or a valid arrest warrant” under Minnesota law. Respondents filed a putative class action complaint and sought a temporary injunction on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, alleging that appellants’ practice of detaining individuals after their release from state custody was a new seizure under the Fourth Amendment and article I, section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution, and was unauthorized under Minnesota law. Appellants challenged the District Court’s determination that respondents were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not clearly abuse its discretion by granting the temporary injunction while the court proceeded with a determination on the merits, finding no abuse of discretion in the abuse its discretion in determination that that respondents were likely to prevail on the contested issues that (A) appellants’ continued detention of respondents after their release from state custody was a new seizure, and (B) state and federal law did not authorize appellants to seize respondents based on ICE detainers and warrants. Affirmed.

A18-2011 Esparza v. Nobles County (Nobles County)

Unemployment Benefits

Employment Misconduct

Relator challenged the decision of an unemployment-law judge that she was ineligible for unemployment benefits. Relator argued that she was deprived of due process, that the ULJ failed to support her credibility determinations, and that the ULJ erred in concluding that relator was discharged for employment misconduct. The Court of Appeals concluded that relator’s assertion that she was not aware of the request for reconsideration was insufficient to support her claim that the Department of Employment and Economic Development failed to provide her notice as required by the statute and thereby violated her due-process rights. Furthermore, the ULJ made explicit credibility determinations supported by the record and did not err in concluding that relator was discharged for employment misconduct. Affirmed.

A19-0276 Brandt v. LaMettry’s Collision Inc. (Dep’t of Emp’t & Econ. Dev.)

Unjust Enrichment

Sufficiency of the Evidence

In these consolidated appeals, appellants, a property owner and its general contractor, asserted entitlement to judgment as a matter of law or a new trial in their commercial dispute with respondents, two subcontractors. The Court of Appeals concluded that (1) the District Court did not abuse its discretion by granting respondents’ motions in limine; (2) the District Court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellants’ motion for a new trial; (3) the District Court did not err in denying property owner JMOL on its civil-theft counterclaim against respondent; (4) the District Court did not err in denying general contractor’s motion for JMOL on respondent’s breach-of-contract claim but did err in denying property owner’s motion for JMOL on respondent’s unjust-enrichment claim; and (5) the District Court did not abuse its discretion by presiding over the case.

A18-1602, A19-0006 AllenMax Constr., LLC v. Wright Group, LLC (St. Louis County)

Wrongful Death

Liability

Appellant, trustee of the heirs of decedent, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning due to the faulty installation of a heating unit on an ice-fishing house, challenged the District Court’s denial of his motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial in a wrongful death action against the owners of the ice-fishing house filed after the jury returned a verdict finding that an owner was not negligent. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s denial of appellant’s motion for JMOL, but concluded that the District Court erred by not instructing the jury on its prior summary-judgment decision that three persons were not at fault as a matter of law. The court also affirmed the District Court’s decision to grant appellant’s motion to omit the non-parties from the special-verdict form, but reversed the District Court’s summary-judgment decision to dismiss the claims against respondent one of the owners. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A19-0186 Hendricksen v. Jensen (Martin County)

Criminal Unpublished

Accomplices

Jury Instructions

In this direct appeal from a final judgment of conviction for aiding first-degree aggravated robbery, appellant argued that the District Court plainly erred by failing to sua sponte give an accomplice-testimony instruction, and plainly erred by giving a no-adverse-inference instruction without appellant’s consent. The Court of Appeals agreed that the District Court plainly erred in failing to provide the jury the accomplice-testimony instruction, but concluded that this plain error did not affect appellant’s substantial rights, as there was not a reasonable likelihood that the jury’s verdict would have changed had the District Court given an accomplice-corroboration instruction to the jury. Affirmed.

A18-1836 State v. Jones (Hennepin County)

Driving While Impaired

Motor Vehicle

Appellant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction for driving while impaired. He argued that his motorized, three-wheeled bicycle did not meet the statutory definition of “motor vehicle.”  The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant’s motorized bicycle was a “motor vehicle” under Minn. Stat. § 169A.03, subd. 15. Affirmed.

A18-2075 State v. Larson (Carlton County)

Illegal Firearms Possession

Sufficiency of the Evidence

A jury found appellant guilty of five offenses based on evidence that he unlawfully possessed a firearm, ammunition, and a controlled substance. The Court of Appeals concluded that the only reasonable inference in light of the circumstances proved was that appellant was consciously exercising dominion and control over a handgun found wrapped in a motel towel in his motel room. However, appellant was unlawfully sentenced on multiple convictions because two of his convictions were based on the same behavioral incident. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A18-1856 State v. Dow (Mower County)

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Deficient Performance

Appellant challenged the judgment of conviction for criminal sexual conduct on the ground that he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel conceded his guilt on three elements of the charged offenses in a written closing statement and without his consent or acquiescence. The Court of Appeals noted that the law dictates a unique application of the Strickland  standard in the context of a defense counsel conceding a client’s guilt without the client’s consent or acquiescence, and that this standard presumes a deficient performance and, therefore, a new trial is required. The court concluded that appellant’s counsel made a concession of guilt for which the record demonstrated neither consent nor acquiescence by the appellant. Reversed and remanded.

A18-1710 State v. Huisman (Steele County)

Jurors

Schwartz Hearings

In this direct appeal from the judgment of conviction for first-degree assault, appellant argued, inter alia, that the case must be remanded for a Schwartz hearing because a witness may have made an inappropriate comment as she was leaving the witness stand following her testimony and the District Court erred in entering judgments of conviction for both first- and third-degree assault. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant was not entitled to remand for a Schwartz hearing because there was not a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different if the jury had not heard the victim speaking quietly under her breath as she left the witness stand. However, the District Court erred by entering convictions on both counts. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A18-1803 State v. Ranzy (Hennepin County)

Right to Complete Defense

Evidence

Appellant challenged his conviction of failing to register as a predatory offender, arguing that he was denied his right to present a complete defense and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Noting that the District Court did not actually exclude any evidence, it merely sustained the objection to a question as “currently posed,” and that defense counsel was free to rephrase and continue the line of questioning to establish a basis as to why the testimony would be relevant, but it did not do so, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not deny appellant the opportunity to present a complete defense. Affirmed.

A18-1755 State v. Brown (Steele County)

Right to Counsel

Waiver

In this appeal from a conviction of first-degree driving while impaired and other related charges, appellant argued that his conviction must be reversed because he did not validly waive his right to counsel. In this appeal from a conviction of first-degree driving while impaired  and other related charges, appellant argued that his conviction must be reversed because he did not validly waive his right to counsel at trial. Noting the lack of a written waiver, the non-compliance with the mandated colloquy mandated, and that appellant explicitly reserved his right to counsel, the Court of Appeals concluded that appellant did not waive his right to counsel because he did not do so knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. Reversed and remanded.

A18-1658 State v. Docken (Carver County)

Sentencing

Criminal-History Score

In this direct appeal from final judgments of conviction and sentences for three controlled substance crimes, appellant argued that two of his sentences must be reversed and remanded for resentencing because the District Court erroneously calculated his criminal history score. Noting that, while it was a close question and the record may have supported a different conclusion, the Court of Appeals concluded that it was not convinced that the District Court abused its discretion in concluding that appellant’s offenses from multiple convictions, in Minnesota and North Dakota, from one single date did not occur in a single course of conduct. Affirmed.

A18-1863 State v. Bean (Polk County)

Sentencing

Restitution

Appellant pleaded guilty to failing to stop at the scene of a traffic collision involving great bodily harm. The parties did not agree that appellant would pay restitution for dismissed charges in exchange for her plea. The District Court entered a restitution order for $11,173. Appellant challenged the District Court’s restitution order as contravening the restitution statute. The Court of Appeals noted that Minn. Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1(a)(1), permits restitution only for “economic losses sustained by the victim as a result of the offense” and concluded that the state failed to provide evidence that the victims’ losses were directly caused by appellant’s crime of failing to immediately stop at the scene of a traffic collision involving great bodily harm. Reversed.

A19-0049 State v. Harvey (Hennepin County)


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