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Minnesota Supreme Court chamber
The Supreme Court chamber in the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. (File photo: Kevin Featherly)

Supreme Court Calendar: April 2021

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

 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Robert Brady Malone, Appellant – Case Nos. A19-1559, A19-1560: Respondent State of Minnesota charged appellant Robert Malone with violation of a domestic abuse no-contact order (DANCO) for a Jan. 13, 2019 incident. Malone filed a motion to dismiss, arguing, in part, that there was insufficient evidence that he was aware of the DANCO at the time of the alleged violation. The District Court held a hearing on the motion to dismiss, and Malone testified in support of his motion. The District Court denied the motion.

Malone filed a notice to remove the District Court judge according to Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.03, subd. 14(3). Malone claimed that the District Court judge violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by investigating facts outside the record during the hearing on his motion to dismiss, assisted the State in procuring a witness to testify against him at trial, and acted with bias toward him at prior proceedings. The assistant chief judge denied Malone’s motion. A jury found Malone guilty. The Court of Appeals affirmed Malone’s conviction.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the District Court judge was disqualified from presiding over Malone’s case because of an appearance of bias and other acts of judicial misconduct. (Beltrami County)

 

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against William Bernard Butler, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0227912 – Case No. A20-0918: An attorney discipline matter that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the case.

 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Minnesota Judicial Center

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Jquan Leearthur McInnis, Appellant – Case No. A20-0492: In 2016, a grand jury indicted Jquan McInnis for two counts of first-degree premeditated murder based on allegations that he killed an adult male and a 7-month-old infant. At the time of the offenses, McInnis was 17 years old. During a police interview, McInnis confessed to firing a gunshot into the vehicle where the adult was seated but insisted that he did not intend to hit or kill the infant.

McInnis filed a motion to suppress his statement to police because the officers did not honor his right to remain silent. The District Court denied the suppression motion. McInnis waived his right to a jury trial and proceeded with a stipulated evidence trial under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 3. The District Court found McInnis guilty of both counts and sentenced him to two consecutive life sentences with the possibility of release after 30 years.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues include whether the District Court committed error by denying the suppression motion, whether the evidence of transferred intent is sufficient to support the second conviction for first-degree murder, and whether the District Court’s imposition of consecutive life sentences exaggerates the criminality of Woods’ conduct. (Hennepin County)

 

State vs. Minnesota, Respondent vs. Melvin DeVaughn Epps, Appellant – Case No. A19-1626: In 2019, Melvin Epps was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct based on allegations that he offered to give an adult female a ride back to her hotel after a party in downtown Minneapolis and then sexually assaulted her in the vehicle. Epps was charged under Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(e)(i) (2020), which states that a person who engages in sexual penetration with another person without consent is guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct if “the actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the act.” The case proceeded to a jury trial. During closing arguments, the prosecutor told the jurors that they did not need to unanimously agree whether Epps acted with force or with coercion. The jury found Epps guilty.

Epps raised several claims on appeal, including that the prosecutor engaged in reversible misconduct by misstating the law during closing arguments because the jurors must unanimously agree whether he acted with force or with coercion to find him guilty. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the prosecutor misstated the law by telling the jury that a unanimous verdict on whether Epps acted with “force or coercion” as outlined in Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(e)(i), was not required. (Hennepin County)

 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Minnesota Judicial Center

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Malcolm Jammal Woods, Appellant – Case No. A20-0669: In 2018, a grand jury indicted Malcolm Woods for first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree murder. The District Court appointed two public defenders to represent Woods. An evaluation under Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01 was requested and the examiner found Woods competent. During a pretrial hearing, Woods told the District Court that he wanted the public defenders removed from his case and intended to represent himself. The District Court accepted a waiver of counsel and allowed Woods to represent himself, but appointed a private attorney as advisory counsel. When Woods subsequently refused to participate in the proceedings, the District Court ordered a second evaluation under Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, but the examiner found Woods competent. Woods requested the reappointment of the public defenders but later asked for the public defenders to be discharged.

The case proceeded to a jury trial and Woods represented himself with the assistance of advisory counsel. Halfway through the jury trial, Woods refused to appear in court and the District Court ruled that Woods was voluntarily absenting himself from the trial and waiving his right to present a defense. The jury found Woods guilty and the District Court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of release.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issues include whether Woods’ waiver of counsel was involuntary and whether the District Court improperly denied his request to have advisory counsel assume full representation. (Olmsted County)

 

Nonoral: Joseph Christen Thoresen, Appellant vs. State of Minnesota, Respondent – Case No. A20-1221: In 2017, Joseph Thoresen was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal.

In 2020, Thoresen filed a petition for postconviction relief and alleged multiple claims, including ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, and a Brady violation. The District Court denied Thoresen’s petition.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the District Court committed an error by denying Thoresen’s petition for postconviction relief. (Itasca County)

 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Minnesota Judicial Center

 

William H. Johnson, Respondent vs. Darchuks Fabrications, Inc. and Harleysville Insurance, Relators – Case No. A20-0963: Respondent William H. Johnson was employed by relator Darchuks Fabrications, Inc., and suffered a work-related injury in 2002, resulting in a diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Johnson has been receiving treatment for CRPS ever since. In July of 2016 relators’ claim representative sent a letter to Johnson’s attorney stating their position that Johnson had fully recovered and no further treatment was necessary. In November of 2016, Johnson sought payment for medications prescribed for his diagnosis, including Endocet. Relators denied that Endocet was appropriate.

After additional proceedings, including a previous appeal to this court, a compensation judge in September of 2019 concluded that Johnson’s use of Endocet was not in compliance with Minn. R. 5221.6110 (2019), and that Johnson had not complied with the treatment parameters, but that Johnson’s use of Endocet qualified for the “rare case” exception recognized in Jacka v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co., 580 N.W.2d 27, 34 (Minn. 1998) (stating, “in recognition of the fact that the treatment parameters cannot anticipate every exceptional circumstance,” that the “compensation judge may depart from” the parameters “in those rare cases in which departure is necessary to obtain proper treatment”). The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals affirmed the compensation judge’s findings, concluding that they were supported by substantial evidence in the record.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the “rare case” exception should apply when an employee’s use of medication is not in compliance with Minnesota treatment parameters. (Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals)

 

In re Petition for Disciplinary Action against Howard S. Kleyman, a Minnesota Attorney, Registration No. 0056558 – Case No. A20-1304: An attorney discipline matter that presents the question of what discipline, if any, is appropriate based on the facts of the case.

 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Minnesota Judicial Center

 

Aaron Reimringer, Appellant vs. Bart Anderson, Respondent – Case No. A19-2045: On August 1, 2019, appellant Aaron Reimringer and respondent Bart Anderson signed a residential lease for Reimringer to rent from Anderson a single-family home on 40 acres of land located in Monticello. The lease called for payment of the first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit in advance. The monthly rent was $2,500. On his application, Reimringer listed himself and his two dogs as occupants. On Sept. 1, 2019, Reimringer moved into the home, along with his girlfriend, their four children, two dogs, and a cat. Reimringer did not pay Anderson anything, either before moving in or since. Anderson testified he was not aware that Reimringer had moved in until at least a week later, at which time he demanded the damage deposit, but Reimringer did not make the payment. On Sept. 30, 2019, Anderson came to the property and asked Reimringer’s girlfriend for payment of the unpaid rent and security deposit. When she did not have it, Anderson required Reimringer and his family to move out of the home that day. Anderson paid for Reimringer and his family to stay at a hotel for three nights, which gave Reimringer an additional opportunity to make the payment, but he did not. Anderson stored Reimringer’s property in a large, locked container on the property and told Reimringer where he could find the key to gain access to the container.

Reimringer filed a petition in the District Court for possession of the property under Minn. Stat. § 504B.375 (2020) and ouster damages under Minn. Stat. § 504B.231 (2020). After an evidentiary hearing, the District Court denied Reimringer’s petition, both for possession and damages. The court concluded that because Reimringer had not paid any of the money required by the lease agreement, he was not a “residential tenant,” a prerequisite to his possession claim under § 504B.375. As to the damages claim, the court concluded that Reimringer did not prove that Anderson acted in bad faith, a prerequisite under the ouster statute. In finding that bad faith was not proved, the District Court noted that Anderson “provided for three nights in a hotel for [Reimringer] and his family and placed all personal property in a locked storage unit that was accessible to” him.

Reimringer abandoned his possession claim on appeal. With respect to damages, the Court of Appeals affirmed. It reasoned that the existence of bad faith was a fact question on which the District Court had not clearly erred. The Court of Appeals reasoned that “the District Court reasonably could have believed that Anderson acted in good faith because he was justified in not allowing Reimringer to reside on his property without paying rent or a security deposit and because he gave Reimringer three additional days in which to pay the money that ordinarily would have been due at the time of signing the lease or the beginning of the tenancy.”

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is the requirements for a finding of “bad faith” under Minn. Stat. § 504B.231. (Wright County)

 

State of Minnesota, Respondent vs. Carlos Ramone Sargent, Appellant – Case No. A19-1554: In 2018, Carlos Sargent was charged with illegal possession of ammunition. A law enforcement officer conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle for failing to signal a turn and observed an odor of alcohol coming from inside of the vehicle, which contained an adult female driver and several adult male passengers, including Sargent. The officer was aware that Sargent had been recently charged with a felony and was on pretrial release. The officer asked Sargent about the conditions of his pretrial release and whether Sargent was prohibited from consuming alcohol. A preliminary breath test showed that Sargent had been consuming alcohol. The officer arrested Sargent and a subsequent search revealed ammunition in Sargent’s pocket.

Sargent filed a motion to suppress the evidence and argued that the officer unlawfully expanded the duration and scope of the traffic stop to ask about his pretrial release conditions and arrest him for violating a pretrial release condition. The District Court denied the suppression motion. Sargent waived his right to a jury trial and proceeded with a stipulated evidence trial under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 4. The District Court found Sargent guilty of illegal possession of ammunition.

Sargent raised several claims on appeal, including that the officer unlawfully expanded the scope and duration of the traffic stop. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue presented is whether the officer’s expansion of the scope and duration of the traffic stop was lawful. (Cass County)

 

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