A hacker accessed a Minnesota Department of Human Services email account assigned to a department employee. The department informed appellant, who is civilly committed to the state sex offender program as a sexually dangerous person, that his private information may have been accessed. Appellant sued the state for damages under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and the Minnesota Health Records Act, contending that “disclosing” his private information caused him emotional and economic harm. The District Court dismissed appellant civil complaint for failure to state a claim.
The Court of Appeals held that (1) data that is acquired by an unauthorized person’s hacking into a government account has not been “disseminated” in violation of Minn. Stat. § 13.05, subd. 4; and (2) the state has not waived sovereign immunity for claims under the Minnesota Health Records Act. Affirmed in part and reversed in part.
A21-0001 Smallwood v. State, Dep’t of Human Servs. (Ramsey County)
Child Custody; Contempt
The daughter of appellant-father and respondent-mother has been the subject of a parenting time order since the parties’ 2010 divorce, but she has refused to spend the designated time with her mother. The District Court concluded that appellant’s failure to discipline the then 17-year-old daughter or take other action to coerce her to go to respondent’s home as scheduled constituted constructive civil contempt of court and warranted time in jail. Appellant appealed, arguing that the District Court improperly refused to allow the daughter to testify at the contempt hearing and inappropriately held him responsible for the nearly adult daughter’s decision to avoid her mother. Since the time of the District Court’s order, the daughter has become an adult and graduated high school, and was no longer subject to a parenting time order. The Court of Appeals therefore dismissed the appeal as moot and vacated the contempt orders. Appeal dismissed and vacated in part.
A20-1172 MacNabb v. Kysylyczyn (Ramsey County)
Child Custody; Modification
Appellant-mother challenged the District Court’s order denying, without an evidentiary hearing, her motion to modify custody. Noting that the allegations that mother relied on for her prima facie case related mainly to the division of parenting time, the Court of Appeals concluded that District Court did not abuse its discretion by determining that mother had not alleged a prima facie case of integration. Affirmed.
A20-1342 Isakson v. Anderson (Becker County)
Child Custody; Modification
On appeal from the District Court’s denial of her motion to modify custody, appellant argued that the District Court failed to properly analyze whether the children were endangered by their “present environment” as required by Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(iv). Noting that, instead of weighing evidence of two domestic-abuse incidents that occurred after the entry of the custody order, the District Court summarily disregarded those incidents as not recent enough for consideration in an endangerment analysis and arbitrarily limited the time period of relevant endangerment incidents to what it described alternatively as recent events and those occurring within one year from the date of the evidentiary hearing, the Court of Appeals concluded that District Court improperly interpreted Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(iv) and failed to follow caselaw. Reversed and remanded.
A20-1598 Sublet v. Schulz (Rice County)
Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights
On appeal from the termination of her parental rights to her two children, appellant-mother argued that the record did not support the District Court’s determinations that (1) respondent county provided reasonable efforts to reunify the family, (2) a statutory basis exists that warranted termination, and (3) termination was in the children’s best interests. Noting that mother blocked the guardian ad litem from attending individualized-education-plan meetings for the children and the guardian ad litem’s access to the school and cancelled medical appointments that the foster parents scheduled for the children, the Court of Appeals discerned no clear error or abuse of discretion in the District Court’s determination that the county made reasonable efforts to reunify the family. Affirmed.
A21-0356, A21-0357 In re Welfare of Children of C.J.N. (Douglas County)
Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights
Appellant grandmother challenged the District Court’s termination of her third-party custodial rights to a child as part of its order terminating the parental rights of the child’s parents. The Court of Appeals agreed that the statute relied upon by the District Court did not confer upon it the authority to terminate grandmother’s third-party-custodial rights. Reversed.
A21-0167 In re Welfare of Child of J.M.B. (Olmsted County)
Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights
On appeal from the District Court’s termination of her parental rights, appellant-mother argued that the District Court should have ruled that (a) she overcame the presumption that she was a palpably unfit parent; and (b) it was not in the child’s best interests to terminate mother’s parental rights. Noting that mother’s assertions that her parenting abilities were likely to improve in the reasonably foreseeable future were merely speculative, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err in determining that the statutory ground of mother’s palpable unfitness to parent was established. Affirmed.
A21-0364 In re Welfare of Children of M.R.K. (Stearns County)
Child Support; Jurisdiction
On appeal from an order determining child support, appellant-mother argued that the child support magistrate (CSM) lacked authority to order child support while a custody and parenting-time order was pending appeal, abused her discretion by denying mother’s request for a continuance, deprived mother of a fair opportunity to present evidence, and abused her discretion in determining mother’s child-support obligations. The Court of Appeals concluded that the CSM retained jurisdiction to decide the issue of ongoing child support despite the custody and parenting-time appeal. Furthermore, the CSM did not abuse her discretion by denying the continuance request, and mother received a fair opportunity to present evidence. Affirmed.
A21-0090 Mower County Heath & Human Servs. v. Osborn (Mower County)
Parenting Time; Best Interests
In this parenting time dispute, appellant challenged the District Court’s decision to adopt an equal parenting time schedule. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the District Court did not make sufficient findings regarding the statutory best interests factors, it was unable to review the permanent parenting time schedule adopted by the District Court. Reversed and remanded.
A20-1599 Rakow v. Przybilla (Morrison County)
Drivers’ License Revocation
In this appeal under Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.50–.53, appellant challenged the District Court’s order sustaining the revocation of his driver’s license on the basis that he was unlawfully seized. The District Court concluded that no seizure occurred because appellant was not completely blocked by the squad car and could have maneuvered his vehicle out of the parking spot, even if it would have been difficult, and required a bit of backing and filling to do so. The Court of Appeals concluded that, even if the officer seized appellant, he had reasonable, articulable suspicion to do so. Affirmed.
A20-1572 Marczak v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety (Stevens County)
Environmental Impact Statements
In these consolidated certiorari appeals, relator Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) challenged the decisions of respondent Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) not to require an environmental impact statement (EIS) and to issue a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for a proposed feedlot. The MCEA argued that the MPCA failed to adequately consider the potential environmental effects of the feedlot on nearby calcareous fens, a rare type of wetland that has specific protection under Minnesota law, Minn. Stat. § 103G.223, and consequently the decisions must be reversed. Because the project proposer, respondent, was required to apply to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for a groundwater-appropriation permit to operate the feedlot and the applicable statute and rules require a rigorous analysis by the DNR of potential environmental effects on the calcareous fens, the Court of Appeals concluded that the MPCA did not err in deferring that analysis to the DNR’s permitting process and in issuing a negative declaration on the need for an EIS and granting coverage under the state’s NPDES permit for feedlots. Affirmed.
A20-1417, A20-1418 In re Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Barrick Family Farms, LLP (Minn. Pollution Control Agency)
Appellant challenged the Rule 12.02(e) dismissal of his complaint that the government improperly refused to produce rejected-absentee-ballot data pursuant to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. The Court of Appeals concluded that the record did not support a preliminary determination that Minn. Stat. § 201.091, subd. 4a, addressing presidential primary political party list, applied to the requested data. Reversed and remanded.
A21-0241 Olson v. County of Dakota (Dakota County)
Harassment Restraining Orders
Appellant sought a harassment restraining order after respondent contacted appellant’s probation officer and authored social media posts in which respondent complained about the Minnesota court system’s handling of past cases involving appellant. The District Court denied the petition. Appellant appealed, arguing that respondent’s contacts with law enforcement were objectively unreasonable and that respondent’s online posts were defamatory and therefore unprotected speech. The Court of Appeals concluded that respondent’s contact of law enforcement was objectively reasonable and the evidence supported the conclusion that the social media posts did not constitute harassment because they reiterated readily available information. Affirmed.
A21-0108 Wells v. Fischbach (Dakota County)
Human Services Licensing
Relator argued that respondent Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and without the support of substantial evidence when it declined to set aside his disqualification from providing services to persons in licensed facilities. He also asserted that the statute that allows MDH to reconsider disqualification decisions that it made violated the constitutional guarantee of due process. Relator was disqualified based on his conviction for threats of violence. The Court of Appeals conclude that, because substantial evidence in the record supported MDH’s decision, and because any erroneous finding was immaterial to the decision, relator failed to demonstrate that a lack of evidentiary support warranted reversing MDH’s decision not to set aside his disqualification. Affirmed.
A21-0024 A.A.F. v. Minn. Dep’t of Health (Minn. Dep’t of Health)
On remand from the Minnesota Supreme Court, relators reiterated their challenge to an order by respondent Public Utility Commission approving respondent-utility’s affiliated-interest agreements related to a proposed natural-gas power plant. Relators argued that substantial evidence did not support the commission’s determinations that (1) the power plant was needed and (2) the power plant served the public interest better than a renewable-resource alternative. Noting the commission’s reasoning that a wind or solar alternative was not in the public interest because the comprehensive costs for such resources were higher than those associated with the power plant, the Court of Appeals concluded that substantial evidence supported the commission’s determination that the power plant was needed and that the plant served the public interest better than a renewable-resource alternative. Affirmed.
A19-0688, A19-0704 In re Minn. Power’s Petition (Pub. Utils. Comm’n)
When appellant-sisters sought to refinance the mortgage on their Lake Vermillion property, their parents co-signed the loan. To provide their parents an interest in the property, appellants executed a quitclaim deed to themselves and the parents as tenants in common. Although the first page did not limit the parents’ interest in the property, the second page included a “1%” notation. But certificate of title for the Torrens property identified the parents’ interest as 50%. After the parents’ deaths, appellants and respondents (their other siblings) contested their parents’ interest in the Lake Vermillion property in a special proceeding. Respondents claimed that their parents had a 50% interest in the property; appellants asserted that their parents had only a one percent interest in the property. Under the terms of the parents’ wills, each of the four children would receive an equal share of their parents’ interest in the property, so the disputed ownership interest loomed large.
The District Court granted summary judgment to respondents based on its conclusion that the deceased father was a good-faith purchaser for value of appellants’ property despite a claimed error in the deed. Noting that ambiguities raised a question as to whether the parents were good-faith purchasers of 49% of the property, the Court of Appeals concluded that there are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary judgment. Reversed and remanded.
A21-0164 In re Petition of Serrano (St. Louis County)
Service of Process
Appellants challenged the District Court’s judgment dismissing their complaint with prejudice under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02. The complaint sued respondents healthcare providers and sought damages arising from a child’s death after an extended hospital stay. Appellants argued that the District Court erred by determining that (1) appellants failed to serve process on two respondents; (2) appellants lacked standing to bring a claim under the bias offense statute, Minn. Stat. § 611A.79, subd. 2, because they were family members of the victim and not victims of the alleged bias offense; and (3) res judicata applied to preclude the complaint based on an earlier judgment dismissing similar claims. The Court of Appeals held that substitute service of a corporate officer at the officer’s usual place of abode does not satisfy rule 4.03(c). Furthermore, appellants’ complaint alleged facts showing that respondent provided negligent medical treatment rather than committed murder or other intentional act, and therefore failed to allege facts showing a bias offense. Affirmed.
A20-1371 Makowski v. Children’s Minn. (Hennepin County)
Relator challenged the decision of an unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he was discharged for employment misconduct. Relator asserted that he did not commit employment misconduct and that he did not have a fair opportunity to defend his conduct. Relator was a licensed clinical social worker and was discharged for violating HIPAA. The Court of Appeals concluded that the ULJ did not err by concluding that relator committed employment misconduct by violating HIPAA for personal reasons. Affirmed.
A20-1393 Wilson v. N. Pines Mental Health Ctr., Inc. (Dep’t of Emp’t & Econ. Dev.)
In this direct appeal from the judgment of conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, defendant argued that the District Court erred in concluding that the state had provided sufficient foundation to introduce four audio clips from a recorded phone call. Noting that the victim testified about the authenticity and correctness of the recordings and that her voice and defendant’s voice were on the recordings and that the recordings depicted what occurred in the hotel room, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in making this evidentiary ruling. Affirmed.
A20-0922 State v. Cartharn (Hennepin County)
Failure to Register
A jury heard testimony that convicted sex offender defendant left his registered primary address and failed to inform law-enforcement authorities of his new primary address. It found defendant guilty of failing to register his primary address as a predatory offender. The Court of Appeals concluded that the state’s evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was living at a new primary address. Reversed.
A20-1448 State v. Kangas (Sherburne County)
Reasonable, Articulable Suspicion
In this direct appeal from a conviction for fifth-degree drug possession, defendant challenged the District Court’s decision to deny her motion to suppress evidence. Defendant argued that the officer did not have reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity to conduct an investigatory stop and that the District Court erred by applying the emergency-aid and community-caretaking exceptions to the warrant requirement. The Court of Appeals concluded that a report that defendant had taken a complainant’s grandson provided the officer a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Affirmed.
A20-1376 State v. Tuomi (Cass County)
In this direct appeal from the judgment of conviction for two counts of public-nuisance-ordinance violations, defendant argued that the District Court erred by concluding that the state provided adequate proof that the ordinances were valid. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the record demonstrated that the ordinances defendant was found to have violated required that they be published prior to implementation, and no evidence of publication existed, the ordinances were not validly enacted. Reversed.
A20-1140 State v. Torgerson (Filmore County)
Need for Confinement
In 2017, defendant was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The District Court imposed a prison sentence but stayed execution of the sentence and placed defendant on probation. In 2020, defendant’s probation agent alleged that defendant had violated conditions of his probation. After a hearing, the District Court found that defendant committed four violations and, as a consequence, revoked his probation and executed his sentence. The Court of Appeals concluded that defendant failed to preserve his constitutional argument, that the District Court did not err by finding that defendant violated a condition of his probation by having unsupervised contact with unrelated female minors at a public pool, and that the District Court did not err by revoking defendant’s probation and executing his prison sentence in response to his four violations of the probation conditions. Affirmed.
A20-1420 State v. Specht (Lac Qui Parle County)
Defendant argued that his domestic-assault conviction should be (1) reversed because the state’s evidence was insufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict, or alternatively, (2) reversed and remanded because the prosecutor committed misconduct by misstating the elements of the offense during her closing argument. The Court of Appeals rejected the sufficiency challenge. However, noting that the prosecutor twice characterized the first element of domestic assault as one of assault-harm rather than the elements of domestic-assault-fear, the Court concluded that the prosecutor committed plain error prejudicing defendant’s substantial rights. Reversed and remanded.
A20-1006 State v. Larkins (Freeborn County)
Right to Possess Firearms
In this appeal from the District Court’s order denying appellant’s petition to restore his right to possess firearms, appellant argued that the District Court erred in concluding that he failed to show good cause to restore this right. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the public-safety concerns outweighed appellant’s private interests. Affirmed.
A21-0073 State v. Ramirez (Brown County)
Right to Speedy Trial
Reason for Delay
In this direct appeal from a judgment of conviction for second-degree assault, defendant argued that his conviction must be reversed because he was deprived of his constitutional right to a speedy trial. In the alternative, he argued that the District Court erred by failing to suppress an unnecessarily suggestive pretrial identification procedure. Finally, defendant challenged his sentence based on an erroneous calculation of his criminal-history score and a failure to correctly credit him for jail time. Noting that the state asked for only one continuance and that defendant was responsible for far more of the delays, the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was not denied. However, his sentence was remanded to the District Court for review and correction. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A20-1392 State v. Northrup (St. Louis County)
Right to Speedy Trial
Reason for Delay
Defendant challenged his convictions of second-degree assault and threats of violence, arguing that his constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. Noting that the start of defendant’s trial more than 60 days from the date of that demand raised a presumption that a speedy-trial violation occurred, but that the government did not deliberately attempt to delay the trial to hamper defendant’s defense as the delay was the result of the judicial branch’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court of Appeals held that that defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated. Affirmed.
A20-1228 State v. Paige (St. Louis County)
Petitioner was convicted of test refusal in 2011 after refusing to provide a blood or urine sample following his arrest for driving while impaired (DWI). He petitioned for postconviction relief in 2017, arguing that his conviction must be reversed under the Birchfield rule, which holds that the state may not criminalize a suspected impaired driver’s refusal to submit to a blood or urine test in the absence of a search warrant or a valid exception to the warrant requirement. The District Court applied the Birchfield rule and concluded that Hagerman’s conviction was constitutional because, at the time of petitioner’s test refusal, a per se exigent-circumstances exception to the warrant requirement applied. The District Court declined to retroactively apply the United States Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Missouri v. McNeely which invalidated the per se exigent-circumstances exception, because it reasoned that McNeely did not announce a substantive rule of law that applied retroactively to petitioner’s case. In an earlier appeal, the Court of Appeals concluded that the rule announced in McNeely was substantive and applied retroactively in the context of test-refusal cases challenged under the Birchfield rule. Thereafter, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that “the rule announced in McNeely is procedural and does not apply retroactively to test-refusal convictions on collateral review” and vacated the Court of Appeals. On remand, petitioner maintained that his conviction should be reversed or, in the alternative, that the case should be remanded for further development of the record regarding the existence of exigent circumstances in this case. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Supreme Court’s decision allowed the state to rely, as it did, on the pre-McNeely per se exigent-circumstances exception, and petitioner conceded in District Court that, under pre-McNeely law, the per se exigent-circumstances exception justified the request for a blood or urine test in his case. Affirmed.
A19-1526 Hagerman v. State (Ramsey County)