Breach of Contract
Respondent sued her brother, appellant, for breach of an oral contract, under which respondent would lend appellant money to help pay for his move. Following a court trial, the District Court found in favor of respondent and awarded damages, plus filing fees and costs. Appellant appealed pro se, arguing that the District Court erred by finding that he and respondent had formed an oral agreement. The Court of Appeals concluded that respondent’s credible testimony was sufficient evidence to support the District Court’s finding that the parties had an oral agreement. Affirmed.
A21-0971 Emele v. Emele (Hennepin County)
Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights
Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department placed a newborn in foster care and later petitioned to terminate his mother’s parental rights after the child was born with controlled substances in his system. The District Court granted the petition after it found that the mother had failed to remedy the issues that caused the out of home placement. The Court of Appeals held that the evidence supported the District Court’s determination that the county made reasonable efforts to reunite the family. Affirmed.
A21-1419 In re Welfare of Child of M.M.P. (Hennepin County)
Relator challenged an unemployment-law judge’s (ULJ) determination that he was ineligible for pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) following a COVID-19-related furlough from his full-time job because he was eligible for regular state unemployment benefits based on earnings from a part-time job. Relator contended the ULJ erred by interpreting federal law to conclude he was eligible for state unemployment benefits and thus ineligible for PUA. The Court of Appeals determined that the CARES Act indicates that “not eligible” under the PUA eligibility requirement means the applicant is unable to collect funds from federal or state unemployment insurance programs. Here, it was undisputed that relator was never able to collect state unemployment benefits due to disqualifying income from part-time work, and he was ineligible to receive federal unemployment benefits for his full-time job under the federal Railroad Insurance Act. Reversed.
A21-0934 In re Hein (Dep’t of Emp’t & Econ. Dev.)
Defendant appealed from his conviction of second-degree assault, arguing that he was entitled to a new trial because plain error affected his substantial rights when (1) the District Court allowed the state to constructively amend the complaint during trial, and (2) the prosecutor elicited vouching testimony from two witnesses. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err when it allowed the state to correct a careless clerical error and that any vouching testimony did not affect the substantial rights of the defendant. Affirmed.
A21-0192 State v. Baron (Kandiyohi County)
Controlled Substance Crimes
Sufficiency of the Evidence
On direct appeal from his convictions of first-degree sale and third-degree possession of a controlled substance, defendant argued that (1) the state presented insufficient evidence to prove that defendant possessed the methamphetamine found in his vehicle and (2) the District Court plainly erred by admitting two officers’ testimonies because their testimonies constituted inadmissible drug-dealer profile evidence. Noting that methamphetamine was found in defendant’s vehicle, that defendant was closest to the methamphetamine, and defendant’s flight from the officers and resistance to arrest, the Court of Appeals concluded that the circumstances proved here were consistent with guilt and inconsistent with any other rational hypothesis. Affirmed.
A21-0469 State v. Rosillo (Blue Earth County)
Prior Bad Acts
Defendant challenged his conviction of first-degree possession of methamphetamine. The State charged defendant after police discovered a large green bag of methamphetamine concealed in a car occupied by defendant and two others. All three people denied ownership of the green bag. At defendant’s trial, the state introduced evidence of eight former convictions for controlled-substance offenses and four photographs depicting defendant using methamphetamine. Defendant argued that he was entitled to a new trial because the admission of these 12 prior bad acts was unfairly prejudicial. Noting that the volume of the prior bad-acts evidence was disproportionate to its limited materiality, and that the potential for unfair prejudice posed by the prior bad-acts evidence was high, the Court of Appeals concluded that the introduction of the bad-acts evidence affected the fairness of defendant’s trial. Reversed and remanded.
A20-1455 State v. Olson (Steele County)
Defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by revoking her probation for her conviction for second-degree burglary. Finding no abuse of discretion in the determination that defendant intentionally and inexcusably failed to pay restitution and failed to keep in contact with her supervising agent, the Court of Appeals found that the District Court appropriately balanced defendant’s interest in freedom and the state’s interests in insuring defendant’s rehabilitation and public safety. Affirmed.
A21-1004 State v. Petersen (Douglas County)
In this direct appeal from the judgment of conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct following a court trial, defendant argued that the prosecutor committed misconduct in closing argument by inflaming the passions of the jury, disparaging the defense, and vouching for the complainant’s credibility. Noting that the prosecutor’s arguments went beyond the child’s specific testimony and provided a more general analysis of children who are sexually abused, the Court of Appeals concluded that the prosecutor’s argument constituted plain-error misconduct as the line of argument went beyond the scope of the evidence in the record and injected the broader societal issue of the need to protect children from sexual abuse into the closing argument. However, the error did not affect defendant’s substantial rights. Affirmed.
A21-0486 State v. Galvan-Tirado (Hennepin County)
Motions to Correct Sentence
Pro se defendant challenged a District Court’s denial of his motion to correct a sentence, arguing on appeal that it erred by imposing consecutive, rather than concurrent, sentences without clarifying the consequences of violating a presentencing release condition. The state contended that defendant’s motion to correct a sentence was a statutorily time-barred and procedurally barred petition for postconviction relief. Noting that the law undisputedly authorized both sentences, the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant’s motion to correct his sentence was a postconviction petition and was statutorily time-barred. Affirmed.
A21-0532 Pierson v. State (Hennepin County)
Defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a downward dispositional departure from the presumptive prison sentence for his conviction for second-degree criminal sexual conduct because, he argued, the record showed that he was particularly amenable to probation and treatment. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant’s motion for a downward dispositional departure, despite the presence of mitigating factors, and by instead sentencing him to the presumptive guidelines sentence. Affirmed.
A21-0471 State v. Eckman (Becker County)
On appeal from his conviction and sentence for check forgery, defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a downward dispositional departure for his conviction for check forgery. Concluding that the record supported the District Court’s decision, the Court of Appeals determined that the District Court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant’s motion. Affirmed.
A21-0818 State v. Stahlmann (Dakota County)
Click to access OPa210818-032822.pdf
Defendant argued that the District Court’s decision to conduct his sentencing hearing remotely was unconstitutional and the District Court’s denial of his motion for a downward dispositional departure from his sentence for second-degree criminal sexual conduct was an abuse of its discretion. The Court of Appeals concluded that any additional impact of an in-person showing of remorse would not have affected the District Court’s sentencing decision, and thus, a presumed error by conducting a remote sentencing hearing was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Affirmed.
A21-0550 State v. Tonnessen (Becker County)
The State charged defendant with theft of movable property based on alleged unauthorized transactions she made involving her employer’s financial accounts. Before trial, the District Court issued an order establishing the jury instructions in the case, and those instructions directed that electronic funds deposited into a financial account are not “movable property” for purposes of the theft statute. In this pretrial appeal, the state argued that the District Court’s instructions were erroneous and that the pretrial order had a critical impact on its prosecution because it will lead to dismissal of the charge or a judgment of acquittal. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court erred when it classified the funds as non-movable property in its proposed jury instructions. Reversed and remanded.
A21-1404 State v. Nelson (Otter Tail County)
Special Term Opinions
Alternative Urban Areawide Reviews
Respondent City of Minneapolis approved a final alternative urban areawide review for the proposed redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal in Minneapolis and published notice of its final decision in the EQB Monitor. Relators subsequently filed this certiorari appeal based on the provisions of Minn. Stat. § 116D.04, subd. 10. Relators also filed a declaratory-judgment action in District Court, which the District Court stayed pending this appeal. Respondent moved to dismiss this appeal, arguing that subdivision 10 does not authorize certiorari review of final decisions regarding an alternative urban areawide review.
The Court of Appeals held that § 116D.04, subd. 10, only authorizes certiorari review of a final decision regarding the need for an environmental assessment worksheet, the need for an environmental impact statement, and the adequacy of an environmental impact statement. It does not authorize review of a final decision approving an alternative urban areawide review. Appeal dismissed.
A21-1428 Final Alternative Urban Areawide Review & Mitigation Plan for Upper Harbor Terminal Dev. (City of Minneapolis)