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Court of Appeals Digest: Nov. 28, 2022

Civil Precedential

 

Education

Teacher Licensing

In this certiorari appeal, relator challenged a decision by respondent Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board denying his application for a short-call substitute teaching license. While working as a police officer, relator fatally shot Philando Castile, a St. Paul school district employee, in 2016. The board denied the license on the grounds that the fatal shooting, and the traffic stop that preceded it, evidenced “immoral character or conduct” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 122A.20, subd. 1(a)(1). Relator argued, inter alia, that the statutory standard allowing denial of a teaching license for “immoral character or conduct” was unconstitutionally vague.

The Court of Appeals concluded that, to avoid constitutional infirmity, “immoral character or conduct” that is grounds for denial of an application for a teaching license under Minn. Stat. § 122A.20, subd. 1(a)(1), must relate to professional morals in the occupation of teaching and indicate that the individual is unfit to teach. Reversed and remanded.

A22-0049 In re Short Call Substitute Teaching License Application of Yanez (Minn. Pro. Educator Licensing & Standards Bd.)

 

 

Civil Nonprecedential

 

Condemnation

Damages

In this condemnation appeal, appellant-landowners argued that the District Court abused its discretion by excluding evidence regarding appellants’ access to a newly constructed controlled-access highway and evidence using the development cost approach. The Court of Appeals found no principled basis to separate the scope of the taking from appellants’ damages claim, and declined to assume that a taking to facilitate the construction of a controlled-access highway always amounts to a taking of an abutting owner’s access rights. Furthermore, the court concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion by determining that appellants failed to meet the fundamental requirement to introduce development-cost-approach evidence and that development was too remote. Affirmed.

A22-0314 Woods v. County of Blue Earth (Blue Earth County)

 

 

Consumer Protection

Public Benefit

In this dispute relating to ownership interests in timeshares and the recording and delivery of deeds, appellant challenged the District Court’s grant of summary judgment on his claims under the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) and the Minnesota Real Estate Sales Regulations Act. Appellant sued respondents, alleging that, in violation of the CFA, respondents created invalid deeds with rights of survivorship when owners of timeshares died, and used those deeds to either induce the decedent’s family members to pay timeshare fees or to grant ownership back to the respondents, avoiding probate and foreclosure. Noting that appellant did not present any specific facts that show the CFA claim benefited anyone beyond himself, and that his claim did not establish a public benefit, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err in granting summary judgment on the CFA claim in respondents’ favor. Affirmed.

A21-1735 Engstrom v. Whitebirch Inc. (Crow Wing County)

 

 

Counties

Revenue Recapture

In this certiorari appeal from an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) order granting respondent county’s summary disposition motion based on mootness, relator argued that a hearing was necessary to determine the validity of the county’s debt claim. The ALJ determined that because the county returned to relator the funds it took via revenue recapture, relator’s challenge to the validity of the county’s debt claim was moot. Noting that the county did not indicate that it returned relator’s tax refund based on the invalidity of its debt claim, the Court of Appeals concluded that the county may still collect on the debt, and the issue was not moot. Reversed and remanded.

A22-0787 In re Revenue Recapture of Webber (Office of Admin. Hearings)

 

Domestic Relations

Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights

Appellant challenged the termination of her parental rights to two of her children. Noting that the case plans provided written guidelines for correcting the conditions resulting in the proceedings, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court was within its discretion in concluding that the county made reasonable efforts to reunite the family and termination of appellant’s parental rights was in the children’s best interests. Affirmed.

A22-0798 In re Welfare of Children of J.J.F. (Washington County)

 

 

Domestic Relations

Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights

Appellant-father challenged the involuntary termination of his parental rights to two of his children, arguing that the record did not support the District Court’s determinations that (1) respondent-county made reasonable efforts to rehabilitate and reunify father with the children; (2) termination was in the children’s best interests; and (3) it was reasonable to adopt the county’s proposed order verbatim. Noting that the record supported the findings the District Court made identifying the services the county offered father, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion by determining that the county presented clear and convincing evidence that it engaged in reasonable efforts. Affirmed.

A22-0828 In re Welfare of Children of J.J.F. (Washington County)

 

Insurance

Uninsured Motorists

Appellant-insured challenged the District Court’s grant of summary judgment and dismissal of his uninsured motorist claims, asserting that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether the car he collided with was uninsured. Noting that a vehicle matching the license plate number appellant wrote down after the accident was found to be insured, and that appellant did not assert that he incorrectly wrote down the number, the Court of Appeals concluded that there were no genuine issues of material fact. Affirmed.

A22-0263 Rentfrow v. W. Bend Mut. Ins. Co. (Hennepin County)

 

Orders for Protection

Modification

Appellant-wife challenged the District Court’s decision granting respondent husband’s motion to modify an order for protection (OFP) that ran in favor of wife and the parties’ children. She argued that the District Court (1) erred by failing to adhere to statutory notice requirements and (2) abused its discretion by modifying the OFP without sufficient evidence and factual findings. Noting that the OFP record lacked any evidence to support modification of the OFP, and that respondent did not file any affidavit, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court abused its discretion by modifying the OFP without sufficient evidentiary support and without making any factual findings to justify modification. Reversed.

A22-0221 Kinney v. Kinney (Carver County)

 

 

Criminal Precedential

 

Illegal Firearm Possession

Firearm

Defendant challenged his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm, arguing, inter alia, an unassembled shotgun lacking a stock bolt and stock bolt washer is not a “firearm.” The Court of Appeals held that a group of unassembled shotgun parts can constitute a “firearm” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subd. 1b(a), so long as it is possible to assemble the parts into a firearm as defined by caselaw. Affirmed.

A21-1648 State v. Stone (Mille Lacs County)

 

Postconviction Relief

Knaffla Bar

In this appeal from the postconviction court’s order granting petitioner a new trial, the state argued that the postconviction court erred by not determining whether respondent’s claims were procedurally barred and by granting a new trial based on purportedly false testimony. The Court of Appeals held that (1) if the state asserts that a postconviction claim is procedurally barred under State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn. 1976), the postconviction court abuses its discretion by granting relief without either explicitly determining that the claim is not procedurally barred or explaining an implied determination to that effect; and (2) an expert witness’s trial testimony is not false under the first prong of the Larrison test for false testimony merely because it is inconsistent with the posttrial testimony of a different expert. Reversed.

A21-1560 Gilbert v. State (Hennepin County)

 

Criminal Nonprecedential

 

Assault

Specific Intent

Defendant challenged his conviction for fourth-degree assault of a police officer. He argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant had the specific intent to transfer saliva onto a police officer. Noting that defendant cursed at and threatened the officers twice, that he was seen gathering saliva in his mouth, and that he thrust his body toward and spat directly on the forehead of an officer, the Court of Appeals found sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. Affirmed.

A22-0133 State v. Perry (Ramsey County)

 

 

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Trial Strategy

Petitioner challenged the summary denial of his petition for postconviction relief challenging his conviction for second-degree murder, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion by determining that his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel was procedurally barred and that his claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel failed on the merits. Noting that all five claims involved defense decisions that the Minnesota Supreme Court has explicitly held constituted trial strategy, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in determining that petitioner’s claims failed on the merits because they implicated unreviewable trial strategy. Affirmed.

A21-1664 McMorris v. State (Hennepin County)

 

 

Manslaughter

Gross Negligence & Recklessness

Defendant challenged his second-degree manslaughter conviction, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction beyond a reasonable doubt because the state failed to prove gross negligence and recklessness. Defendant argued that the state’s theory that he took an unsafe shot while deer hunting could not amount to gross negligence because it failed to prove he violated any hunting rules or deviated from a reasonable person’s standard of care. Noting that the jury heard testimony from a certified hunting safety instructor on the topic of hunter and gun safety rules and that the instructor testified that hunters must be aware of what is beyond their target and ensure that there is a safe backstop for bullets from high-powered rifles, the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence was sufficient to permit the jurors to find defendant was grossly negligent. Affirmed.

A21-1414 State v. Dodd (Becker County)

 

 

Probation Revocation

Condition Violations

Appellant challenged the revocation of his probation, arguing that the District Court (1) denied him due process by precluding him from testifying about whether he intentionally or inexcusably violated his probation, and (2) abused its discretion in revoking probation because the District Court failed to make required findings on whether the need for confinement outweighed the policies favoring probation and instead based its decision on his homelessness. Noting that defendant did have an opportunity to provide testimony contesting the violation and whether it was intentional or inexcusable, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not commit reversible error by limiting defendant’s testimony about whether he intentionally or inexcusably violated probation. Furthermore, the District Court did not base its revocation decision on poverty-induced homelessness. Affirmed.

A22-0519 State v. Terrell (Olmsted County)

 

 

Probation Revocation

Need for Confinement

Defendant challenged the revocation of his probation and execution of his prison sentence for impaired driving. Noting the District Court did not make the required findings as to whether the need for confinement outweighed the policies favoring probation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the findings were inadequate. Reversed and remanded.

A22-0446 State v. English (Beltrami County)

 

 

Search Warrants

Probable Cause

Defendant challenged his conviction for first-degree possession of cocaine, arguing that evidence seized as the result of a vehicle search should have been suppressed and that he was improperly denied a Schwartz hearing on alleged juror misconduct. Noting that the vehicle was discovered during a warranted search of defendant’s home, that it had no license plates, was parked between two other vehicles registered to defendant, and had two small personal safes located on the back seat, the Court of Appeals concluded that the dog sniff was warranted and that the dog’s alert, indicating the presence of controlled substances within the car, was enough to support probable cause for the search warrant. Furthermore, defendant failed to state a prima facia case for juror misconduct to justify the Schwartz hearing. Affirmed.

A21-1020 State v. Forsythe (Stearns County)

 

 

Sentencing

Lesser Included Offenses

Petitioner challenged the District Court’s denial of his petition for postconviction relief, arguing that the District Court should have vacated one of his convictions for possession of child pornography pursuant to the provisions of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.04 & 609.035. The Court of Appeals concluded that the two convictions at issue involved separate victims, and thus neither section applied. Affirmed.

A22-0206 Flantz v. State (Anoka County)

 

 

Traffic Stops

Expansion of Scope

Defendant challenged his conviction of felony driving while impaired (DWI), arguing that the District Court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence of his intoxication because law enforcement impermissibly expanded the traffic stop. Noting that defendant cited no authority for the proposition that the trooper could not follow up on the signs of possible impairment simply because the deputy and EMT did not observe them, the Court of Appeals concluded that the trooper’s observation of numerous indicia of intoxication justified further detention to investigate possible intoxication through field sobriety testing and a breath test. Affirmed.

A22-0003 State v. Tregoning (Chisago County)


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