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Court of Appeals Digest: Jan. 23, 2023

Civil Nonprecedential


Domestic Relations

Child Protection; CHIPS

Appellant-father challenged the District Court’s order adjudicating his minor child in need of protection or services (CHIPS). Father also challenged whether county health and human services made reasonable efforts to avoid and prevent an out-of-home placement for the child. Noting that father cited no legal authority for the contention that the District Court must separately analyze father’s behavior, the Court of Appeals concluded that both parents’ willingness to use physical discipline despite the existing safety plan and stepmother’s inability to restrain her impulse to use physical discipline showed that the child lacked proper parental care. Affirmed.

A22-1095 In re Welfare of Child of C.D.T. (Itasca County)



Domestic Relations

Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights

Appellant-father challenged a District Court order terminating his parental rights. Appellant argued, inter alia, that, without a formal adjudication of a parent-child relationship, the District Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to terminate rights that he did not possess at the time of trial. Noting that appellant never disputed his parentage to the District Court, that appellant held himself out as the child’s father since January 2022, and that DNA test results established his parentage by a 99.999% probability, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court therefore properly treated him as the presumed father. Furthermore, the factual findings of the District Court were not clearly erroneous., and the District Court did not abuse its discretion in (1) determining that at least one statutory basis for termination of appellant’s parental rights was present or (2) in finding that termination of appellant’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Affirmed.

A22-1145 In re Welfare of Child of B.A.B. (Cottonwood County)



Domestic Relations

Dissolution; Marital Assets

After more than 20 years of marriage, respondent and cross-appellant husband petitioned the District Court to dissolve his marriage to appellant and cross-respondent wife. The ensuing litigation lasted over five years, due in part to the impact of wife’s ongoing significant health issues and the COVID 19 pandemic, as well as the parties’ extensive marital assets. After a five-day trial, the District Court entered a judgment and decree ruling, among other things, that husband did not dissipate marital assets following the parties’ separation. The District Court then divided the property (and debts) between the parties and awarded wife five years of temporary spousal maintenance. On appeal, the parties collectively raised 12 issues, which fall within three broad areas: (1) property division, (2) dissipation of marital assets, and (3) spousal maintenance. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court’s division of marital assets fell within its broad discretion, the record supported the District Court’s finding that husband did not dissipate marital assets, and the District Court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that wife was entitled to temporary spousal maintenance. Affirmed as modified.

A22-0359 Vander Wiel v. Wahlgren (Ramsey County)




Restoration of Rights

Pro se appellant challenged a District Court’s denial of his petition under Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subd. 1d, to restore his firearm rights. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant’s argument that the District Court made an erroneous factual finding does not warrant reversal, that the District Court’s good-cause determination was not contrary to logic or the facts in the record, and that the District Court properly exercised its discretion in analyzing its level of comfort with restoring appellant’s firearm rights. Affirmed.

A22-1172 State v. Buchanan (Hennepin County)



Criminal Precedential




The State charged defendant with racketeering in violation of Minn. Stat. 609.903, subd. 1(1), and with aiding and abetting theft by swindle in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(a)(4). Defendant moved to dismiss the charges for lack of probable cause. The District Court denied the motion to dismiss the theft-by-swindle charge but granted the motion to dismiss the racketeering charge, concluding that there was no enterprise within the meaning of the racketeering statute. The State challenged the dismissal of the racketeering charge.

The Court of Appeals held that (1) a group of persons collectively participating in or authorizing a pattern of criminal activity and deriving proceeds from that activity is an “enterprise” within the meaning of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act; and (2) an enterprise under the RICO Act can exist within a corporation that is otherwise conducting lawful activities and is unaware of the criminal activity of a group of persons in the corporation. Reversed and remanded.

A22-1243 State v. Paulson (Ramsey County)



Criminal Nonprecedential



Probable Cause

In these consolidated appeals, defendant challenged the revocation of his driver’s license and convictions of driving while impaired (DWI)—test refusal and obstructing legal process. He asserted, inter alia, that officers lacked probable cause to arrest him for DWI. The Court of Appeals concluded that a citizen caller’s general allegation that defendant’s pickup was “all over the road” compounded with defendant’s emission of an odor of alcohol and his evasive behavior and uncooperative attitude provided the officer with probable cause to arrest defendant for DWI. Affirmed.

A20-1036, A22-0103 Helget v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety (Brown County)



Prosecutorial Misconduct

Plain Error

On appeal from his conviction of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, defendant argued that the prosecutor committed prejudicial misconduct by telling the jury that believing the alleged victim’s testimony was enough on its own to find defendant guilty. Noting that, when read in context, the prosecutor was explaining that the testimony of a victim need not be corroborated, which is the law in Minnesota, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was no error, and no plain error. Affirmed.

A22-0336 State v. Itkonen (Ramsey County)




Downward Departures

Defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by refusing to grant her a downward dispositional departure from her presumptive executed prison sentence based upon her particular amenability to probation. Defendant pleaded guilty to aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact to second-degree intentional murder, admitting that she lied to law enforcement to hide her involvement in the murder of her boyfriend. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the District Court carefully considered defendant’s departure motion and the information and arguments presented, it acted within its discretion by imposing an executed sentence within the presumptive range. Affirmed.

A22-0346 State v. Thomas (Hennepin County)

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