Notice of Termination
Appellant sued his former employer, respondent, alleging that respondent did not provide him with timely notice of the reason for his termination after he requested it pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 181.933, subd. 1, and that he was entitled to the civil penalty provided in Minn. Stat. § 181.935(b). The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of respondent, interpreting § 181.935(b) to apply only when an employer violates § 181.932, which prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers.
The Court of Appeals held that, under the plain language of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA), Minn. Stat. §§ 181.931 .935, the civil penalty identified in § 181.935(b) for failing to timely notify an employee of the reasons for the termination of their employment is available only to an employee who was injured by a violation of § 181.932. Affirmed.
A22-1031 Laliberte v. Dollar Tree, Inc. (Anoka County)
SDP; Harmful Course of Conduct
Appellant challenged his indeterminate civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person (SDP) and a sexual psychopathic personality (SPP), arguing that the District Court clearly erred in finding that (1) he “engaged in a course of harmful sexual conduct,” (2) he exhibited “a habitual course of misconduct in sexual matters,” and (3) there was no less-restrictive treatment program available that would accept him and would offer services consistent with his treatment needs and the requirements of public safety. Noting that the fact that appellant had not reoffended in the same way over the past decade, while he was incarcerated, did not mean the District Court clearly erred, the Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the District Court’s findings. Affirmed.
A22-1332 In re Civil Commitment of Renfro (Ramsey County)
Appellant sought to overturn a jury verdict finding that appellant made defamatory statements with malice, challenging (1) the District Court’s denial of judgment as a matter of law based on qualified privilege and (2) the jury’s award of reputation damages. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the jury found that appellant’s defamatory statements implicating respondent in her father’s death were made with actual malice, any associated immunity was negated as a matter of law. Furthermore, respondent did not have to prove reputation damages in a defamation per se claim. Affirmed.
A22-1105 Osowski v. Harer (Cook County)
Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights
The District Court terminated a woman’s parental rights to two children. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by finding that the county made reasonable efforts to reunite her with the children, by determining that the county’s reasonable efforts failed to correct the conditions that led to the children’s out-of-home placement, and by finding that termination of parental rights was in the children’s best interests. Affirmed.
A22-1189 In re Welfare of Children of C.J.L. (Morrison County)
Drivers’ License Revocation
Appellant challenged the District Court’s order sustaining the revocation of her driving privileges. Noting that the proposition that the trooper’s asserted failure to state outright that appellant did not signal her turn with her hand would negate his reasonable suspicion was not supported by the caselaw, the Court of Appeals concluded that the stop was supported by reasonable, articulable suspicion based on the trooper’s observation of a traffic violation. Affirmed.
A22-1039 Bachman v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety (Pine County)
Drivers’ License Revocation
Appellant challenged the District Court’s order sustaining the revocation of her driving privileges. Appellant argued the District Court erred by crediting the officer’s testimony—that appellant committed a lane violation and executed a wide turn—and therefore that the District Court erred in finding that the officer had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop. Appellant also argued the District Court erred in finding the Peace Officer’s Certificate sufficient to sustain the revocation of her driving privileges. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not clearly err in determining the officer’s testimony was credible, and the Peace Officer’s Certificate contains sufficient information. Affirmed.
A22-1110 Ohm v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety (Wabasha County)
In this appeal following the summary-judgment dismissal of his vicarious-liability claim arising out of an alleged assault committed by respondent’s employee, appellant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by determining that appellant’s expert was not qualified to opine on foreseeability, and therefore appellant failed to create a genuine issue of material fact as to a necessary element. The Court of Appeals discerned no abuse of discretion in the determination that appellant’s vocational consultant was not qualified to opine about the foreseeability of assaults in the commercial trucking industry, as the consultant’s qualifications did not show any specialized knowledge, experience, or education in the field of commercial trucking. Affirmed.
A22-0925 Loe v. Landis (Hennepin County)
Drop Down Provisions
Appellant was a passenger in a car driven by her husband. Their car collided with another vehicle, and appellant was injured. In the insurance-coverage dispute that followed, the District Court granted summary judgment for respondent insurer, determining that coverage was limited to $30,000 under a drop-down provision in appellant’s automobile insurance policy. The Court of Appeals concluded that the drop-down provision was enforceable and the policy unambiguously limited coverage to $30,000. Affirmed.
A22-1068 Copiskey v. IMT Ins. Co. (St. Louis County)
Relators challenged respondent-city’s resolution to abate a nuisance on their property, arguing, inter alia, that the city’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence. Noting that the record reflects that relators did take action once they received the city’s letters, and the record belied the operative finding that a nuisance continued as of the relevant date, the Court of Appeals concluded that the city’s decision lacked substantial evidentiary support. Reversed.
A22-1230 Resol. Ordering Abatement on Prop. Located at 10100 Lake Dr. (City of Circle Pines)
Easements by Necessity
Appellants appealed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of respondent and the dismissal of their petition for an easement by necessity. They argued that the District Court erred in its application of the law governing implied easements and in granting summary judgment notwithstanding multiple factual issues. Noting that the undisputed record evidence showed appellants discovered in 2002 that no easement had been recorded, but they waited until 2018 to petition for an easement by necessity, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err in finding that the doctrine of laches bared appellants’ claim for an easement by necessity. Affirmed.
A22-0610 In re Bacchus (Anoka County)
Relator challenged the determination of an unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that he was discharged for employment misconduct and ineligible for unemployment benefits. The Court of Appeals concluded that relator’s unprofessional and disrespectful conduct, combined with the fact that he violated respondent’s policy prohibiting such behavior, was employment misconduct disqualifying him from the receipt of unemployment benefits. Affirmed.
A22-1096 Rinne v. Concordia Univ., St. Paul (Dep’t of Emp’t & Econ. Dev.)
Surveillance-camera video footage captured a man following a woman into an apartment building, riding up the elevator with her, and exiting the elevator behind her. The woman later testified that, out of the surveillance camera’s view, the man pushed her down and sexually assaulted her. Police identified the man by comparing the video footage of him with images of a man whom police knew from other recent encounters. Defendant sought reversal of his first-degree criminal-sexual-conduct conviction, contending that the District Court improperly denied his motion to strike an officer’s testimony that defendant was the man in the surveillance images, an opinion she based on her prior interaction with defendant. Defendant argued that that the testimony constituted improper opinion testimony from a nonexpert witness. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because defendant showed no resulting prejudice regardless of whether the District Court should have excluded the evidence, it did not need to consider whether the District Court’s ruling constituted an abuse of discretion. The Court remanded for the District Court to amend the warrant of conviction to include only the first-degree offense. Affirmed and remanded.
A21-1630 State v. Bulchaa (Hennepin County)
Defendant argued on appeal from her convictions of attempted murder and second-degree assault that (1) the District Court abused its discretion by admitting as recorded recollection the victim’s video-recorded statement interview with a detective following the shooting incident and (2) defendant’s trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to the video-recorded statement on proper grounds. Noting that the victim had no memory of the incident and could not testify fully as to what happened and that the victim gave several videotaped interviews while the matter was still fresh in her mind, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court correctly applied the recorded-recollection exception and therefore did not abuse its discretion by allowing the video-recorded statements to be played for the jury. Furthermore, defendant’s trial counsel acted well within her discretion with respect to trial strategy. Affirmed.
A22-0293 State v. Collins (Hennepin County)
A jury found defendant guilty of three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of aiding and abetting kidnapping. The jury also found several aggravating facts supporting an upward departure for sentencing purposes. The District Court imposed a 360-month statutory maximum sentence. On appeal, defendant challenged his conviction on the grounds that (1) he was deprived of his constitutional right to 12 qualified jurors and (2) prosecutors engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. Defendant also argued that the District Court abused its discretion when it imposed a 360-month statutory maximum sentence. Defendant argued that because two of his jurors served as jurors on different cases within their two-week term of service in which defendant’s trial occurred, the rule disqualified them from serving on his jury. The Court of Appeals concluded that the rules and precedent provided that jurors can serve on more than one jury during a term of service. Furthermore, no alleged prosecutorial misconduct had a significant effect on the jury’s verdict and there was no abuse of discretion in sentencing. Affirmed.
A22-0321 State v. Ali (Stearns County)
Defendant challenged his convictions for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and fourth-degree assault, arguing that the District Court committed reversible error when it refused to provide a jury instruction defining specific intent. Defendant also argued that the postconviction court erred in denying his postconviction petition without a hearing. Defendant asserted in his postconviction petition that one of the jurors at his trial was not a Minnesota resident because she attended college in Wisconsin and that appellant was thus denied his constitutional right to be tried by a jury of Minnesota residents. Noting that defendant’s own testimony clearly established his intent to assault the female corrections officer, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err in declining to provide an instruction on specific intent, as even though defendant’s motive or goal in assaulting the officer may have been to get back to segregation, his intent—according to his own testimony—was to commit a physical assault against an officer of a serious enough nature to achieve his goal of being returned to segregation. Furthermore, defendant waived his argument about the juror’s residency by passing the juror for cause. Affirmed.
A21-1271 State v. Tharjiath (Washington County)
Appellant challenged the District Court’s restitution order, arguing that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to order restitution when the court’s jurisdiction terminated when the child turned 19 years old without an extended jurisdiction juvenile (EJJ) prosecution order filed. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because restitution is a part of disposition, the District Court lacked jurisdiction to order restitution. Reversed
A22-1016 In re Welfare of T.D.M. (Norman County)
Petitioner challenged the District Court’s denial of his petition for postconviction relief in which he sought to withdraw guilty pleas to violating a domestic-abuse no-contact order (DANCO), arguing that his pleas were not accurate because no DANCO existed. Noting that, although the DANCO did not have a court file recorded on it, the DANCO identified the protected person, the Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion in denying the petition. Affirmed.
A22-0709 Leal v. State (Blue Earth County)
In this direct appeal, defendant challenged the District Court’s revocation of his probation for first-degree burglary and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the findings the defendant constructively possessed alcohol and owned or operated an internet-capable device, in violation of his probation conditions. Furthermore, the record amply supported the District Court’s determination that confinement was necessary to protect the public from further criminal activity. Affirmed.
A22-0999 State v. Coleman (Olmsted County)
In this appeal from the final judgments of conviction for first-degree aggravated robbery and simple robbery, defendant argued that he was entitled to a new trial because the prosecutor committed prejudicial misconduct in closing arguments when counsel stated that defendant “robbed” the victim twice. Defendant also argued that the judgment of conviction for simple robbery must be vacated because it was a lesser-included offense of aggravated robbery. Noting that the evidence against defendant was substantial, the Court of Appeals concluded that any error did not affect defendant’s substantial rights. However, defendant’s conviction for simple robbery required vacation. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-0591 State v. Hassan (Stearns County)
The State challenged a District Court order granting defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained incident to an arrest. The District Court determined that because the warrant had been recalled, the officers did not have a valid basis to arrest defendant and their subsequent search incident to arrest was invalid, despite the fact that the recall of the warrant did not appear on MNCIS because of a clerical error made by District Court administration. The Court of Appeals concluded that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied, as there was no police misconduct to deter. Reversed and remanded.
A22-1314 State v. Malecha (Rice County)
Reasonable, Articulable Suspicion
Defendant challenged his conviction for first-degree drug possession, arguing that (1) the methamphetamine discovered during a search incident to his arrest should have been suppressed because the officers did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that he was involved in a crime, and (2) the District Court abused its discretion by allowing the officers to testify about the circumstances that led to their encounter with defendant. Noting that the owner of a stolen vehicle identified defendant as the person who stole it, the Court of Appeals concluded that the circumstances easily cleared the low threshold of reasonable suspicion that defendant had committed a crime, permitting the officers to stop and question him. Affirmed.
A22-0573 State v. Yang (Pine County)
In this direct appeal from the final judgment of conviction for felony driving while impaired, defendant claimed the District Court violated his plea agreement by imposing a statutory five-year conditional-release term. Additionally, he claimed his guilty plea was unintelligent because the District Court did not adequately explore whether his mental health affected his ability to understand the proceedings. Noting that defendant was provided notice of the conditional-release term, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court acted within its discretion by imposing the presumptive sentence. Furthermore, his guilty plea was intelligent even though the District Court did not inquire into his mental health. Affirmed.
A22-0813 State v. Hooks (Brown County)
In 2021, petitioner pleaded guilty to domestic assault and was sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment, with 227 days of custody credit. In 2022, petitioner moved to correct his sentence by seeking an additional 44 days of custody credit for time he spent in a residential treatment program between his guilty plea and his sentencing hearing. The District Court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not clearly err in its findings of fact and did not err as a matter of law by concluding that the residential treatment program was not the functional equivalent of a jail, a workhouse, or a regional correctional facility. Affirmed.
A22-1121 Dorry v. State (St. Louis County)
Following an adjudication of delinquency for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, appellant argued that the District Court abused its discretion by admitting Spreigl evidence of three prior sexual acts, two acts between appellant and the juvenile victim and one act between appellant and a juvenile relative. Although the Court of Appeals agreed with appellant that one of the state’s proffered rationales for introducing the evidence—to establish propensity—was plainly improper, the Court discerned no abuse of discretion by the District Court in its determination that appellant received sufficient notice of a proper purpose for the admission of the evidence, as the District Court independently determined the proper basis for admission. Affirmed.
A22-1021 In re Welfare of D.L.N. (Otter Tail County)
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Early on Halloween morning, an officer observed defendant’s vehicle traveling 60 miles per hour in a 40 mile-per-hour zone and pulled it over. After failing a field sobriety test, defendant was transported to the police station, where he did not submit to a chemical test. After a bench trial, the District Court convicted defendant of second-degree refusal to submit to a chemical test. Defendant appealed, arguing that the conviction should be reversed for insufficient evidence. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the record did not give rise to a rational hypothesis that defendant’s actions were anything other than an attempt to frustrate the testing process, the evidence was sufficient to convict him. Affirmed.
A22-0338 State v. Doby (Washington County)