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Court of Appeals Digest: March 20, 2023

Civil Nonprecedential


Domestic Relations

Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights

In this consolidated appeal, mother challenged the district court’s orders terminating her parental rights to one child and transferring her permanent legal and physical custody as to two others.  Mother argued that the district court (1) violated her due-process rights, (2) erred by sua sponte taking judicial notice of a social worker’s report, and (3) made clearly erroneous findings of fact.  The Court of Appeals found no violation of due process, noting that mother received sufficient notice of the trial, that mother failed to demonstrate prejudice as a result of the alleged procedural defects, and that district court’s judgment was based on the evidence presented at trial rather than solely on the pleadings. Affirmed.

A22-1065, A22-1066 In re Welfare of Children of G.A.H. (Otter Tail County)




Domestic Relations

Dissolution; Stipulated Judgments

In this appeal from an order enforcing a stipulated dissolution judgment, appellant mother argued that the district court abused its discretion by ordering her to amend her state and federal tax returns to remove the parties’ minor child as a claimed dependent for the 2021 tax year. Noting that the stipulated dissolution judgment granted respondent-father the exclusive right to claim the parties’ minor child as a dependent on his 2021 tax returns, the Court of Appeals concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion. Affirmed.

A22-0962 Glirbas v. Glirbas (Hennepin County)



Drivers’ License Revocation

Physical Control

Appellant challenged the district court’s order denying his petition to rescind his driver’s license revocation.  Appellant argued the district court erred when it determined probable cause existed that he exercised physical control over a motor vehicle while impaired. Noting that a deputy found appellant, by himself, digging his vehicle out of the snow and that the vehicle was running with keys in the ignition, the Court of Appeals concluded that the district court did not err when it determined appellant exercised physical control over the vehicle. Affirmed.

A22-1247 Maas v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety (Faribault County)



Human Services Licensing


Appellant challenged the district court’s order affirming the decision of respondent Commissioner of Human Services to disqualify appellant for seven years from employment providing direct care to persons served by programs that the Department of Human Services licenses.  The Commissioner’s decision was based on a determination that appellant seriously maltreated a vulnerable adult.  Appellant argued that the Commissioner (1) deprived appellant of her right to procedural due process; (2) improperly relied on inherently unreliable hearsay evidence, rendering the decision arbitrary and capricious; and (3) relied solely on hearsay evidence to reach a decision that was not supported by substantial evidence. Noting that the administrative burden on the agency to supplement admissible hearsay with live testimony, especially given the government’s significant interest in protecting vulnerable individuals, weighed heavily in favor of the Commissioner, the Court of Appeals concluded that the procedural due process afforded to appellant was constitutionally sufficient. Furthermore, the decision did not rely on inherently unreliable evidence and was supported by substantial evidence. Affirmed.

A22-0877 Collins v. Comm’r of Minn. Dep’t of Hum. Servs. (Ramsey County)




Bargaining Units

In this certiorari appeal, relator-union challenged an order issued by respondent-agency on a petition for determination of an appropriate collective bargaining unit for sheriff’s office employees. Respondent county opposed the union’s petition and proposed a broader, county-wide clerical and technical unit.  The Court of Appeals concluded that the agency did not err by determining that relator’s proposed bargaining unit was not an appropriate collective bargaining unit and that respondent county’s alternative proposal was the appropriate collective bargaining unit. Affirmed.

A22-0911 Anoka County v. Law Enforcement Labor Servs., Inc. (Bureau of Mediation Servs.)



Criminal Precedential



Burden of Proof

Defendant challenged the district court’s order finding him not competent to participate in his criminal proceedings.  He argued that the district court erred in allocating the burden of proof to establish competence, that he was competent, that the district court ignored evidence of his competence, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during the competency proceedings.

The Court of Appeals held that the defendant bears the burden of proof in a contested competency proceeding under Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01 when the defendant asserts their own competence. Here, a new hearing was required to determine whether defendant established his competence by a preponderance of the evidence. Reversed and remanded.

A22-0737 State v. Thompson (Jackson County)



Criminal Nonprecedential



Probable Cause

In this prosecution for unlawful possession of a firearm and first-degree possession of a controlled substance, the state challenged the district court’s granting of defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of the firearm and the drugs, the state argued that the district court erred by suppressing evidence because the district court did not properly credit the veracity and basis of knowledge of the confidential reliable informant.  Noting that the informant provided no details about how he was able to personally observe defendant in possession of drugs or a firearm, and that officers did not ascertain whether defendant committed a crime before arresting him, the Court of Appeals concluded that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest defendant. Affirmed.

A22-1428 State v. Natee (Hennepin County)



Brady Evidence


Defendant filed a direct appeal of his second-degree murder conviction, which was stayed to allow defendant to pursue postconviction relief.  Defendant argued that the district court abused its discretion by denying postconviction relief because, inter alia, the state failed to disclose material evidence that was favorable to his defense. Defendant alleged that the state committed a Brady violation when it failed to disclose evidence that the state’s critical witness faced charges for fleeing a police officer. Noting that the witness admitted on cross-examination that he was a criminal, had drug and gun-related felony convictions, took ecstasy the night of the offense, sold crack cocaine, and lied to authorities about disposing the body, the Court of Appeals concluded that the disclosure of the fleeing information would not have affected the outcome of the trial. Affirmed.

A20-1571 State v. Mcraven (Hennepin County)



Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Deficient Performance

In 2014, a jury found petitioner guilty of six counts of criminal sexual conduct.  In 2021, petitioner petitioned for post-conviction relief and asserted a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.  Petitioner alleged that his trial attorney did not inform him of a plea offer that the prosecutor had made and further alleged that he would have accepted the plea offer if he had been informed of it.  The post-conviction court denied the petition for multiple reasons after conducting an evidentiary hearing at which petitioner testified.  Noting that the trial attorney’s affidavit stated that petitioner rejected the state’s plea offer, the Court of Appeals concluded that the post-conviction court did not clearly err by finding that petitioner did not prove that, if the state made a plea offer, his trial attorney did not communicate the plea offer to him. Affirmed.

A22-0940 Decker v. State (Faribault County)





Defendant challenged the revocation of her probation, arguing that the judge who presided over the revocation proceedings was disqualified because of a reasonable question of bias and that the district court’s failure to make findings on the second and third Austin/Modtland factors entitled her to reversal of the revocation. Noting that the judge explicitly did not tell defendant that any probation violation would result in her going to prison; he rather warned her that the magnitude of the offenses of which she was convicted put her on a “short leash” with regard to probation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the transcript reflected that the district court’s impartiality at defendant’s probation revocation hearing could not reasonably be questioned. Affirmed.

A22-1215 State v. Delille (St. Louis County)





In these consolidated pretrial appeals, the State argued that the district court clearly erred by finding that defendant—who was internationally adopted—was under 18 years old when he allegedly committed the charged offenses, which deprived the district court of subject-matter jurisdiction.  The Court of Appeals concluded that the credited testimony of defendant’s doctor and the exhibits showing defendant’s growth relative to other boys of his official age reasonably support the district court’s age finding that defendant was at least two years younger than his official age. Affirmed.

A22-1600, A22-1601, A22-1602, A22-1603 State v. Aden (Hennepin County)



Plea Withdrawal

Fair & Just

On appeal from his conviction for being an ineligible person in possession of a firearm, defendant contended the district court abused its discretion by denying his presentencing motion to withdraw his guilty plea under the fair-and-just standard and by failing to rule on his motion for a downward durational departure at sentencing.  Defendant argued it was fair and just to allow him to withdraw his plea because his current criminal charge prejudiced his ability to defend his newer criminal charges.  Noting that any hardship here was rightfully attributed to defendant’s own post-plea criminal conduct rather than to the plea itself, the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant failed to advance substantiated reasons for withdrawal of his plea. Affirmed.

A22-0622 State v. Childs-Young (Hennepin County)



Probation Revocation

Need for Confinement

On appeal from the district court’s order revoking defendant’s probation and executing his sentence for first-degree controlled-substance crime, defendant argued that the district court abused its discretion by finding that the need for confinement outweighed the policies favoring continued probation.  Noting that the probation agent’s report and testimony supported the district court’s finding that defendant was in need of correctional treatment that could most effectively be provided if he was confined, the Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion. Affirmed.

A22-1222 State v. Vaughn (Douglas County)




Downward Departures

The state challenged a district court decision granting defendant a downward dispositional departure from his presumptive prison sentence for second-degree assault.  Noting the finding that defendant was cooperative throughout the process in court, the Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the district court’s decision that there were substantial and compelling reasons supporting a dispositional departure because defendant was particularly amenable to probation. Affirmed.

A22-1585 State v. Kies (Sherburne County)



Spreigl Evidence


In this direct appeal from a final judgment of conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, defendant argued that his conviction must be reversed and remanded for a new trial because (1) the district court committed reversible error by admitting other-crime evidence (Spreigl evidence) and (2) the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct.  The Court of Appeals concluded that, even if the state did not provide proper notice of its intent to offer Spreigl evidence, defendant’s substantial rights were not affected by the district court’s admission of the Spreigl evidence, as the victim’s testimony alone was more than sufficient to support defendant’s conviction.  Furthermore, the prosecutor’s conduct was not plain error that affected defendant’s substantial rights. Affirmed.

A19-0680 State v. Hendrickson (Sherburne County)

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