Appellants challenged the District Court’s grant of summary judgment reversing respondent watershed district’s order approving a ditch-improvement petition, arguing that the District Court erred by concluding that the watershed district lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition.
The Court of Appeals held that (1) under Minn. Stat. § 103D.625, subd. 4, a petition to improve a drainage system that is located within the physical boundaries of a watershed district must be filed with the watershed district, regardless of whether the watershed district previously acted as drainage authority for the system—a directive from a county drainage authority to “take over” the system under § 103D.625, subd. 1, is not a prerequisite to the watershed district establishing jurisdiction with respect to the improvement; and (2) proceedings to improve a drainage system § 103D.625, subd. 4, “conform to chapter 103E” when watershed district officers and employees follow the procedures specified in that chapter. Reversed and remanded.
A22-1163 Keystone Twp. v. Red Lake Watershed Dist. (Polk County)
Parenting Time; Modification
Appellant-father challenged the District Court’s decision denying his motion to modify parenting time and child support and awarding need-based attorney fees to respondent-mother. The Court of Appeals held that the District Court was not required to explicitly apply the best-interest factors in Minn. Stat. § 518.17 to father’s Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 5 motion, as the appropriate legal standard was whether the parenting-time modification served the best interest of the minor child. Affirmed.
A22-1061, A22-1261 Robbins v. Robbins (Washington County)
Appellant challenged the District Court’s summary-judgment dismissal of his negligent-hiring claim against respondent, a public charter school, arising out of sexual abuse of appellant by respondents’ employee. Noting that decisions to hire employees facially involved balancing policy considerations and the discretion protected by statutory discretionary immunity, the Court of Appeals concluded that respondent was are entitled to statutory discretionary immunity on the negligent-hiring claim. Affirmed.
A22-1236 Doe v. Best Acad. (Hennepin County)
Appellant, a vehicle that was seized for forfeiture, appealed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of respondent and order for a police department to immediately release the vehicle to respondent without charging towing, seizure, and storage costs, and without requiring security. Appellant argued that the District Court erred in granting summary judgment because the record did not establish that respondent enrolled in the ignition interlock program, a requirement for him to obtain release of the vehicle. Additionally, appellant contended that the District Court had no authority to waive the police department’s statutory rights to charge towing, seizure, and storage costs, and to require a bond or security for the vehicle before its release. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because appellant failed to identify any fact issue, and the District Court correctly applied the law, the District Court’s order for release of the vehicle to respondent was proper. But the District Court did not have authority to waive the police department’s statutory rights to charge reasonable towing, seizure, and storage costs, and to require security for the vehicle. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-1300 Wawersich v. 2020 Ford F150 (Ramsey County)
Harassment Restraining Orders
Substantial Adverse Effect
Appellant petitioned the District Court for a harassment restraining order. After an evidentiary hearing, the District Court denied the petition. Appellant contended that the District Court’s substantial-adverse-effect finding was incomplete because it did not consider whether respondent intended to cause a substantial adverse effect on her or the child’s safety, security, or privacy. The Court of Appeals concluded that this argument failed because appellant did not file a motion for amended findings or did not provide the appellate court with a transcript of the evidentiary hearing, and that other parts of the record indicate that appellant did not argue to the District Court that respondent intended to cause a substantial adverse effect on her and the child’s safety, security, or privacy. Affirmed.
A22-1493 Branscum v. Branscum (Carver County)
Relator, a bar and restaurant licensed by respondent city, challenged the revocation of its entertainment and liquor licenses, arguing that city’s procedure in revoking the licenses violated relator’s due-process rights because city did not afford relator an opportunity for a hearing before the revocation. The Court of Appeals concluded that relator’s failure either to read the notice sent to its premises or to comply with the instructions the notice gave to those who wanted a hearing could not be attributed to city and did not mean that relator was deprived of due process or of the opportunity to have a hearing. Affirmed.
A22-1131 In re Liquor & Entertainment B Licenses Held by RAS Ethiopian Bar & Rest. LLC
Orders for Protection
The District Court granted appellant’s application for a 50-year extension of a preexisting order for protection against respondent based on appellant’s allegations that he stole her dog, violated the order for protection by contacting her on social media, and attempted to coerce her with money to cancel her impending wedding to another man. The District Court granted appellant’s application at a hearing 13 days after appellant served respondent by mail. Respondent moved to vacate the extended order for protection, and the District Court granted his motion. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because service by mail is ineffective until 14 days after mailing under the Minnesota Domestic Abuse Act, appellant’s service was not effective at the time of the hearing on her extension application. Affirmed.
A22-1077 Hale v. Berke (Hennepin County)
In May 2020, appellant American Arena, L.L.C. adopted its current name, replacing its former name of Minnesota Ice, to reflect its foray into selling ice arena accessories along with its original line of business in ice-rink construction. Already existing ice-arena accessories vendor and respondent All-American Ice L.L.C., d/b/a All-American Arena Products sued, alleging trademark infringement under Minnesota law. After a jury trial and verdict for respondent, appellant requested judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, a new trial. And after the District Court denied its motion, appellant appealed, arguing, in part, that because respondent’s trademark was merely a descriptive mark—not distinctive—it could not be registered as a trademark. As a result, it could not be infringed as a matter of law. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because appellant did not challenge the descriptiveness of respondent’s mark before submission to the jury and sufficient evidence supported the likelihood of confusion prong of respondent’s trademark infringement claim, the District Court did not err by denying appellant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial. The Court also affirmed the start date of the prejudgment interest award because appellant could have determined its potential liability from respondent’s cease and desist letter. However, there was a lack of evidence to support the jury’s award for actual damages, and a lack of findings supporting the District Court’s grant of an injunction. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-1394 All-Am. Ice L.L.C. v. Am. Arena, L.L.C. (Dakota County)
Pro se relator challenged the determination of an unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that she was ineligible for unemployment benefits because she was discharged for employment misconduct after making vulgar and inappropriate social media posts in violation of respondent-employer’s policies. The Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence supported the ULJ’s findings that relator made the comments at issue after a few drinks but that she was not intoxicated, and that her comments were not a consequence of her chemical dependency. Affirmed.
A22-1448 Langer v. Mayo Found. for Med. Educ. & Rsch. (Dep’t of Emp’t & Econ. Dev.)
Adequate Legal Remedy
This appeal followed a court trial involving an ongoing dispute between neighbors related to the use and maintenance of a shared road. Appellants raised several arguments challenging the District Court’s order awarding damages to respondents for claims of unjust enrichment and breach of contract. Appellants argued that, because the easement agreement provides that any of the parties may improve the road without obligating the others to pay for such improvement, the easement agreement controlled and barred equitable relief for appellants’ failure to pay the agreed-upon $800 towards the cost of the road work. The Court of Appeals concluded that the latter of two agreements—the 2017 road-work contract—provided respondents with an adequate legal remedy to address appellants’ failure to pay the $800, but that, any error by the District Court in awarding damages based on unjust enrichment appellants’ refusal to pay for the 2017 road work was harmless as respondents were entitled to the same amount in breach-of-contract damages. Affirmed.
A22-0764 Neiman v. Sandin (Crow Wing County)
Criminal Sexual Conduct
Legally Inconsistent Verdicts
Petitioner challenged the postconviction court’s decision to deny his petition for postconviction relief. Petitioner claimed that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to move for a new trial after the jury returned legally inconsistent verdicts and his appellate counsel failed to raise the issue on direct appeal.
The Court of Appeals held that guilty verdicts for completed third-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(d) (2016), and attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat. § 609.17, subd. 1 (2016), are not legally inconsistent. Affirmed.
A22-1063 Tichich v. State (Hennepin County)
In this direct appeal from his conviction of second-degree unintentional murder, defendant, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) at the time of the offense, argued that (1) the District Court abused its discretion by denying his motions to change venue, continue the trial, and sequester the jury due to prejudicial publicity; (2) the District Court abused its discretion by denying his request for a Schwartz hearing based on alleged juror misconduct; (3) the court must vacate his third-degree murder charge; (4) a police officer cannot be convicted of second-degree unintentional felony murder with third-degree assault as the underlying offense; (5) the District Court abused its discretion when instructing the jury; (6) the District Court abused its discretion by allowing the state to present cumulative evidence on the use of force; (7) the District Court abused its discretion by excluding a presentation slide from MPD training materials submitted as evidence; (8) the District Court abused its discretion by excluding an unavailable witness’s out-of-court statement; (9) the District Court abused its discretion by denying defendant’s new-trial motion based on alleged prosecutorial misconduct; (10) the District Court failed to ensure that sidebar conferences were transcribed, as required by statute; (11) alleged cumulative errors denied defendant a fair trial; and (12) the District Court abused its discretion by imposing an upward sentencing departure from the presumptive range under the sentencing guidelines.
The Court of Appeals held that (1) when a criminal defendant moves to change venue, continue trial, or sequester the jury on the grounds that publicity surrounding the trial created either actual or presumed juror prejudice, a District Court does not abuse its discretion by denying the motions if it takes sufficient mitigating steps and verifies that the jurors can set aside their impressions or opinions and deliver a fair and impartial verdict; and (2) a police officer can be convicted of second-degree unintentional felony murder for causing the death of another when the officer uses unreasonable force constituting third-degree assault to effect a lawful arrest. Affirmed.
A21-1228 State v. Chauvin (Hennepin County)
Defendant challenged his convictions of second-degree assault and felony domestic assault, arguing that he did not use a broomstick in a manner likely to cause great bodily harm and evidence was erroneously admitted. Additionally, defendant argued that felony domestic assault was an included crime of second-degree assault and, therefore, entry of judgment of conviction for that offense should be reversed. Noting facts from which a reasonable jury could conclude that defendant deliberately swung the wooden broomstick at the victim’s head with significant force, the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence indicated that defendant used the broomstick as a dangerous weapon, evidence was not erroneously admitted, and felony domestic assault was not an included offense of second-degree assault. Affirmed.
A22-0960 State v. Bradley (St. Louis County)
Defendant sought reversal of his convictions for third-degree assault, false imprisonment, and criminal vehicular operation (CVO), arguing the evidence was legally insufficient. Defendant argued that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he inflicted substantial bodily harm, and therefore, the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions for third degree assault and CVO. Noting that the victim testified that he wore the cervical collar for four weeks and could not work during that time, and that the wounds to his feet were so deep he could not wear shoes for four months and still hurt, the Court of Appeals concluded that record evidence of injuries to the victim’s neck and feet satisfied the substantial bodily harm standard. Affirmed.
A22-0353 State v. Karnes (Mower County)
A jury found defendant guilty of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and third-degree assault after learning that he struck a woman and then retrieved a wooden board from another room, holding it over his shoulder but not striking her with it. Defendant challenged the resulting conviction of second-degree assault, arguing that the evidence was not sufficient to prove that the board was a “dangerous weapon” under the statute because the circumstantial evidence could not exclude the rational hypothesis that he intended only to frighten the woman. The Court of Appeals concluded that, although the circumstantial evidence by itself did not support the conviction, the state introduced sufficient direct evidence of defendant’s criminal intent. But the District Court incorrectly entered convictions for both assault charges. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-0172 State v. Jones (Crow Wing County)
Appellant, a bonding company, challenged the District Court’s denial of its petition to reinstate a forfeited bail bond, arguing that the District Court erred by not discharging the bond at the time the defendant was sentenced and by assigning the petition to a judge other than the forfeiting judge or the chief judge, and abused its discretion by denying appellant’s reinstatement petition. Noting that appellant provided no information as to whether or how its activities assisted or resulted in apprehending defendant, the Court of Appeals found no error or no abuse of discretion. Affirmed.
A22-1074 State v. Boyd (Hennepin County)
Controlled Substance Crimes
Defendant challenged his conviction following a jury trial for one count of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he constructively possessed 3.873 grams of methamphetamine in his vehicle. Noting evidence of a conciliation court claim filed by defendant for $3,498 when $3,002 was found in the bag with the methamphetamine, and approximately $400 was found elsewhere in defendant’s vehicle, the Court of Appeals concluded that the circumstances proved were consistent with the inference that appellant constructively possessed the methamphetamine and inconsistent with any other rational hypothesis. Affirmed.
A22-0740 State v. Iwen (Wright County)
Petitioner argued that the postconviction court erred by denying his petition to withdraw his Alford plea to first-degree burglary with a dangerous weapon because his plea was not accurate. The Court of Appeals concluded that petitioner’s plea was inaccurate because the state failed to provide a strong factual basis establishing that petitioner possessed a dangerous weapon while entering or inside the victim’s residence. Reversed and remanded.
A22-1355 Miller v. State (Otter Tail County)
Defendant challenged his conviction of first-degree drug possession and possession of a firearm as an ineligible person, arguing that the District Court erred by not suppressing evidence discovered during the warrantless seizure of his automobile. Defendant argued that a confidential reliable informant’s (CRI) tip was stale because vehicles are typically used to transport, not store, drugs. Noting that officers discovered the vehicle less than 24 hours after receiving the tip, the Court of Appeals concluded that the seizure of his vehicle was supported by probable cause. Affirmed.
A22-0885 State v. Casarez (Mahnomen County)
In these consolidated appeals, defendant challenged the District Court’s restitution orders stemming from his convictions for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and fleeing a peace officer, arguing that the District Court erred by ordering him to pay restitution for losses that were not directly caused by his offenses. Noting that defendant’s only objection at the sentencing hearing was to paying restitution for items that were reimbursed to the victim by insurance, the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant forfeited his challenges to the restitution orders. The Court also concluded that the arguments failed because it was clear from the record that restitution was a key condition of the global plea agreement that defendant and the state reached. Affirmed.
A22-1047, A22-1051 State v. Baumer (Benton County)
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Defendant challenged his conviction for first-degree refusal to submit to a chemical test, arguing that the state presented insufficient circumstantial evidence to establish his guilt. The Court of Appeals concluded that defendant’s identified inference that he would have taken the chemical test only if a lawyer had been present, even if true, was not consistent with innocence. Affirmed.
A22-0781 State v. Hess (Cass County)
Defendant challenged his conviction for second-degree driving while impaired (DWI), arguing that the District Court erred by denying his pretrial motion to suppress evidence against him that was obtained after a traffic stop of his vehicle. The Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the District Court’s finding of fact that the officer was unaware of his mistake regarding defendant’s license plate number when he conducted the traffic stop and approached defendant’s car. Affirmed.
A22-0846 State v. Reyes (Beltrami County)