Drivers’ License Suspension
Appellant, a Minnesota resident, was arrested in Wisconsin on suspicion of driving a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more and was convicted of an offense based on that conduct. Wisconsin notified Minnesota of appellant’s conviction. The Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety suspended appellant’s Minnesota driver’s license because of the Wisconsin conviction. Appellant petitioned the District Court for judicial review of the suspension, arguing that his Wisconsin conviction was based on evidence that was obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. The District Court sustained the suspension.
The Court of Appeals held that, in a proceeding under Minn. Stat. § 171.19 for judicial review of the suspension of a Minnesota driver’s license based on an out-of-state conviction pursuant to § 171.18, subd. 1(a)(7), a District Court may not overturn the suspension on the ground that the out-of-state conviction is based on evidence that was obtained in violation of the licensee’s Fourth Amendment rights. Affirmed.
A22-1108 Underhill v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety (Hennepin County)
Appellant challenged a District Court order dismissing as untimely her appeal from a maltreatment determination issued by respondent commissioner of human services. Appellant argued the District Court erred by interpreting Minn. Stat. § 256.045, subd. 7, to require that the notice of appeal be both served and filed within 30 days after the challenged order’s issuance. The Court of Appeals held that, to timely appeal an order of the commissioner of human services under the statute, a party must serve the notice of the appeal within 30 days after the commissioner issues the challenged order and must file the notice with the District Court. The party need not file the notice with the District Court within 30 days after the commissioner issues the challenged order. Reversed and remanded.
A22-1302 Chorolec v. Comm’r of Dep’t of Human Servs. (Anoka County)
Child Custody; Modification
On appeal from the District Court’s denial of his motion to modify custody, appellant-father argued that the District Court erred in determining that he did not make out a prima facie case to modify custody based on endangerment and erred in denying his requests for other types of custody-related relief. The Court of Appeals concluded that father was required to sufficiently allege all four element of a prima facie case for custody modification based on endangerment to be entitled to an evidentiary hearing, and that he failed to allege whether a modification of custody was in the children’s best interests or that the benefits of the change would outweigh its detriments. Affirmed.
A22-0933 Anderson v. Anderson (Itasca County)
Child Support; Voluntarily Unemployed
In this child-support dispute, appellant-mother argued that the record does not support the child support magistrate’s finding that respondent-father is not voluntarily unemployed under Minn. Stat. § 518A.32, subd. 3(2). The Court of Appeals concluded that, while the record supports that father had a good-faith reason to retire from the Coast Guard, the record did not support that father was excused from any obligation to obtain new employment because of his decision to move to be closer to the child. Reversed and remanded.
A22-1097 State, County of St Louis v. Bissell (St. Louis County)
Parenting Time; Findings
In this parenting-time appeal, appellant-father challenged six factual findings for clear error. Father also argued that the District Court misapplied the law by basing its decision to restrict his parenting time on a finding that he had emotionally endangered the children. The Court of Appeals concluded that none of the factual findings that father challenged were clearly erroneous, and that the finding that father’s behavior endangered the emotional health and development of the children was sufficient to restrict parenting time under the correct legal standard. Affirmed.
A22-1158 Windels v. Windels (Hennepin County)
Harassment Restraining Orders
Appellant challenged the District Court’s grant of a harassment restraining order (HRO), arguing that the record did not support the District Court’s finding of harassment and that the HRO violated his First Amendment rights. The Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the District Court’s implicit inference that appellant acted with intent to have a substantial adverse effect on respondent’s safety, security, or privacy, but that the HRO statute did not authorize the order prohibiting appellant from speaking about respondent to others even if the speech did not constitute harassment. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-1612 Thompson v. Britton (Scott County)
Human Services Licensing
In this administrative appeal, relator challenged respondent Minnesota Department of Human Services’ (DHS) order determining relator committed abuse in connection with the provision of personal-care-assistance services to public-assistance recipients. On appeal, relator argued DHS: (1) improperly held relator responsible for overpayments incurred under previous ownership and (2) arbitrarily and capriciously determined the overpayment amount. The Court of Appeals concluded that relator was the appropriate vendor and responsible for the abuse that resulted in overpayment and that the commissioner did not engage in arbitrary and capricious decision making when she increased the ALJ’s recommended recovery amount. Affirmed.
A22-0848 In re SIRS Appeal by Prof. PCA Servs. LLC (Minn. Dep’t of Human Servs.)
Respondent insurer brought a declaratory-judgment action to determine whether its insured, defendant, was entitled to defense and indemnification in a negligence action brought by appellant. Appellant was a police officer who suffered injuries when he was dragged by defendant’s vehicle. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of insurer because it determined that there was no genuine dispute that defendant acted intentionally and the insurance policy therefore did not provide coverage. Appellant appealed, arguing that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether defendant acted with the requisite intent. The Court of Appeals concluded that the record presented a genuine dispute of material fact with respect to defendant’s intent to cause bodily injury. Reversed and remanded.
A22-1630 W. Nat’l Ins. Co. v. Donahue (St. Louis County)
Landlord & Tenant
Emergency Tenant Remedies
After a break-in and countless occurrences of vandalism at her apartment building, appellant-tenant sought emergency relief to repair her heat, implement better security, and provide working laundry facilities at her apartment building. But tenant also requested other remedies for relief, such as retroactive and prospective rent abatement and court supervision of her apartment building. After two hearings, the District Court ordered her landlord, respondents, to restore the heat and put into action more reliable security measures to its apartment building, and then dismissed the action after a hearing on landlord’s motion to dismiss. Tenant appealed the dismissal of her action because the District Court did not address all her requested remedies. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court has clear discretion in granting remedies in emergency actions, which it did not abuse here. Affirmed as modified.
A22-1085 Houle v. NETA Prop. Mgmt., Inc. (Beltrami County)
Claims Against Estate
Before he died, decedent and three others owned land together. Upon decedent’s death, one of the other owners, respondent, claimed that a written agreement among all the owners granted him the right to purchase decedent’s share. When the personal representative of decedent’s estate refused to sell respondent the land, respondent filed a creditor’s claim against the estate. The personal representative denied respondent’s late-filed claim, but the District Court granted respondent’s petition to allow his claim. Noting that the agreement’s meaning could not be ascertained, the Court of Appeals held that the provision of the agreement on which respondent based his claim was too vague to be enforceable against the estate. Reversed.
A22-1330 In re Estate of Lewis (Clay County)
These consolidated appeals arose out of a dispute between siblings appellant/cross-respondent brother and respondent/cross-appellant sister about the effect of a rental option in their late mother’s will. The will gave brother the option to rent farm property that, at the time of their mother’s death, was owned in part by their mother and in part by a trust established by their father’s will. Sister brought actions to partition the property, to collect rent from brother on behalf of their mother’s estate, and to collect rent from brother on behalf of the trust. After the District Court granted in part and denied in part sister’s motion for partial summary judgment, the actions were consolidated for a bench trial. Following trial, the District Court issued an order and judgment for partition determining that their mother’s will did not apply to the trust’s interest in the property and an order requiring brother to pay damages for rent owed to their mother’s estate and the trust.
On appeal, brother challenged (1) the determination that their mother’s will did not create any encumbrance on the trust’s interest in the property; (2) the finding that he did not pay rent in 2018 and the award of damages for that rent; (3) the findings about the meaning of “average fair rental value” in their mother’s will; and (4) the award of damages for additional rent owed for 2019, 2020, and 2021. In a related appeal, sister contended that (1) the rental option afforded to brother in their mother’s will was unconstitutional and void and (2) the amount of damages awarded to their mother’s estate for additional rent for 2019, 2020, and 2021 was clearly erroneous and should be higher. The Court of Appeals reviewed all arguments and found no error warranting reversal. Affirmed.
A22-0543, A22-0545, A22-0547 Legred v. Legred (Faribault County)
Appellant secured creditor challenged the District Court’s order granting respondent’s motion for summary judgment based on the District Court’s determination that appellant’s settlement with its debtor of an adversary action in bankruptcy court extinguished appellant’s third-party conversion claim against respondent. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant’s agreement dismissing its adversary action against the debtor and waiving its security interest against only the debtor did not settle the underlying debt and did not extinguish its claims against respondent. Reversed and remanded.
A22-1365 AgCountry Farm Credit Servs., PCA v. Tri-County Livestock Exch., Inc. (Todd County)
Actively Seeking Employment
Relator quit her job and applied to the Department of Employment and Economic Development for unemployment benefits. The department determined that she was ineligible for benefits. An unemployment-law judge found that relator had been neither available for nor actively seeking suitable employment. The Court of Appeals concluded that, although it was true that a potential job’s risk to an applicant’s health and safety is a relevant consideration when assessing employment suitability, the record provides ample support for the ULJ’s implicit recognition that relator did not actively seek any position within the scope of her asserted restrictions. Affirmed.
A22-0875 In re Vue (Dep’t of Emp’t & Econ. Dev.)
Relator challenged the denial of her request to receive unemployment benefits after being discharged for violating her employer’s COVID-19 vaccine policy. Relator argued that the unemployment law judge (ULJ) erred by independently reviewing whether relator espoused a sincerely held religious objection to the employer’s vaccine policy. In the absence of citation to binding authority and without an explanation of how her argument could be reconciled with the authorities requiring an independent review of the facts, the Court of Appeals was not persuaded to adopt relator’s legal proposition. Affirmed.
A22-0806 Royer v. Inventiv Health, Inc. (Dep’t of Emp’t & Econ. Dev.)
Criminal Sexual Conduct
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Following a trial, the District Court found appellant-juvenile guilty of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct for having nonconsensual sexual contact with another minor and stayed adjudication. Juvenile appealed, arguing that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the sexual contact was not consensual. Noting that caselaw explicitly rejected juvenile’s request to review the evidence of consent through the lens of a “reasonable juvenile,” the Court of Appeals held that the evidence was sufficient to prove juvenile’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Affirmed.
A22-1223 In re Welfare of T.C.G. (McLeod County)
Failure to Disclose
Defendant challenged his conviction for first-degree possession of a controlled substance, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion by (1) denying his motion for mistrial based on an alleged discovery violation and (2) excluding the test results from contraband found in his housemate’s bedroom. The Court of Appeals concluded that even if the witness disclosure violated Brady or Rule 9, it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Affirmed.
A22-0880 State v. Manila (Nobles County)
Sufficiency of the Evidence
The state appealed from the District Court’s order granting defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal, arguing that the District Court erred because the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s guilty verdict for domestic assault. Noting that there was no evidence in the record that defendant verbally threatened the purported victim or touched him in any way, and that the purported victim’s subjective fear was not inconsistent with the reasonable hypothesis that defendant did not intend to cause him to fear immediate bodily harm or death, the Court of Appeals concluded that the circumstances proved at trial were consistent with a rational hypothesis of innocence. Affirmed.
A22-0786 State v. Holmgren (Mower County)
Illegal Firearms Possession
Defendant challenged his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm, arguing that the circumstantial evidence showing that he possessed the firearm was insufficient to prove his guilt. Noting that defendant cited no support for his implicit proposition that the state was required to charge or conclusively establish others who may have had joint possession with defendant in order to convict defendant based on joint possession, and that the firearm was found in the center console of defendant’s vehicle and contained his DNA, the Court of Appeals concluded that the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to establish constructive possession. Affirmed.
A22-0851 State v. Everett (Hennepin County)
Adequate Factual Basis
Defendant sought to withdraw his Alford pleas to solicitation and using a minor in a pornographic work, arguing that they lacked strong factual bases. The Court of Appeals found no error, noting that a strong factual basis supported that defendant intended for both victims to engage in sexual conduct, that the victims intended to engage in sexual conduct, and that defendant knew or had reason to know that the conduct intended in the video clips constituted pornographic works and that the victims were under the age of 18. Affirmed.
A22-0841 State v. Sanders (Lyon County)
Petitioner challenged the District Court’s denial of his postconviction petition without an evidentiary hearing after affirmance of his conviction for third-degree burglary on direct appeal. The Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion in the determination that there was no evidence in the record to suggest that either trial or appellate counsel was ineffective, and that therefore petitioner’s claims lacked merit and petitioner was not entitled to a postconviction evidentiary hearing. Affirmed.
A22-1550 Knoll v. State (Isanti County)
Need for Confinement
On appeal after remand in this probation-revocation matter, defendant argued that the District Court erred in finding that the need for his confinement outweighed the policies favoring continued probation under State v. Austin, 295 N.W.2d 246 (Minn. 1980). Noting that defendant was not engaged in his sex-offender-treatment program and, ultimately, was terminated before completing a program, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court’s findings on the third Austin factor were supported by the record and sufficient to justify the revocation of petitioner’s probation. Affirmed.
A22-1291 State v. Baerg (Watonwan County)
Need for Confinement
Defendant challenged the District Court’s order revoking her probation and executing her sentence, arguing that the District Court did not make sufficient factual findings on the necessary factors under State v. Austin, 295 N.W.2d 246 (Minn. 1980). Noting that defendant was granted a downward dispositional departure at sentencing and was reinstated on probation twice prior to the revocation of probation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion when it concluded that the need for confinement outweighed the policies favoring probation, and that the District Court’s findings on the other Austin factors were also adequate to support the revocation. Affirmed.
A22-1260 State v. Gimmer (Faribault County)
In this direct appeal from his conviction of unlawful firearm possession, defendant argued that the prosecutor committed misconduct by repeatedly misstating the law of constructive possession to the jury. Noting that the prosecutor misstated the law of constructive possession several times, stating that if defendant “had control of the area, he had sufficient control of the firearms,” that the strength of the evidence against defendant was not overwhelming, that the prosecutor’s misstatements of the law were pervasive, and that defendant’s trial counsel did not rebut the misstatements of the law, the Court of Appeals concluded that the prosecutor’s statements were plain error that affected defendant’s substantial rights which required reversal to ensure the fairness and integrity of judicial proceedings. Reversed and remanded.
A22-0464 State v. Richardson (Hennepin County)
As petitioner stood in a convenience-store line to order food, he was confronted by another customer regarding who was next in line. A heated exchange between the two men ensued, which began with words but rapidly escalated into a physical altercation, culminating with petitioner fatally shooting the customer in his chest and abdomen. Petitioner pleaded guilty to second-degree unintentional murder. The plea petition provided that the State could argue for an upward durational departure and that petitioner “does not agree that there are aggravating factors but agrees to allow the court to make that determination and waives Blakely.” After receiving stipulated evidence (including a surveillance video of the shooting), the District Court determined that the state had proved a basis for an upward durational sentencing departure because the offense created a greater than-normal danger to the safety of others. But while the court concluded it had the legal authority to sentence petitioner to an upward durational departure, it imposed a presumptive “top-of-the-box” sentence instead. In a postconviction petition requesting an evidentiary hearing, petitioner argued that he did not validly waive his Sixth Amendment right (referred to as a Blakely waiver) to have a jury determine whether circumstances justified an upward durational departure. Petitioner appealed the denial of that petition. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not sentence petitioner to an upward durational departure and any potential error in petitioner’s Blakely waiver was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Affirmed.
A22-0107 State v. Reed (Ramsey County)
In this direct appeal from a conviction for fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle, defendant challenged the District Court’s restitution order of $9,068.20. Defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion because it awarded restitution without expressly stating that it had considered appellant’s ability to pay. The Court of Appeals concluded that precedent established that the District Court must expressly state it considered a defendant’s ability to pay before awarding restitution, and the District Court failed to do so here. Reversed and remanded.
A22-1036 State v. Martinez (Blue Earth County)
Petitioner challenged the denial of his petition for postconviction relief from the sentence imposed following his guilty plea to first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He argued that the District Court abused its discretion by (1) denying relief from the agreed-upon upward durational sentencing departure because the departure was based on improper factors that duplicated elements of the offense; and (2) denying relief from the presumptive prison sentence because he was particularly amenable to probation. The Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion in the determination that the upward durational departure was justified based on petitioner’s admission to facts establishing two valid aggravating factors. Affirmed.
A22-1263 Hoversten v. State (Anoka County)
Defendant challenged his conviction of escape from custody, arguing that the District Court erred when it allowed evidence of other acts that was not offered to rebut any of his defenses. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the state’s case was strong, the prosecutor and the District Court limited the use of the evidence, and defendant had the opportunity to rebut the evidence, even if the District Court’s decision to admit the other-acts evidence was erroneous, it did not impact defendant’s substantial rights. Affirmed.
A22-0904 State v. Carter (Olmsted County)