Appellant, purported creditor of decedent, sought reversal of the District Court’s order dismissing a petition for formal probate on venue grounds, arguing, inter alia, that the District Court failed to provide sufficient notice of the venue hearing, and abused its discretion by dismissing the case for improper venue.
The Court of Appeals held that, in a probate proceeding involving a nondomiciled decedent, a District Court does not abuse its discretion by sua sponte raising the issue of improper venue and dismissing the case without prejudice under Minn. Stat. § 524.3-201 if the petitioner fails to establish a prima facie case that decedent owned property located in the State of Minnesota at the time of death. Affirmed.
A22-1262 Estate of King (Hennepin County)
Appellants-landowners challenged the District Court’s grant of summary judgment, holding that the dedication to respondent-township of a road that did not meet the township’s standards for a road did not obligate the township to accept ownership of the road, improve it, and maintain it. The Court of Appeals held that dedication of a public road that does not meet a township’s standards does not impose on that township an obligation to improve and maintain that road.
A22-1606 Zimmer v. Pine Lake Twp. (Cass County)
In this dispute over child-custody modification, and on appeal from an order disqualifying appellant-father’s attorney, who was appellant’s new wife, appellants argued that the District Court (1) was biased against them and should have recused; (2) should have granted father’s request for a discovery conference or, in the alternative, held oral testimony at the hearing on respondent-mother’s motion to disqualify; and (3) abused its discretion by disqualifying father’s attorney. Noting that the attorney was intimately involved in all facets of this case, including matters related to the children, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in disqualifying attorney from all matters related to this case. Affirmed.
A22-1761 Beland v. Beland (Polk County)
Child Custody; Hearings
Appellant challenged the District Court’s decision denying his motion to vacate an award of permanent joint legal custody for the following two reasons: (1) the District Court did not hold an evidentiary hearing before deciding the motion to vacate; and (2) the District Court erred as a matter of law and abused its discretion in weighing the statutory best interests factors. The Court of Appeals concluded that father was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing based on principles of due process, applicable statutory provisions, or the stipulated orders, and that there was no abuse of discretion. Affirmed.
A22-1122 Thompson v. Aydt (In re Custody of A.C.T.) (Hennepin County)
Child Protection; Termination of Parental Rights
Appellant challenged the District Court’s involuntary termination of her parental rights to her child. She argued that the District Court (1) erred by concluding that she failed to rebut the presumption of palpable unfitness, (2) abused its discretion by concluding that the county proved by clear and convincing evidence that appellant was palpably unfit to parent, and (3) abused its discretion by concluding that it was in the child’s best interests to terminate appellant’s parental rights. Noting appellant’s long-standing chemical dependency, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the county met its burden by clear and convincing evidence that appellant was palpably unfit and that termination of appellant’s parental rights were in the best interests of the child. Affirmed.
A22-1596 In re Welfare of Child of T.E.W. (Stearns County)
Parenting Time; Modification
In this parenting dispute, appellant-father argued that the District Court abused its discretion in modifying the schedule for parenting time with respondent-mother. The Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion in the District Court’s determination that father’s proposal would constitute a restriction of mother’s parenting time and that that mother’s proposed modification was in the children’s best interests. Affirmed.
A22-0974 Knutson v. Knutson (Polk County)
Harassment Restraining Orders
Victim of Harassment
Appellant challenged a harassment restraining order (HRO) granted for respondent and their joint daughter, arguing the District Court erred in its decision as it related to his daughter. The Court of Appeals concluded that, even assuming the child—who was around three years old—could not appreciate the threat to her safety and security, the record amply supported the District Court’s finding defendant’s actions did, in fact, adversely affect her safety and security. Affirmed.
A22-1396 Anderson v. Benyai (Sherburne County)
Relator appealed by writ of certiorari the order of the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice revoking his license to practice medicine in the state. Noting that it defers to the board’s credibility determinations, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the board’s conclusion that relator engaged in prohibited sexual conduct against two of his patients. Affirmed.
A22-1259 In re Medical License of Kovanda (Minn. Bd. of Med. Practice)
Real Estate Sales
Duty of Good Faith
Appellant challenged the denial, following a court trial, of its claims that respondents breached a duty to negotiate in good faith the terms to purchase land that it leased from respondents. Appellant argued that respondents owed a good-faith duty under the contract between the parties and the common law and that the District Court erred by determining that respondents did not breach that duty. The Court of Appeals concluded that respondents had an express contractual duty to negotiate fair market value in good faith but no such duty with respect to other terms and conditions of the sale, and the record supported the finding that respondents did not breach their duty to negotiate the property’s fair market value in good faith. Affirmed.
A22-1384 Sawmill Golf Club, Inc. v. Ramsden (Washington County)
In this direct appeal, defendant argued that his convictions for driving while impaired (DWI) and test refusal must be reversed because the District Court abused its discretion when denying his motion to dismiss. Alternatively, defendant argued that the District Court erred by entering judgments of conviction and sentences for both DWI and test refusal. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its broad discretion to dismiss a case in furtherance of justice by considering whether defendant has established unnecessary delay, prejudice, or prosecutorial misconduct. However, the District Court improperly imposed multiple convictions and multiple sentences. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-1144 State v. London (Anoka County)
In this direct appeal from judgments of conviction for unlawful firearm possession and property damage, defendant argued that (1) the District Court erred in denying his motion to suppress identification evidence because law enforcement used a show-up identification procedure that was unnecessarily suggestive and presented a substantial likelihood of misidentification, and (2) the warrant of commitment erroneously indicated a 60-month sentence for property damage although the District Court did not orally pronounce a sentence for that offense. Noting that the victim had ample opportunity to view defendant, the Court of Appeals concluded that all five Ostrem factors supported the admission of the challenged identification evidence. However, remand was necessary to correct the warrant of commitment. Affirmed in part and remanded.
A22-1062 State v. Dale (Hennepin County)
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
In this direct appeal, defendant challenged the presumptive sentences imposed by the District Court for his convictions of first- and second-degree sale of controlled substances and second-degree assault, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel failed to electronically file his motions for a downward dispositional and durational departure. Noting that the District Court had the benefit of the motion papers and oral argument by defendant’s counsel before it ruled on the motions, the Court of Appeals concluded that the failure of counsel to electronically file the departure motions did not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel because defendant failed to establish prejudice. Affirmed.
A22-1244 State v. Winston (St. Louis County)V
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Sufficiency of Record
In this direct appeal from his conviction for second-degree criminal sexual conduct, defendant argued that he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his attorney, in a written closing argument, argued that the District Court should find defendant guilty of criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree. Noting that, generally, an ineffective assistance of counsel claim should be raised in a postconviction petition for relief, rather than on direct appeal, the Court of Appeals concluded that the record was insufficient to determine whether defendant acquiesced to this concession, but preserved defendant’s right to assert to assert similar claims through a future postconviction petition. Affirmed.
A22-1030 State v. Littlejohn (Hennepin County)
Appellant challenged the District Court’s order adjudicating her delinquent for fifth-degree assault, arguing that the adjudication must be reversed and remanded because the District Court failed to consider her best interests and public safety when deciding to adjudicate her delinquent rather than withhold adjudication. Noting that appellant did not request a continuance or argue for any alternative disposition, the Court of Appeals discerned no abuse of discretion. Affirmed.
A22-1363 In re Welfare of J.C. (Clay County)
Appellant-juvenile challenged her delinquency adjudication claiming that the District Court violated her due-process rights by holding a revocation hearing without sufficient notice. Noting that the District Court administrator filed a notice in lieu of summons, which required an eight-day notice period, fewer than 24 hours before the hearing, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not provide sufficient notice of the hearing. Reversed and remanded.
A22-1463 In re Welfare of S.S. (Blue Earth County)
Defendant argued he was entitled to withdraw his two pleas of guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct because, as to one of the pleas, he did not enter a valid Norgaard plea based on lack of memory caused by amnesia or intoxication and because that plea was not supported by an adequate factual basis. He maintained that the defect in the Norgaard plea required reversal of both pleas, as the purportedly invalid plea implicated the entirety of the plea agreement. The Court of Appeals concluded that a defendant is not required to attribute their lack of memory of the event to a specific cause in order for a Norgaard plea to be valid. Affirmed.
A21-1481 State v. Backen (Crow Wing County)
Defendant challenged the revocation of his probation on charges of engaging in electronic communication relating to sexual conduct with a child and possessing electronic pornographic work involving a minor, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion because its conclusions supporting the revocation were illogical and conflicted with the record. The Court of Appeals concluded that the fact that the victim of defendant’s crime was no longer a minor and wanted to have contact with defendant did not alter the terms of defendant’s probation, which required defendant to not have contact with her. Affirmed.
A22-1647 State v. Soular (Hennepin County)
Right to Counsel
In this consolidated appeal of two matters where defendant was convicted of fourth-degree assault, defendant argued that he did not waive his right to counsel in either matter. Defendant also moved to strike portions of the state’s brief referencing purported facts not included in the record on appeal. Noting that the record did not contain any written waiver of the right to counsel from defendant, and that the transcripts of all of the proceedings did not reflect that the District Court advised defendant of any of the required information described in Minn. R. Crim. P. 5.04, subd. 1(4), the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court failed to obtain from defendant a waiver of his right to counsel in either matter. Furthermore, the state’s brief referenced purported facts not contained in the record on appeal. Reversed and remanded; motion granted.
A22-1091, A22-1093 State v. Dixon (Scott County)
Right to Counsel
Defendant was placed on probation after he pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Ten times he violated conditions of his probation but was continued on probation. After the eleventh violation, the District Court revoked defendant’s probation and imposed an executed sentence of 36 months of imprisonment. Noting that waivers of counsel do not need to be in writing, the Court of Appeals concluded that there was no error in the finding that defendant made a valid waiver of his right to counsel at the final probation-violation hearing. Furthermore, revocation of defendant’s probation was warranted. Affirmed.
A22-1248 State v. Ijong (Olmsted County)
Right to Jury Trial
Defendant challenged his conviction and sentence for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, arguing that (1) his jury-trial waiver was invalid, (2) the evidence was insufficient to convict him, (3) the District Court abused its discretion by admitting expert witness testimony, and (4) the District Court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a sentencing departure. Noting that Minnesota law does not require a District Court to use open-ended question to establish a valid jury-trial waiver, the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant’s waiver was valid. Furthermore, the evidence supported his convictions, and the District Court did not abuse its discretion. Affirmed.
A22-0529 State v. Yang (Lyon County)
Defendant challenged his convictions for domestic assault and first-degree criminal damage to property, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion by admitting as relationship evidence his two prior convictions for violations of a domestic-abuse no-contact order (DANCO) against a different victim. The Court of Appeals concluded that the prior DANCO violations were probative of how defendant may react to being cut off from a domestic relationship and in aiding the jury in assessing the credibility of the witnesses describing defendant’s behavior, and that the District Court took precautions limiting the prejudicial impact of the evidence. Affirmed.
A22-0916 State v. Walters (Freeborn County)
In this direct appeal from judgments of conviction for felony simple robbery, aiding and abetting simple robbery, and obstruction of legal process, defendant argued that (1) the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant or her codefendant inflicted bodily harm or intended to cause fear of imminent bodily harm relating to the simple robbery convictions, and (2) the District Court abused its discretion in imposing a three-year probation term for the obstructing legal process conviction. Noting the findings that defendant cornered a store clerk behind a counter, stood just centimeters away from the clerk, and twice raised her arm or fist above the clerk’s head, the Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence was sufficient to show defendant intended to cause the clerk fear of immediate bodily harm. However, the District Court abused its discretion by sentencing defendant to three years’ probation for the gross-misdemeanor obstructing-legal-process offense. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
A22-0881 State v. La Rose (Scott County)
In this direct appeal, defendant argued that his conviction for felony domestic assault must be reversed because the prosecutor committed plain-error misconduct by eliciting bad-acts evidence without providing notice and by vouching for the complainant’s credibility during closing arguments. The Court of Appeals concluded that the prosecutor committed plain error by eliciting testimony from a witness that defendant told her to say that her dog caused her injuries so that he could get out of jail and by vouching for the witness through telling the jury that she “told you the truth,” but that the errors did not interfere with defendant’s substantial rights, as there was significant corroborating evidence. Affirmed.
A22-0991 State v. Burkhart (Clay County)
In 2014, petitioner was convicted of multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. In 2022, petitioner moved to correct his sentence, arguing that he should not be required to be on conditional release for the remainder of his lifetime. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by ordering lifetime conditional release because petitioner had a prior sex-offense conviction when he was convicted of the sex offense for which lifetime conditional release was ordered. Affirmed.
A22-1690 Udoh v. State (Hennepin County)