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The Supreme Court Chamber in the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul. (Staff photo: Kevin Featherly)

Supreme Court Digest: May 24, 2023



Election Law

City-Charter Amendments

The issue presented in this case was whether manifestly unconstitutional language in a proposed city charter amendment can be severed and the remaining language placed on the ballot. On August 8, 2022, the Bloomington City Council voted unanimously to reject an entire proposed charter amendment based on the conclusion that one of the four sections, section 4.08, was manifestly unconstitutional. The determination that section 4.08 was unconstitutional was not at issue. What was before the court was the petition to the District Court of appellants asking it, in part, to sever the portion deemed unconstitutional and order the city to submit the rest of the proposed charter amendment to the voters. The District Court, finding that the offending provision was integral to the purposes of the proposed charter amendment, denied the petition.

The Supreme Court held that the District Court did not err in concluding that an unconstitutional provision in a proposed charter amendment was not severable after signature collection but before presentation to voters, when severing the unconstitutional provision would deprive the amendment of its efficacy or strength, and it could not be ascertained whether signers of the petition would have wanted the remainder to proceed without the unconstitutional portion. Affirmed.

A22-1190 Kranz v. City of Bloomington (Hennepin County)



Election Law


The question presented in this case was whether an administrative rule governing the acceptance of absentee ballots conflicts with a statute on that same topic. Appellants brought this declaratory judgment action in the court of appeals, seeking a prospective declaration that Minn. R. 8210.2450, subp. 2 and 3, conflicts with Minn. Stat. § 203B.121, and that the challenged rule therefore is invalid. The court of appeals held that there was no conflict.

The Supreme Court held that (1) because Minn. R. 8210.2450, subp. 3, authorizes any ballot board member to review signatures in the event of an identification number mismatch and Minn. Stat. § 203B.121, subd. 2(b)(3), requires that election judges conduct that review, the rule conflicts with the statute, and thus the rule is invalid to the extent that it conflicts with the statute; and (2) because the other challenged parts of Rule 8210.2450, subp. 2 and 3 (2021), are not inconsistent with § 203B.121, these parts of the rule do not conflict with the statute. Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

A22-0111 Minn. Voters Alliance v. Office of Minn. Sec’y of State (Court of Appeals)





Exoneration Compensation


At issue in this case was whether appellant/cross-respondent was entitled to an order from the District Court declaring her eligible to submit a petition seeking compensation based on exoneration under Minnesota’s Incarceration and Exoneration Remedies Act. The central issue in this case was whether appellant had established, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, that she was “exonerated” within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 590.11. In order to meet that standard, appellant was required to prove that a court “vacated, reversed, or set aside a judgment of conviction on grounds consistent with innocence,” requiring a showing of “any evidence of factual innocence.” After a hearing, the District Court found appellant was eligible for compensation based on a finding of exoneration. The Court of Appeals agreed that Back was “exonerated,” but it also concluded that the eligibility-for-exoneration-compensation statute gives a District Court the discretion to determine whether those exonerated from their criminal convictions on grounds consistent with innocence are eligible for compensation, even if they meet the other statutory criteria, and that the District Court failed to exercise that discretion. The court of appeals reversed and remanded to the District Court to exercise that discretion. Review was granted.

The Supreme Court held that, when a petitioner’s claim of innocence is not restricted to or based on facts and turns on an issue of legal significance, the petitioner has not established “any evidence of factual innocence,” as required by § 590.11, subd. 1(c)(2), and therefore is not eligible for compensation based on exoneration. Reversed and remanded.

A20-1098 Back v. State (Court of Appeals)





Attorney Discipline


Bradley Hans Ratgen was disbarred.

A21-0871 In re Ratgen




Attorney Discipline


Rachel Lauren Toberman was reinstated to the practice of law, effective upon certain actions, and placed on probation for 3 years.

A22-0424 In re Toberman

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