COURT OF APPEALS
The central issue in this case was whether a District Court possesses inherent authority to expunge judicially held eviction records. The legislature provides statutory-expungement authority, but appellant did not seek statutory expungement here. Rather, he asked the District Court to expunge his eviction record under its inherent authority.
The Court of Appeals held that District Courts have inherent authority to expunge judicially held eviction records. To determine whether expungement is appropriate, District Courts should apply the balancing test that the Minnesota Supreme Court established for expungement of judicially held criminal records, found in State v. C.A., 304 N.W.2d 353, 358 (Minn. 1981). But on the record here, it was not clear that the District Court considered its inherent authority or applied this test, as opposed to the separate—and different—statutory factors. Reversed and remanded.
Appellant, a non-profit citizens group, challenged the District Court’s dismissal of its appeal pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 103D.537(a) of a permit decision made by respondent-watershed district. Noting that there is no language in § 103D.537(a) that requires a written decision document to start the appeal period, the Court of Appeals concluded that, because appellant did not file its appeal until more than 30 days after the managers made their decision to issue the permit by a roll-call vote, appellant did not perfect its appeal within the statutory time period. Affirmed.
Harassment Restraining Orders
In this dispute over a harassment restraining order (HRO), appellant argued that the District Court (1) abused its discretion by denying her request to recuse itself for bias; (2) abused its discretion by granting respondent’s HRO against appellant; and (3) erred by determining that appellant’s harassing statements about respondent were not protected under the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant’s argument that this case lacked the repeated incidents required for the grant of an HRO was not presented to the District Court. Furthermore, the record did not require recusal, and appellant’s comments were not constitutionally protected. Affirmed.
Limited Liability Companies
In this shareholder dispute, appellant asserted that the District Court erred by dismissing as derivative her claims that respondents engaged in (1) unfairly prejudicial conduct; (2) breach of fiduciary duty; and (3) breach of a member-control agreement. By notice of related appeal, respondent and cross-appellant LLC challenged the District Court’s damages award on appellant’s claim that LLC failed to provide statutorily required notice of the sale of its assets and of appellant’s dissenter’s rights. The Court of Appeals concluded that appellant’s claims for unfairly prejudicial conduct, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of member-control agreement were direct claims not shared by the LLC, and were not derivative claims. However, the District Court did not err by declining to apply the business-judgment rule or in its calculation of damages. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Orders for Protection
On appeal from the District Court’s dismissal of a petition for an order for protection (OFP) on behalf of her sister, appellant argued that the District Court abused its discretion in dismissing the OFP, failed to make sufficient findings of fact to support its ruling, and should have granted a harassment restraining order (HRO) as an alternative to an OFP. The Court of Appeals concluded that the evidence supported the District Court findings that the sister may have been the aggressor, and may have provoked respondent, and thus appellant failed to demonstrate that domestic abuse occurred because sister was not fearful of imminent physical harm by respondent. Affirmed.
Civil Order Opinions
Appellant, who is indeterminately committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), challenged the dismissal of his action alleging respondents committed negligence and violated his constitutional rights by suspending him from MSOP’s vocational work program. The Court of Appeals concluded that respondents did not have a legal duty to allow appellant to participate in the vocational work program, and a civilly-committed person does not have a federal constitutional or statutory right to participate in the program. Affirmed.
Dissolution; Marital Property
In this challenge to the property division entered in the dissolution of a 25-year marriage, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court’s findings were inadequate to support the substantially unequal property division. Remanded.
Criminal Sexual Conduct
A jury found petitioner guilty of second-degree criminal sexual conduct after his young daughter reported that he had touched her sexually using a children’s toy. He argued on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, maintaining that his behavior did not constitute “touching” because he used an object rather than part of his body. Petitioner did not directly appeal his conviction, but he argued that his late-filed petition for postconviction relief should be considered on the merits in the interests of justice.
The Court of Appeals held that “sexual contact” in Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 11(a)(i), includes an actor touching a complainant’s intimate parts using a handheld object. When the Court expressed its holding in State v. Ohrtman, 466 N.W.2d 1, 4 (Minn. App. 1991), in defining touching as “contact primarily by hand or fingers or other organ used for feeling,” the Court did not intend to say that touching is always so limited. Affirmed.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Defendant challenged his convictions, following a jury trial, for seven offenses, including burglary, that were charged after police found defendant in a shed located on someone else’s property. Defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt of any of the offenses and that the warrant of commitment unlawfully reflected convictions for both second-degree burglary and the lesser-included offense of third-degree burglary. Noting that the charge of second-degree burglary does not require evidence of actual physical possession of a tool at the time of apprehension, the Court of Appeals concluded that the state presented sufficient evidence to establish both that defendant constructively possessed a saw when entering the shed, and that he constructively possessed the saw while he was in the shed, supporting his conviction for second-degree burglary. However, the warrant of commitment erroneously reflected a conviction for the lesser-included offense of third-degree burglary. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Appealing from the judgments of conviction for first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct, defendant argued the District Court erred by denying his request to introduce evidence that another male’s DNA was present on the victim’s comforter, and in imposing a lifetime rather than ten-year conditional release term. Noting that there was no additional evidence that the victim was sexually active and defendant did not advance an alternative perpetrator defense, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in determining the limited probative value of the evidence was substantially outweighed by the danger of confusion, delay, and unfair prejudice. However, the District Court erroneously imposed a lifetime conditional release period. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Defendant appealed from judgments of conviction for second-degree attempted murder, second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, and violating an order for protection (OFP). He argued that (1) the District Court erred by allowing a sexual-assault nurse examiner (SANE) to testify as to what one of the victims—who did not testify at trial—said to her because the testimony was hearsay and its admission violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause and (2) the District Court erred by sentencing him for both attempted murder and violating an OFP because the offenses arose out of a single behavioral incident. Noting that the evidence that defendant had the requisite intent for attempted murder was overwhelming even without the victim’s statements, the Court of Appeals concluded that (1) especially given the strength of evidence against defendant, any error by the District Court in allowing the SANE nurse to testify was harmless; and (2) the record supported the determination that the attempted murder and the OFP violation did not share the same criminal objective and thus were separate behavioral incidents. Affirmed.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Petitioner challenged the denial of his petition for postconviction relief following his conviction of attempted second-degree murder. He argued that the postconviction court abused its discretion by denying relief because (1) he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (2) newly discovered evidence that the victim recanted his trial testimony entitled him to a new trial. The Court of Appeals concluded that petitioner could not show actual prejudice from his trial attorney’s decision to not move to suppress evidence, and it would not review the trial attorney’s decision to not call witnesses because it was a matter of trial strategy. Furthermore, the Court deferred to the credibility determinations of the postconviction court regarding the recantation testimony. Affirmed.
Newly Discovered Evidence
Petitioner argued that the District Court erred by denying his petition for postconviction relief—based on newly discovered evidence in the form of an alleged victim recantation—without an evidentiary hearing. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because petitioner pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct, any purported recantation did not provide authority to support petitioner’s requested relief. Affirmed.
Defendant challenged his convictions for two fourth-degree-assault charges, arguing first that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct at trial by introducing an order detailing his civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person and second that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the jury’s finding of guilt on the second assault charge. The Court of Appeals concluded that, although the commitment order was clearly inadmissible, it did not significantly affect the verdict given the existence of video evidence depicting that assault. But the circumstantial evidence did not sustain the jury’s guilty verdict on the second assault charge. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
In this direct appeal from convictions for criminal sexual conduct, defendant argued, inter alia, that the prosecutor committed misconduct by misstating the presumption of innocence. Noting that the prosecutor stated, “as soon as the State starts putting on witnesses and offering evidence . . . [the] presumption of innocence goes away,” the Court of Appeals concluded that the prosecutor committed plain error prejudicing the defendant’s substantial rights and the error impacted the fairness, integrity, and public reputation of judicial proceedings, requiring a new trial. Reversed and remanded.
Right to Council
Defendant appealed her conviction for second-degree possession of methamphetamine following a jury trial. She argued that a new trial was required because her waiver of trial counsel did not comport with constitutional requirements, and alternatively, that her conviction must be reversed due to insufficient evidence. Noting that the District Court’s exchange with defendant satisfied the requirements of Minn. R. Crim. P. 5.04, subd. 1, and was sufficient to ensure that defendant understood the perils of representing herself, the Court of Appeals concluded that defendant Lopez knowingly and intelligently waived her constitutional right to the assistance of counsel. Furthermore, the evidence established her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Affirmed.
Right to Speedy Trial
Reason for Delay
Defendant challenged his conviction of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, arguing that he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Noting that, although there was an early delay attributed to the state’s processing of DNA evidence, defendant himself sought multiple continuances, and that defendant did not assert that the delay impaired his defense in any way, and the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial delay did not violate defendant’s right to a speedy trial. Affirmed.
In this appeal from the final judgments of conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm, first-degree aggravated robbery, kidnapping, and first-degree burglary, defendant argued, inter alia, that the District Court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant for historical cell-phone information because the warrant failed to establish probable cause. Noting that the facts in the search-warrant application established that defendant’s vehicle was in the parking lot of a credit union less than half an hour prior to the robbery, that defendant matched the description of the robbery suspect, and that defendant was on probation for the same type of offenses, the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err by denying defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search warrant for cell-site location information. Affirmed.
Pro se petitioner challenged the District Court’s denial of his motion for sentence correction, arguing that the District Court erred by treating his motion as a request for postconviction relief. The Court of Appeals concluded that, although the District Court erred by construing the motion as one for postconviction relief, it correctly determined that petitioner was not entitled to relief on the merits. Affirmed.
Right to be Present
Defendant challenged his sentence for second-degree assault because the District Court imposed it in his absence and because the sentence imposed was at the top of the presumptive guidelines range. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court’s error in imposing a sentence in defendant’s absence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and imposition of the presumptive sentence was within its discretion. Affirmed.
Defendant challenged his conviction for ineligible person in possession of ammunition, arguing that (1) the District Court erred by denying his motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search of his apartment, (2) the evidence of constructive possession of the ammunition was insufficient, and (3) a delay violated his speedy-trial rights. The Court of Appeals concluded that, although law enforcement communicated with the landlord about defendant prior to their inspection of defendant’s apartment and that the landlord told law enforcement that he intended to inspect defendant’s apartment, the landlord’s search of the apartment was a routine, private inspection to which the exclusionary remedy under the Fourth Amendment did not apply. Furthermore, the sole reasonable inference from the evidence was that defendant constructively possessed the ammunition, and trial delays did not prejudice defendant. Affirmed.