Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court held that the unanimity requirement in Minn. Stat. 638.02m, subd. 1 does violate either Minn. Const. art. V, 7 or Minn. Const. art. III, 1.Defendant was convicted of first-degree manslaughter. When Defendant later filed an application for a pardon absolute, the members of the Board of Pardons denied it. Attorney General Keith Ellison and Governor Tim Walz voted to grant the application, and Chief Justice Lorie Gildea voted to deny it. Defendant's application was ultimately denied. Defendant then filed an action for declaratory and injunctive relief. The district court held (1) the unanimity requirement violates article V, section 7, which gives the governor sufficient and separate power to grant pardons; and (2) the unanimity requirement violates article III, section 1 because the state Constitution explicitly provides for the chief justice's participation in the pardon process. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding that the statutory provisions did not violate article V, section 7 or article III, section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution. View "Shefa v. Ellison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of illegal possession of ammunition, holding that the district court erred by denying Defendant's motion to suppress.During a traffic stop, law enforcement officers questioned Defendant, who was a passenger in the stopped vehicle, regarding the conditions of his pretrial release. After Defendant was arrested for violating a condition of his pretrial release, a pat-down search revealed ammunition in Defendant's pocket. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer’s questions about the conditions of his pretrial release improperly expanded the scope of the traffic stop. The district court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) violation of a condition of pretrial release does not constitute criminal activity allowing a law enforcement officer to expand the scope of a traffic stop; and (2) the officer's questioning of Defendant about the conditions of his pretrial release exceeded the permissible scope of a traffic stop. View "State v. Sargent" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals holding that a law enforcement officer lawfully expanded the scope of the underlying traffic stop in this case, holding the court of appeals did not err.Defendant was convicted of first-degree driving while impaired and possessing an opened bottle or receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence because the officer impermissibly expanded the scope of the underlying traffic stop by asking Defendant if he had consumed any beer from the open case in his vehicle. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circumstances known to the officer and the legitimate inferences to be drawn from them raised a reasonable articulable suspicion of other criminal activity sufficient to expand the scope of the traffic stop. View "State v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court summarily denying Appellant's claims for postconviction relief, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder as a principal and as an aider and abettor and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. Defendant later moved for postconviction relief, alleging that the State committed Brady violations during his criminal trial and other grounds for relief. The district court denied Defendant's petition for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims for postconviction relief. View "Thoresen v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the district court granting Defendant's motion to suppress his statements to his probation officer and a polygraph administrator about his criminal conduct, holding that suppression of the statements was not required.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant made the statements at issue without invoking his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, and the penalty exception to the general rule that a person cannot assert the privilege against self-incrimination without first invoking the privilege did not apply; (2) the portion of Minn. Stat. 634.03 requiring exclusion of confessions "made under the influence of fear produced by threats" excludes confessions made under circumstances where the inducement to speak was such that there was a fair risk that the confession was false; and (3) exclusion of Defendant's statements was not required in this case. View "State v. McCoy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Tax Court upholding that constitutionality of the Minnesota sales or use tax for aircraft purchases, holding that Minn. Const. art. X, 5 bars only the application of duplicative personal property taxes to aircraft.Article X, section 5 allows the Legislature to tax aircraft using the airspace over Minnesota "in lieu of all other taxes." Relators purchased aircraft outside of the state, paid the use tax, paid a separate annual tax imposed on aircraft, and then requested a refund of the use tax. When the refunds were denied, Relators sued the Department of Revenue, arguing that the use tax is unconstitutional under Minn. Const. art. X, 5. The Tax Court granted summary judgment for the Commissioner of Revenue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the phrase "[a]ny such tax on aircraft shall be in lieu of all other taxes," as used in article X, section 5, prohibits only the application of duplicative personal property taxes on aircraft; and (2) the tax imposed on aircraft by Minn. Stat. 297A.82 does not violate article X, section 5. View "Sheridan v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court overruling Appellant's objection to the State's peremptory strike of a prospective juror, holding that Appellant did not meet his burden of proving that the State's race-neutral reason for the strike was a pretext for racial discrimination.Appellant was convicted of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. On appeal, Defendant challenged the State's peremptory strike of the only nonwhite person from the jury venire. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the prosecutor's explanations for striking the venire-person were race-neutral reasons for the peremptory strike. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellant's Batson challenge to the State's peremptory strike of the juror. View "State v. Lufkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirmed the orders of the district court dismissing Appellant's constitutional claims asserting discrimination in the tax assessments of its properties, holding that Appellants' claims were time-barred.Appellant, Walmart, Inc., owned real property in two counties (the Counties). In this action, Walmart claimed that for tax purposes the Counties overvalued the properties or unfairly assessed the properties' value as compared with other similarly situated properties. Appellant asserted that the Counties' international discrimination in their tax assessments violated the Equal Protection Clause and Appellant's right to uniformity in taxation. The district court dismissed the claims as time-barred, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant's claims were subject to the limitations period of Minn. Stat. Ann. Chapter 278 and were time-barred. View "Walmart Inc. v. Winona County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder for the deaths of an adult and an infant, holding that the district court erred in failing to suppress Defendant's statement to the police, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's statement to police should have been suppressed because Defendant unambiguously invoked his constitutional right to remain silent during the police interrogation, but the failure to do so by the district court was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the evidence was sufficient to prove that Defendant had an intent to kill when he fired the gunshot that killed the infant; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing consecutive sentences. View "State v. McInnis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's pretrial motion to strike down Minn. Stat. 624.714, subd. 1a, the permit-to-carry statute, and convicting Defendant of violating the statute, holding that the permit-to-carry statute does not violate the Second Amendment.Minn. Stat. 624.714, subd. 1a requires individuals to obtain a permit to carry a handgun in public. Defendant was charged with carrying a pistol in a public place without a permit in violation of the statute. Defendant filed a pretrial motion to strike down the permit-to-carry statute, arguing that the requirement that an individual obtain a permit to carry a firearm violates the Second Amendment. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the permit-to-carry statute withstands strict scrutiny and does not violate the Second Amendment. View "State v. Hatch" on Justia Law