Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the tax court upholding the decision of the Commissioner of Revenue to include Pell grants in its calculation of Relators’ household income, holding that “nontaxable scholarship or fellowship grants” as used in Minn. Stat. 290A.03(3)(a)(2)(xiii) is plain and unambiguous and includes Pell grants. Household income is used to determine eligible for, and the amount of, a property tax income and includes “nontaxable scholarship or fellowship grants.” Relators argued that Pell grants are not scholarships or fellowships and therefore cannot be included in the income calculation made to determine the amount of the property tax refund. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Pell grants are nontaxable and therefore includable in calculating household income. View "Waters v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The tax court correctly dismissed the appeals brought by several cooperatives (the Cooperatives) challenging the valuation orders of the Commissioner of Revenue for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 tax years because the appeals were not filed within the sixty-day deadline for appeals from orders of the Commissioner. On appeal, the Cooperatives argued that the two appeal paths provided by Minn. Stat. 273.372(2) effectively establish the single deadline of April 30 of the year in which the tax becomes payable. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the Cooperatives’ view that a single filing deadline governs all appeals under section 273.372 fails because the plain language of that statute establishes two different filing deadlines, depending on the appeal path chosen; and (2) the Cooperatives’ notices of appeal were governed only by a sixty-day deadline, and therefore, the tax court properly dismissed the appeals as untimely. View "Lake Country Power Cooperative v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the forfeiture-of-office provision of the Minnesota Open Meeting Law, under which pubic officials who violate the Open Meeting Law may be removed from office, requires three separate, serial adjudications, other than three concurrently filed actions alleging separate, intentional Open Meeting Law violations. Under Minn. Stat. 13D.06(3), the forfeiture-of-office provision of the Open Meeting Law, Minn. Stat. 13D.01-.07, if public officials are found to have intentionally violated the statute “in three or more actions” they may be removed from office. Residents of the City of Victoria successfully proved that certain officials, collectively, committed thirty-eight Open Meeting Law provisions. These violations were found after a single trial resulting from consolidation of five separate lawsuits filed by the residents. The district court declined to remove the officials from office, concluding that three separate adjudications were required. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the forfeiture-of-office provision is not triggered unless three separate, sequential adjudications result in findings of three separate, unrelated Open Meeting Law violations. View "Funk v. O’Connor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) that the compensation judge failed fully to consider the extent to which each of Respondent’s employers sought to shift liability to the other employer and that it was error to deny Respondent’s motion for fees under Minn. Stat. 176.191(1). In 2015, Respondent filed a workers’ compensation claim for work-related aggravations to a low-back condition resulting from a work-related injury in 2009. Between the 2009 injury and later aggravations sustained in 2014 and 2015, Respondent’s employer and its insurer changed. When Respondent sought benefits for later aggravations sustained in 2014 and 2015, her 2009-employer and her new employer disputed whether the aggravations were a continuation of the 2009 injury or subsequent injuries for which the new employer and its insurer were liable. The compensation judge held the new employer liable for reasonable benefits for the later injuries but denied Respondent’s claim for fees under section 176.191(1). The WCCA reversed the denial of the motion for fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the efforts by each employer to shift responsibility to the other employer greatly increased the burden on Respondent’s counsel to provide effective representation, and therefore, Respondent was entitled to receive reasonable attorney fees under the statute. View "Hufnagel v. Deer River Health Care Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Minnesota Tax Court affirming the order of the Commissioner of Revenue that assessed Terrance Sargent’s income tax liability for tax years 2010-2014, holding that Sargent’s arguments on appeal were without merit. On appeal, Sargent argued that Minnesota’s income tax violates the Minnesota Constitution and the United States Constitution on several grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed the Minnesota Tax Court's decision after considering all of Sargent’s arguments, holding that they each were without merit. View "Sargent v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Commissioner of Revenue properly invoked her alternative-apportionment authority under Minn. Stat. 290.20(1) and applied an alternative apportionment method that fairly reflected the income of Associated Bank, N.A. and its affiliates (the Bank) allocable to Minnesota. The Bank, which included two LLC partnerships under Wisconsin law, objected to the Commissioner’s assessment of additional state corporate franchise tax liability for tax years 2007 and 2008. The Bank had calculated the tax owed based on the relevant statutes for apportioning income to Minnesota. The Commissioner found that applying the general apportionment formula to the LLCs did not “fairly reflect” the Bank’s “taxable net income allocable” to Minnesota. Accordingly, the Commissioner invoked her authority under section 290.20(1) and applied an alternative apportionment method to correct a distortion of reported income. After exhausting its administrative remedies, the Bank appealed to the tax court. Relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in HMN Financial, Inc. v. Commissioner of Revenue, 782 N.W.2d 558 (Minn. 2010), the tax court agreed and reversed the Commissioner’s order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) HMN Financial is not dispositive; and (2) the Legislature plainly gave the Commissioner the authority to use an alternative apportionment method under the circumstances presented here. View "Associated Bank, N.A. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the court of appeals and district court that Respondent’s due process rights were violated when he was read an inaccurate implied consent advisory after his arrest on suspicion of driving while impaired. Respondent refused to submit to either a urine or a blood test. Thereafter, the Commissioner of Public Safety revoked Respondent’s driver’s license for refusing to submit to a test. Relying on McDonnell v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 473 N.W.2d 848 (Minn. 1991), the district court rescinded the revocation after finding that the implied consent advisory violated Respondent’s due process rights because it incorrectly stated that refusal to submit to a urine test was a crime. The court of appeals affirmed on the basis that the threat of legally impossible criminal charges for refusal to submit to a urine test violated due process. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Respondent did not rely on the implied consent advisory to his detriment, and instead refused to submit to testing, no due process violation occurred under McDonnell. View "Johnson v. Commissioner of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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Appellant failed to establish that he was prejudiced by the implied consent advisory read to him after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired, and therefore, Appellant was not entitled to a rescission of his license revocation under McDonnell v. Commissioner of Public Safety, 473 N.W.2d 848 (Minn. 1991). Appellant submitted to a blood test, and the test results showed an alcohol concentration above the legal limit. Appellant’s driver’s license was subsequently revoked. The district court sustained the revocation on the basis that Appellant voluntarily consented to the blood test. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant was not entitled to a rescission of his license revocation under McDonnell because he did not even claim, much less establish, that he prejudicially relied on the implied consent advisory. View "Morehouse v. Commissioner of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Hennepin County properly refused to comply with part of Appellant’s government-data request under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (the Data Practices Act). The Supreme Court held (1) there was substantial evidence in the record to support the Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) conclusion that Hennepin County’s established procedures do not “insure” appropriate and prompt responses to requests for government data under the Data Practices Act; (2) there was not substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ’s conclusion that the County did not maintain records containing government data in an arrangement and condition making them easily accessible for convenient use in violation of the Data Practices Act; and (3) the Court did not have appellate jurisdiction to decide whether Appellant’s request was valid or whether the County may refuse to comply with a request that the County deems “unduly burdensome.” View "Webster v. Hennepin County" on Justia Law

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In this case regarding the determination of the tax court valuing Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation’s (MERC) natural gas pipeline distribution system for the years 2008 through 2012, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the tax court on remand, holding that the tax court followed the Court’s instructions on remand and properly applied the Court’s clarified standard to MERC’s claim of external obsolescence. On remand, the tax court found that MERC failed to demonstrate that external obsolescence affected the value of its property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the tax court correctly evaluated whether MERC’s evidence of external obsolescence was credible, reliable, and relevant; and (2) the tax court’s decision was justified by the evidence and in conformity with law. View "Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law