Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court holding that the adoption of a comprehensive plan is not a proper subject of a claim under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA), Minn. Stat. 116B.01-.13, holding that adoption of a comprehensive plan can be the subject of a MERA claim and that Appellants' allegations were sufficient to state a claim under MERA.This appeal centered a claim challenging the City of Minneapolis's 2040 Comprehensive Plan, alleging that the City's adoption of the Plan violated the state's environmental law. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that because comprehensive plans are specifically exempt from environmental review under Minn. R. 4410.4600, comprehensive plans are also exempt from judicial review under MERA. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) rule 4410.4600 does not exempt comprehensive plans from environmental review under MERA; and (2) the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, state a claim upon which relief can be granted. View "State by Smart Growth Minneapolis v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that groundwater is a Class 1 water under Minnesota law and therefore subject to secondary drinking water standards promulgated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).In 2018, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/State Disposal System permit to United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) governing U.S. Steel's Minntac Tailings Basin Area in Mountain Iron and setting a groundwater sulfate limit of 250 mg/L at the facility's boundary that U.S. Steel must meet by 2025. On appeal, U.S. Steel argued that the MPCA did not have the authority to impose the sulfate standard in the permit because the EPA's secondary drinking water standards apply only to bodies of water classified as Class 1 waters and that groundwater is not classified as Class 1. The court of appeals agreed and reversed the MPCA's decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) groundwater is a Class 1 water under Minnesota law; and (2) therefore, the MPCA correctly exercised its authority by applying the Class 1 secondary drinking water standards to the permit. View "In re Reissuance of NPDES/SDS Permit to United States Steel Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the tax court dismissing Relator's appeal of an tax order sent by the Department of Revenue by regular mail, holding that sending a tax order by regular mail provides constitutionally sufficient notice.The Department sent Relator a tax order assessing sales and use taxes covering a three-year period. The order was sent by regular mail, as authorized by Minn. Stat. 270C.33, subd. 8. Relator appealed, asserting that he only became aware of the tax liability when his bank account was levied on by the Commissioner. The tax court granted the Commissioner's motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Relator's notice was constitutionally sufficient. View "Olson v. Commissioner of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of mandamus to order the Dakota County Sheriff to issue Defendant a permit to carry a firearm, holding that Appellant satisfied all the requirements for a writ of mandamus.In 1998, Appellant was adjudicated delinquent for theft of a motor vehicle. In 2014, the Legislature removed that offense from the definition of "crime of violence" in Minn. Stat. 624.712, subd. 5. In 2017, Appellant applied to the Dakota County Sheriff's Office for a permit to carry a firearm. The Sheriff issued Appellant a permit. When the Sheriff learned of Appellant's 1998 juvenile adjudication, however, he voided Appellant's permit. Appellant petitioned for a writ of mandamus directing the sheriff to issue a permit. The district court denied the petition. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and issued a writ of prohibition, holding that the 2014 amendment applied to Defendant, and therefore, Defendant was entitled to a permit. View "Tapia v. Leslie" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the district court that non-homestead life estates should not be included in Marvin Schmalz's assets, holding that the term "individual" in Minn. Stat. 256B.056, subd. 4a applies only to the applicant for medical assistance.Esther Schmalz was living at a long-term-care facility when she submitted an application for medical assistance for long-term-care benefits. As part of the assessment of her husband Marvin's assets, Renville County Human Services (RCHS) included Marvin's portion of several non-homestead life estate interests that he and Esther owned. Esther appealed, arguing that the life estates should not be included in the total amount of assets that Marvin may retain. The human services judge concluded that RCHS properly denied Esther's application for medical assistance based on the inclusion of the life estate assets owned by Marvin. The Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Human Services adopted the human services judge's recommendation. The district court concluded that the non-homestead life estates should not be included in Marvin's assets, ruling that the term "individual" in section 256B.056, subd. 4a included Marvin. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that an "individual" in the statute refers to the medical assistance applicant and not a community spouse. View "In re Schmalz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources had the statutory authority to change the official name of a well-known Minneapolis lake from Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska because the forty-year limitation on lake name changes in Minn. Stat. 83A.05, subd. 1 applies only to county boards, not to the Commissioner.In 2018, the Commissioner invoked his authority under Minn. Stat. 83A.02(1), (3) to change the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska. Respondent argued that section 83A.05's provision prohibiting changing a body of water's name "which has existed for 40 years" applied to the Commissioner's statutory authority to change the lake's name. Respondent petitioned for a writ of quo warranto challenging the Commissioner's authority. The district court denied the petition, concluding that ongoing action was necessary to obtain the writ and that there was no such action here. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) a writ of quo warranto was an appropriate method to challenge the Commissioner's authority in this case; but (2) the Commissioner's authority under section 83A.02(1), (3) to change the name of a lake is not limited by section 83A.05, subd. 1. View "Save Lake Calhoun v. Strommen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) lacks the authority to require Otter Tail Power Company to amend an existing transmission cost-recovery rider (TCRR) approved under Minn. Stat. 216B.16, subd. 7b(b) to include the costs and revenues associated with two high-voltage interstate transmission lines, known as the Big Stone Access Transmission Lines (Big Stone Lines).In 2013, the MPUC approved Otter Tail's request for a TCRR for three transmission projects. In 2016, Otter Tail filed this general rate case with the MPUC seeking an annual-rate increase on its retail electricity sales to help offset company-wide investment costs and asserted that the costs and revenues associated with the Big Stone Lines should not be considered when setting the retail rates. The MPUC directed Otter Tail to amend the TCRR approved in 2013 to include the costs and revenues of the Big Stone Lines. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the MPUC does not have statutory authority to compel Otter Tail to include the Big Stone Lines in the TCRR. View "In re Application of Otter Tail Power Company for Authority to Increase Rates for Electric Service in Minnesota" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that James Bergman was not disqualified from receiving a permit to carry a firearm, holding that the sealing of judicial records under a court's inherent authority does not satisfy the federal requirement of expungement.In 2007, a Minnesota district court issued an expungement order under its inherent authority sealing the judicial records of Bergman's prior conviction of domestic assault. Thereafter, Bergman applied for a permit to carry a firearm. Bergman was granted the permit. In 2017, the Isanti County Sheriff denied Bergman's permit-to-carry application because of his prior domestic assault conviction. The district court denied Bergman's petition for a writ of mandamus. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the sealing of judicial records under a district court's inherent authority is not sufficient under federal law to expunge a previous conviction and thereby reinstate an applicant's right to carry a firearm in Minnesota. View "Bergman v. Caulk" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals denying the City of Saint Paul's motion to discharge Respondent's petition for a writ of certiorari on the basis that Respondent failed to serve the petition on the agency, as required by Minn. Stat. 14.64, within the thirty-day deadline set forth in Minn. Stat. 14.63, holding that the thirty-day deadline in section 14.63 does not apply to the service requirement imposed by section 14.64.Respondent sought relocation benefits under the Minnesota Uniform Relocation Act after its lease of a bowling alley was prematurely terminated due to construction. The City denied the request, and an administrative law judge denied Respondent's claim. Respondent filed a petition for a writ of certiorari and served the petition on the City within thirty days of receiving the decision. The City sought to discharge the writ and dismiss the appeal based on untimely service. The court of appeals denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act is invoked by compliance with the provisions of section 14.63, and the thirty-day deadline in section 14.63 does not apply to the service requirement imposed by section 14.64. View "In re Midway Pro Bowl Relocation Benefits Claim" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) reversing the judgment of the compensation judge denying a qualified rehabilitation consultant's reimbursement claim for rehabilitation services provided during a period in which an employee was no longer suffering from a work-related injury, holding that the WCCA erred by imposing liability on the employer for rehabilitation services provided after the date that the employee's injury had resolved.In reversing the compensation judge, the WCCA concluded that the employer must pay for rehabilitation services until the employer filed a rehabilitation request for assistance. The Supreme Court reversed the WCCA's decision and reinstated the decision of the compensation judge, holding that the WCCA erred in concluding that the employer was required to show good cause to terminate the employee's rehabilitation services provided after the date that the employee's injury resolved. View "Ewing v. Print Craft, Inc." on Justia Law