Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that a distress flare launcher might qualify as a firearm under Minn. Stat. 624.713, subd. 1 if used or intended to be used as a weapon, holding that a distress flare launcher is not a firearm under the statute.Defendant was charged with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person for possessing a distress flare launcher. The district court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that there was insufficient probable cause to support the charge. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a distress flare launcher could be a "firearm" under section 624.713, subd. 1 if the fact-finder were to conclude that Defendant used or intended to use it as a weapon. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the term "firearm" is limited to weapons, meaning instruments designed for attack or defense; and (2) accordingly, the distress flare launcher in this case was not a weapon and could not be a firearm under the statute. View "State v. Glover" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed the petition filed by Petitioners asking the Supreme Court to temporarily restrain the State Canvassing Board from certifying the results of the November 3, 2020 general election held in Minnesota and to require a full recount of the federal and state offices on the ballot, holding that the petition must be dismissed.Petitioners asserted three claims in their petition. Counts I and II rested on challenges to consent decrees entered by the district court that suspended the witness requirement for absentee and mail ballots for the 2020 general election. Count III challenged the processes used in some counties for conducting the post-election review. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition, holding (1) Counts I and II were barred by laches; and (2) because Petitioners did not file proof that the petition was served in compliance with Minn. Stat. 204B.44, Count III must be dismissed. View "Kistner v. Simon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to correct his sentence of life imprisonment for first-degree premeditated murder, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to correct his sentence.The district court convicted Defendant of first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of release after thirty years. The Supreme Court affirmed. Defendant later filed his motion to correct his sentence, arguing that his conviction violated Minn. Stat. 611.02, under which when "there exists a reasonable doubt as to which of two or more degrees the defendant is guilty" a defendant shall be convicted only of the lowest degree offense. The district court denied the motion without a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Defendant's conviction did not violate section 611.02. View "Steward v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment to Respondent on Appellant's adverse possession claim, holding that a claim of adverse possession to a portion of a separately assessed parcel requires the adverse claimant to pay taxes for at least five consecutive years unless a statutory exemption under Minn. Stat. 541.02 paragraph 3 applies.Appellant asserted adverse possession over a portion of two separately assessed parcels owned by Respondent. The district court ruled against Appellant's claim for both parcels. The court of appeals affirmed the court's grant of summary judgment to Defendant on Appellant's adverse possession claim for the west parcel but reversed the grant of summary judgment to Respondent as to the east parcel on the grounds that the percentage claimed did not trigger the tax payment requirement in section 541.02. Appellant appealed the court of appeals' decision that his adverse possession claim to fifty-two percent of the west parcel failed, arguing that the statute requires tax payment only for a claim to an entire separately assessed parcel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain language of section 541.02 requires tax payment on a portion of a parcel. View "St. Paul Park Refining Co. LLC v. Domeier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's request for counsel and his pro se petition for post conviction relief, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.Appellant was found guilty of first-degree intentional felony murder. Appellant later filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief and requested appointment of counsel, alleging error in the jury instructions, abuse of prosecutorial discretion, and ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the district court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's postconviction claim that the judge who presided over his trial committed reversible error by not instructing the jury on the lesser-included offense of second-degree unintentional felony murder; (2) the district court did not err in rejecting Appellant's claim of abuse of prosecutorial discretion; and (3) Appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel failed under the first Strickland prong. View "Eason v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court temporarily enjoining the Secretary of State from taking steps to enforce or require compliance with voter-assistance and ballot-collection limits, holding that the district court correctly found that a likelihood of success on the merits was shown on the claim that the voter-assistance limit in Minn. Stat. 204C.15, subd. 1, for ballot marking, was preempted but otherwise erred.At issue was the limits in Minnesota Statutes on the number of voters that an individual may assist in marking a ballot and the number of completed absentee ballots the an individual may collect and deliver. In a complaint, two Democratic committees brought a number of challenges to the limits. The district court concluded that the Democratic committees were likely to succeed on the merits of the claims and had demonstrated that a temporary injunction was warranted. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision on the preemption claim as to the limit on the number of voters that may be assisted in marking a ballot but otherwise reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion in finding that a likelihood of success on the merits was shown on Plaintiffs' remaining claims. View "DSCC v. Simon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction of giving a fictitious name to a peace officer in violation of Minn. Stat. 609.506, subd. 1, holding that a fictitious name includes a partial legal name for purposes of section 609.506, subd. 1.On appeal, Defendant argued that the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient to prove that he gave the peace officer a fictitious name because he gave police a name that was part of his full name. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that "the statute criminalizes giving an investigating police officer any name or name variant that would tend to mislead the officer away from one's true identity in official records." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the plain meaning of "fictitious name" in section 609.506, subd. 1 means names that are false and includes names that use only parts of a full legal name; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support Defendant's conviction. View "State v. Thompson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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 affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the jury's award of damages to Tamara Laechelt in this eminent domain action, holding that evidence of construction-related interference that arises after the date of taking is admissible to establish the value of the remainder property.A panel of commissions determined the amount of compensation Laechelt should be awarded for the County's acquisition of temporary and permanent easements from Laechelt. The County appealed the award and moved to exclude evidence of construction-related interference because the interference occurred after the date of the taking. The district court denied the motion and subsequently denied the County's motion for a new trial. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by denying the County a new trial. View "County of Hennepin v. Laechelt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's petition for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing, holding that, even if the facts alleged in the petition were proven by a preponderance of the evidence, Defendant was conclusively entitled to no relief.Defendant was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of release. In his postconviction petition, Defendant alleged that both his trial counsel and his appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance. The district court summarily denied Defendant's claims of ineffective assistance, concluding that Defendant failed to allege facts that, if proven by a fair preponderance of the evidence, would entitle him to postconviction relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was conclusively entitled to no relief, and therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by summarily denying Defendant's claims. View "Chavez-Nelson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law