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Minnesota Supreme Court

At Risk
Total Judgeships: 

7 (0 vacancies)

Political Makeup: 


St. Paul


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1st Amendment Rights Left Broad and Sweeping

Mon, 07/14/2014

State of Minnesota v. William Francis Melchert-Dinkel: William was convicted of two counts of aided suicide after he “advised and encouraged” people over the internet to commit suicide on the false condition that he, himself, would do it with them. William appealed the convictions on the ground that the statute explaining aided suicide violates his 1st Amendment rights of free speech. He claimed that there is a difference between physically assisting someone in committing suicide and simply encouraging or advising.


The Supreme Court of Minnesota ruled in favor of William stating that the words “encourage and advise” need to be struck from the statute because they are unconstitutional. As a result, the Court determined that a person cannot be convicted of assisting suicide through encouraging or advising. The case was remanded to the lower courts to determine the conviction status of William. This decision does protect individual's 1st Amendment rights in relation to how an individual can be tied to criminal activity.

Read the full decision here

Credentials and their Assigned Duties of Care

Wed, 04/09/2014

John Doe v. Paul Alan Brandon: Brandon was a church volunteer that was ordained by the Assemblies of God as a minister. After he sexually abused the plaintiff, the Assemblies of God continued to recommend Brandon’s ministerial credentials renewal. The plaintiff filed suit against Brandon and the Assemblies of God on the basis that the credentials Brandon holds leads him to be trusted by individuals who surround him because they put in place a duty of care. Thus, by renewing his credentials, the Assemblies create a risk of injury.


The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the decision of the lower courts by ruling in favor of the defendants. The Court stated that the Assemblies of God had no duty of care toward the plaintiff and that there is no special relationship connecting the parties. As a result, no foreseeable risk of injury could be found to any future plaintiff.

Read the full decision here

Pushing the Limit on Right to Due Process

Wed, 04/02/2014

State of Minnesota v. John Mark Hentges: Hentges was convicted of a felony failure to pay child support and was on warrant for arrest for not appearing at his trial for a probation violation. Hentges filed an appeal connected to his child support conviction but the State moved to dismiss it on the grounds that Hentges is a fugitive. Minnesota does not yet have a fugitive-dismissal rule, thus the lower courts dismissed the State’s attempts.


The Supreme Court of Minnesota reversed the ruling of the lower courts. The Court established a fugitive-dismissal rule, giving the courts of appeal the power to dismiss an appeal on the basis of the plaintiff being a felon. The Court added to this, however, that a felon has 10 days to surrender his appeal, and if not, the lower courts have the discretionary authority to dismiss it.

Read the full decision here