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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Minnesota at the U.S. Supreme Court

Yesterday was a busy day for Minnesota at the U.S. Supreme Court. The court granted certiorari in one Minnesota case, denied it in another, and ruled that an employment discrimination case against former Sen. Mark Dayton can go forward.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari in Danforth v. State of Minnesota on the issue of whether state courts must follow the rule set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Teague v. Lane to determine whether the U.S. Supreme Court decisions apply retroactively to state-court criminal cases -- or whether the state court may apply a broader state standard. The Minnesota Supreme Court had held itself bound by Teague; Ben Butler of the state public defender’s office brought the cert petition.

However, the court denied a cert petition brought by David Herr on behalf of an inmate in Shakopee who was seeking resentencing under Blakely. In that case, State v. Losh, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the defendant was not entitled to retroactive application of Blakely because the case was not on “direct review” when Blakely was decided.

Finally, the court decided that former senator Mark Dayton can be sued for employment discrimination because it is without appellate jurisdiction over trial court decisions that he is not immune under the Speech and Debate Clause. The high court declined to treat the appeal as a petition for writ of certiorari because there were no grounds for cert. review.

The court has significantly curtailed its exercise of mandatory appellate jurisdiction, said Herr, (who is an appellate expert but not involved in this case) so it’s not surprising that it reached this result.

“The Court here took a very plausible view of the statute that gave it fairly extraordinary appellate jurisdiction by viewing that jurisdiction as available only when the lower courts have decided a constitutional question. Here, there was apparently agreement, or tacit agreement, that the lower courts' decisions were not clearly founded on the Constitution,” said Herr.

But in a concluding sentence that Herr called “ominous,” the court wrote, “We express no opinion on the merits, nor do we decide whether this action became moot upon the expiration of Senator Dayton’s term in office.” So the case isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination.

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