Two cases of note while scanning today’s release of Court of Appeals Opinions (note: the scan of unpublished cases tends not to include cases captioned State v. (person) or vice versa, which tend to be criminal or implied consent appeals).
The court published a decision in Oliver v. State (no relation), a takings case arising from MnDOT’s closure of a 50-year old haul road’s direct access to Highway 10. The appealing owner owns the land upon which the gravel pit the haul road initially serviced (and apparently still serviced) is located, though the land does not actually abut Highway 10 and has access through a secondary street. The Olivers sought mandamus to compel condemnation proceedings for the closure of the access, but the district court granted summary judgment against them. On appeal, the Court puts most of its analytical energy into upholding the summary judgment against the Olivers’ main claim, ultimately refining prior caselaw to state specifically that “reasonably convenient and suitable point of access” refers to the ingress/egress from the property as a whole, not to any particular point of the owner’s choosing. However, the Court sent the case back to District Court for further development of a prescriptive-easement theory, which could still compel a taking if proven.
The court decided not to publish its decision in Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed Dist. v. Stengrim, presumably because the decision merely corrects the lower court’s error in application of the anti-SLAPP staute and does not necessarily break new legal ground. The case bears reading, though, for tips on dealing with nettlesome poeple. The watershed in this case seeks to enforce an agreement settling takings claims from a project, which among other things, stated that the parties “will endeavor to establish a positive and collaborative relationship.” The project for which the takings settlements were paid still required final approval. Mr. Stengrim, one of the parties to the settlement, continued to oppose the project, which from the outside really does not seem like a surprise. The watershed objected to Mr. Stengrim’s opposition tactics, which include allegedly attempting to interfere with funding, “using the Data Practices Act as a weapon,” and generally making life difficult for the Watershed. The case goes back to District Court to determine whether or not Stengrim’s acts are immune as “genuinely aimed .. at procuring favorable government action,” the correct anti-SLAPP standard. One takeaway: regardless of how frustrating the requests are, it is never a good idea for a government body to accuse a citizen of “using the Data Practices Act as a weapon.”