Court of Appeals 8.18.09

Two unpublished opinions on our topics in today’s releases.  Both have useful discussions of their core legal issues, even if they don’t break new ground.  A firefighter suing the city of Owatonna survives a motion summary judgment on vicarious official immunity; in the majority’s opinion, the underlying facts weren’t sufficiently established to allow a clear decision on whether a fire chief’s act was ministerial or discretionary.  The dissent argues that immunity applies unless the city has adopted a policy explicitly limiting its official’s discretion.  Both majority and dissent do a good job of checking off precedent – this opinion functions as an encyclopedia entry, good for filing away to save research time in the future.

The other item is a court review of a civil-service discharge hearing, an increasing rarity as government bodies increasingly move away from civil service style rules and procedures.  On this type of appeal, the court is charged with identifying the substantial evidence supporting the administrative decision.  As a result, the opinion serves as a good roadmap for anyone facing a performance-based termination or discipline hearing, pro or con.  While the employee must have put on decent evidence on her own behalf, this gives you an idea of the facts that float to the top of a discipline/discharge case.

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