Court of Appeals 06.30.09

Yes, the Supreme Court decided another momentus case yesterday, but that’s been fairly well covered elsewhere.

The Court of Appeals issued several opinions of interest yesterday, all unpublished.  The Court reversed and remanded a CUP denial by Otter Tail County – not surprising, as the planning commission and county board deadlocked on the a developer’s revised proposal and ended up using their first set of drafted findings to justify denial.  The County catches a break in the Court’s remand for additional consideration instead of simple direction to issue a permit.  The Court upholds summary judgment for Minneapolis in the Trocaderos defamation claim against a City Council member – if you’re going to say negative things about a litigious property owner, make sure they are “substantially true.” 

I don’t know what to say about this St. Paul house-demolition case: the City is within its rights and followed procedure, and the Court recognized that in ruling in the City’s favor.   I don’t know what’s gone on behind the scenes in the last year.  It’s true that this woman’s legal claims probably lie against the schlemiels who sold her the duplex without telling her it was slated for “nuisance abatement,” and action was imminent.  Identifying all of those “known unknowns,” decisions like this still leave me cold – would it have killed anyone to have a new set of hearings once they found out that someone bought the property on the deadline and hadn’t ever been sent a notice?  Why do these hyper-technical cases get this far?  Maybe more to the point: why does Saint Paul still insisting on demolishing houses to the exclusion of all other options when: a)  nobody is clamoring to build on city lots;  and b) it’s increasingly being demonstrated that vacant lots are worse for the neighborhood than bad buildings?  This is increasingly looking like a bad policy blindly defended to avoid acknowledging any error.

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Court of Appeals 04.07.09

Two unpublished decisions today for discussion.  The first resolves a challenge to White Bear Lake’s decision to grant a variance and CUP amendment to an owner in the Marina Triangle.  The opinion does not break new ground in affirming the City’s approval of the applications, other than scoring another point for a highly deferential use of the Mohler three-part variance-approval analysis.   The other is a wrongful-termination case, in which much of the “termination” discussion went away in the appellant’s veteran’s-preference hearing (decided last year).  The remaining allegations of retaliation and defamation are turned away by the Court via summaries of existing law.  The Court does extend Carradine absolute immunity to the members of an ambulance service board – worth filing away for the next time you deal with a hot advisory-board issue (or member).