Court of Appeals Roundup

2 Jul

The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued two unpublished opinions that included some speech related tidbits today.

In In the Matter of the Professional Engineering License Application of Michael P. Opela, Sr., Michael Opela appealed an administrative decision denying his application for state licensure as a professional engineer. As part of his appeal, he requested that the court “seal his application and the record of the administrative proceedings to protect his privacy and reputation.” The Court of Appeals declined to seal the record in the case, citing portions of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, and stating that “Case records on appeal are presumed public, absent several enumerated exceptions that are not applicable here.” Score one for public access to court records, albeit at the expense of Mr. Opela.

In  Timothy Jirak v. Philip Eichten, et al., an intra-family estate dispute, the court upheld, among other things, the plaintiff’s claim of defamation per se. The district court awarded the plaintiff $120,000. The bright side, for adamant free speech supporters, would be that the court declined to award  attorneys’ fees or punitive damages. The Court of Appeals cited Minn. Stat. 549.20, which states that punitive damages are permitted “only upon clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the defendant show deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others.”

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