The County of Hennepin by Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, Respondent,
Colfax Lane, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Defendant, Sandra Hart, Appellant.
County District Court File No. 27-CV-HC-16-5725
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Deborah L.
Russell, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Jonathan L. R. Drewes, Caitlin Guilford, Drewes Law, PLLC,
Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Johnson, Presiding Judge; Peterson,
Judge; and Ross, Judge.
housing-calendar program, also known as the housing court,
lacks authority under Minnesota Statutes section 484.013,
subdivision 1(a) (2016), to hear and determine any matter
unrelated to "residential rental housing."
County informed Sandra Hart by letter that drug and
prostitution activity in or around her Minneapolis home
constituted a public nuisance. The county later petitioned
the Hennepin County Housing Court to permanently enjoin the
offending conduct and prohibit Hart or anyone else from using
the property. Thirty minutes into the scheduled hearing on
the petition, the housing court found Hart to be in default
for failing to appear, and, after she arrived an hour later,
the housing court said she was too late to participate in the
then-ongoing proceeding. Hart unsuccessfully sought
postjudgment relief, and she appeals. Because the statute
instituting the housing court specifies that it is
established to render "determination[s] of matters
related to residential rental housing" and Hart's
home is not residential rental housing, the housing court
lacked subject-matter authority to hear and determine the
county's nuisance petition, and we reverse.
attorney representing Hennepin County sent Sandra Hart a
notice of nuisance informing her that neighbors reported drug
and prostitution activity in or near her Minneapolis home.
The letter said that Hart's property constituted a
"public nuisance" and warned that she had 30 days
to abate. The county later filed a petition in the Hennepin
County Housing Court, alleging that Hart failed to end the
offending conduct and asking the housing court to order,
among other things, that Hart must "evict all
tenants" and that neither she nor anyone else could
occupy the property for one year. The housing court scheduled
telephoned the housing court about 20 minutes before the
hearing was set to begin, saying that she was going to be
late. She called again 30 minutes later and said that she was
still waiting for a taxi. Thirty minutes after the scheduled
commencement, the housing court began the hearing, announced
that Hart was in default for failing to appear, and invited
the county to present witnesses. About an hour into the
hearing as the county attorney was examining the county's
ninth witness, Hart arrived. She tried to cross-examine the
witness, but the housing-court referee informed her that she
was too late and that the court already found her in default.
The referee recommended the entry of a default judgment and
that Hart must vacate her home for one year, and a district
court judge co-signed the recommendation as an order. Hart
moved the housing court to vacate the judgment under
Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 (2016), and the
housing-court referee recommended denying the motion in a
document also co-signed by the district court judge as an
order. Hart appeals.
housing court have the statutory authority to hear and
determine the county's petition to enjoin an owner from
occupying her home, which ...