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Nationwide Housing Corporation v. Skoglund

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

February 5, 2018

Nationwide Housing Corporation, Respondent,
v.
Wayne Skoglund, Appellant, John Doe, et al., Defendants.

         St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-CV-17-1064

          Brent W. Malvick, Hanft Fride, P.A., Duluth, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Gwen Updegraff, Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Hooten, Presiding Judge; Smith, Tracy M., Judge; and Smith, John, Judge. [*]

         SYLLABUS

         The exclusionary rule, as adopted by the United States Supreme Court and as codified in Minnesota Statutes section 626.21 (2016), is inapplicable to civil eviction actions brought by private landlords under Minnesota Statutes sections 504B.281-.371 (2016).

          OPINION

          HOOTEN, JUDGE

         Appellant challenges the district court's eviction judgment, arguing that the evidence forming the basis of the eviction should have been suppressed under the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule and Minn. Stat. § 626.21 (2016) because police unlawfully entered and searched his apartment. He also contends that, even if the evidence seized during the search is not suppressed, the district court erred by determining that respondent met its burden of proving that he violated his lease agreement. Because neither the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule nor Minn. Stat. § 626.21 applies in a civil eviction proceeding brought by a private landlord, and because the district court's finding of a lease violation is not clearly erroneous, we affirm.

         FACTS

         On March 23, 2017, property management staff for respondent Nationwide Housing Corporation, a private business corporation, notified appellant Wayne Skoglund of its intent to replace the locks in his apartment in order to make the locks uniform throughout the building. A few days later, the property manager and a locksmith arrived at Skoglund's apartment to change the locks. The property manager knocked on the door but received no response. Skoglund was present in the apartment but decided to ignore their request for entry. Due to previous troubles with Skoglund, the property manager contacted the police and requested a "civil standby" while the locks were changed.

         Officer Andrew Leibel of the Proctor Police Department and two Hermantown police officers arrived at the apartment and knocked on the door to announce their presence. The locksmith attempted but failed to unlock the door with a master key. Officer Leibel believed that some obstruction prevented the door from unlocking, leading him to also believe that Skoglund was in the apartment. The locksmith proceeded to open the door by using a drill bit. Skoglund heard the drilling and looked through the door's peephole. When he saw the property manager, locksmith, and officers at the door, he hid in a closet.

         Once the locksmith opened the door, Officer Leibel peered into the apartment and did not see Skoglund or any other occupants. Due to their knowledge of police having past incidents with Skoglund, the officers conducted a welfare check and a protective sweep of the apartment. During the sweep, the officers found Skoglund in the closet. They then observed a bong and containers holding a green leafy substance in Skoglund's bedroom. Police believed that the substance in the containers was marijuana. Although the officers seized the suspected marijuana, they destroyed it without testing its contents and did not charge Skoglund with a crime.

         After obtaining a police report relating to the incident, Nationwide's property management staff notified Skoglund on April 19, 2017 that it was terminating his lease and that he had ten days to vacate the apartment. Nationwide later filed an eviction action under Minn. Stat. § 504B.285, subd. 1(a)(2) (2016), alleging that Skoglund violated the lease by possessing illegal drugs on the property. Skoglund filed a motion to suppress, arguing that any evidence of the search was inadmissible because the police officers illegally entered and searched his apartment.

         The district court held a hearing on June 5, 2017. The district court denied Skoglund's motion, determining that his reliance on criminal statutes and the exclusionary rule was misplaced in a civil eviction proceeding and that it was reasonable for the officers to conduct a protective sweep of the apartment. It also concluded that Nationwide satisfied its burden in proving that Skoglund violated the lease and therefore was entitled to possession of the property. The court administrator entered a judgment of eviction. This appeal followed.

         ISSUES

         I. Did the district court err in the eviction action against Skoglund by not applying the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule or Minn. Stat. § 626.21 to suppress evidence arising from the police ...


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