State of Minnesota v. Nadezhda Vytchesdavvvna Wood. MN petty misdemeanor complaint
In 2010, Nadezhda Vytchesdavvvna Wood was admitted to practice law in Minnesota. On February 23, 2012, she was in a hurry and was driving southbound on Dale Street in St. Paul. Officer Scott Braski of the St. Paul police department noticed that she was driving fast, not signalling lane changes, and closely following other cars. He got out his radar device and clocked her at 52 miles per hour in the 30 MPH zone. He pulled her over and issued a ticket for speeding and following another vehicle too closely.
Wood requested a formal complaint, and on March 19, the City Attorney's Office filed a formal complaint with the Ramsey County District Court. It mailed and faxed copies of the complaint to Wood's office. The complaint had been prepared and signed by a paralegal in the City Attorney's office, based upon information found in the file. There was no dispute that Wood had received these copies. Both parties also agreed that the paralegal had not been present at the time of the offense, and did not have any personal knowledge of the incident, other than what was in the file.
Wood argued that the court lacked personal jurisdiction because the complaint had never been formally served on her. She also argued that the complaint should be dismissed because the paralegal lacked personal knowledge of the facts of the case. Finally, she requested a subpoena for the paralegal. The Ramsey County District Court denied these motions. Trial was held in April 2013. Officer Braski was the only witness. The court found Wood guilty. Wood decided to continue the fight, and appealed the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals, in a published opinion authored by Judge Margaret H. Chutich, affirmed the conviction. The appellate court first noted that there is no requirement in the Rules of Criminal Procedure calling for formal service of the complaint. Since the complaint had been properly filed, and Wood was aware of the contents, there was no error.
The Court of Appeals also affirmed the lower court's ruling as to the complaint being signed by the paralegal without personal knowledge. It noted that the complaint specified the source of the paralegal's information, and that the defendant had not demonstrated any prejudice. However, the Court of Appeals did caution prosecutors to use a bit more specificity in the future: It noted that the preferred practice would be to add one sentence to the complaint specifying how the complainant received the information.
Finally, the Court of Appeals held that there was no error in not supoenaing the paralegal. Since the paralegal did, indeed, have no personal knowledge of the facts of the case, her testimony would not be relevant. The defendant had a full opportunity to cross examine the officer, and there was nothing in the record to indicate that Wood's rights had been violated.
For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions.
No. A13-1048 (Minn. Ct. App. April 7, 2014).
Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.
Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).
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