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Final appeal in Mann v. Minneapolis City Council (Vikings Stadium referendum)

Stuart Smalley StadiumMinneapolis activist Doug Mann has been waging a valiant battle to make the Minneapolis City Council hold a referendum on the question of constructing a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. His legal challenges have successfully delayed, if not negated, the building of the stadium.  You can read about his legal fight here

A few minutes ago, he sent us the following statement:

What are the legal issues?

As an appeal of the District Court decision Doug Mann v. Minneapolis City Council, I asked the Court of Appeals to grant a writ of mandamus directed at the District Court.

There are two requirements for issuing a writ of mandamus directed at a district court:

1) There is an abuse of discretion by the judge. A decision based on an erroneous interpretation and application of the law would be an abuse of discretion.

2) There is no other adequate remedy at law.


This issue was not addressed by the Court of Appeals.  I am asking the Supreme Court to rule on the following issues:

Did the District Court judge follow canons of legal interpretation set forth in Minn. Statutes, Chapter 645 sections 16, 17, and 20?

To paraphrase: The objective of all interpretation of law is to ascertain and effectuate legislative intent; it cannot be presume that the legislature would have enacted legislation with a provision determined to be invalid by the courts and provisions inseparably connected to it; and it cannot be presumed that the legislature intends to enact a law that is, any respect, unconstitutional.

If the Stadium law as written did not preempt any provision of the Minneapolis City Charter, was it correct for the judge to determine that the legislature intended to “preempt” a provision of the Minneapolis City Charter?

Can the legislature unilaterally and unconditionally withdraw powers from a home rule charter by enactment of special legislation?

Can local sales tax revenues be used to pay for state issued bonds?

By determining that local option sales taxes authorized by the Stadium Law are “city taxes” which produce revenue that belongs to the City of Minneapolis, the judge called into question the constitutionality of what remained of the law that he did not determine to be invalid. The judge cited an 1864 decision that interpreted language to be found in today’s Minnesota Constitution in section 1, Article X to mean that taxes imposed exclusively on a local jurisdiction cannot be used to raise money for purposes that do not peculiarly benefit that local jurisdiction, or to pay for debt that is not incurred by that local jurisdiction.


The Mandamus statute allows a writ of mandamus to be issued to a lower court only if there is no other adequate remedy at law. The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that a writ of mandamus cannot be used as a substitute for an ordinary appeal (writ of error).

Under the circumstances, I ran the risk of being required to post a multi-million dollar surety bond and of having the lawsuit dismissed with prejudice if I couldn’t place a multi-million dollar bet on the outcome of the process, had I chosen to go with an ordinary appeal.

Although the US and state Supreme Courts have maintained that mere delay and expense of a legal remedy does not make it inadequate, the 10 million dollar surety bond requested by the City Attorney was no “mere” expense. Moreover, the grounds for requesting a surety bond would not have existed without a pending sale of stadium construction bonds by another interested party, the State of Minnesota. That bond sale was very long overdue, and as if by coincidence, first scheduled to take place exactly 60 days after the District Court judgement was entered. It is the State of Minnesota, and not the City of Minneapolis that stands to lose if I win the process. The State of Minnesota has always had standing to become a party to the lawsuit because of its interest in the outcome. That’s why I have served them all the paper work that I’ve filed in this case.

Why would the Supreme Court want to review the dismissal of my lawsuit by the Court of Appeals? Quoting from my petition for Supreme Court review:

Reasons for review

1) This case raises important questions, including the limits of the legislature’s constitutional authority to withdraw powers vested in a home rule charter.

2) A decision by the Supreme Court will help to clarify the law and harmonize actions of the legislature and public officials with the Minnesota Constitution.

3) The questions raised in this case are likely to recur unless resolved by the Supreme Court.

4) This is a case of first impression that calls for the application of a new policy.

The new policy would allow a writ of mandamus to substitute for an ordinary appeal under circumstances where an ordinary appeal would not be an “adequate” remedy. The Texas Supreme Court articulated such a policy its decision in In re Prudential Insurance Company of America, 148 SW3d 124 (Texas 2004). I quoted relevant passages from that Texas Supreme Court decision in the petition for MN Supreme Court review of In re Doug Mann, Doug Mann v. Minneapolis City Council case no. A14-0026

-Doug Mann

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