This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






Lincoln J. Brown, petitioner,





Dean Mooney,

Director of Minnesota Sex Offender Program,




Filed June 7, 2005


Randall, Judge


Carlton County District Court

File No. CV-04-1014



Lincoln J. Brown, 1111 Highway 73, Moose Lake, Minnesota 55767 (appellant pro se).


Mike Hatch, Minnesota Attorney General, Angela M. Helseth Assistant Attorney General, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1800, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55101-2134 (for respondent).




            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Minge, Judge, and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




            Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion in denying him a jury trial in his commitment action as a sex offender.  We affirm. 


Appellant, Lincoln J. Brown, is 30 years old.  Appellant repeatedly sexually assaulted his 11-year old sister from February 1992 through March 1993.  He was 16 years old when the abuse began.  He forced her to perform oral sex, insert a miniature baseball bat into his anus and participate in various other sexual acts.  During the same timeframe, appellant molested two of his female cousins.  He placed his hands on their buttocks over their clothing and would have proceeded further had adults not interrupted him.  Also, he admitted to sexual contact with his uncle’s dog.  In addition, he had several run-ins with the law, including alleged assaults against his parents and a mall security guard.  He was also caught stealing a car while possessing a shotgun. 

Appellant was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct for abusing his sister.  Appellant pleaded guilty.  On July 21, 1993, the juvenile court adjudicated appellant delinquent and ordered residential sex offender treatment.  While a resident of the treatment facility, appellant tried to get his roommate to perform oral sex on him, and, also, wrote a sexually-explicit threatening letter to a female resident.  On August 4, 1994, Crow Wing County filed a petition to commit appellant as a psychopathic personality and later amended the petition to include language to commit appellant as a sexually dangerous person (SDP).  At the hearing, appellant stipulated to commitment as a sexually dangerous person.  On May 30, 1995, the district court committed appellant to the Minnesota Security Hospital at St. Peter, Minnesota as a SDP. 

            On July 12, 2004, appellant filed the underlying state habeas petition in Carlton County District Court.  Appellant asserted he was entitled to, but did not receive, a jury trial.  He claims his right under both the state and federal constitutions.  On October 27, 2004, the district court rejected appellant’s habeas petition and issued Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and an Order for Judgment.  The court entered judgment on the same day.  This appeal followed.


            Appellant challenges the constitutionality of the Minnesota law, which denies a jury trial in matters involving civil commitment.[1]  With respect to constitutional challenges, the standard of review is established:

            Whether a statute is constitutional is a question of law subject to de novo review.  When considering the constitutionality of a statute, we are mindful that laws come to this court with a presumption of validity and may be declared unconstitutional only with great caution and if absolutely necessary.  A person challenging the constitutionality of a statute has the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the statute violates a claimed right. 


In re Kindschy, 634 N.W.2d 723, 729 (Minn. App. 2001) (citations omitted), review denied (Minn. Dec. 19, 2001).

            Appellant first argues that he was entitled to a jury trial in this civil commitment proceeding under the Minnesota Constitution.[2]  We disagree.  A state constitutional right to a jury trial exists whenever the right existed in the territory of Minnesota at the time the constitution was adopted.  Olson v. Synergistic Tech. Bus. Sys., Inc., 628 N.W.2d 142, 148 (Minn. 2001).  A party is not entitled to a jury trial under the state constitution if “that same type of action did not entitle a party to a jury trial at the time the Minnesota Constitution was adopted.”  Id. at 149. 

            We understand appellant’s argument and recognize the growing body of authority tending toward jury trials in sex offender civil commitment proceedings.[3]  However, appellant’s claim in Minnesota that he is entitled to a jury trial is foreclosed by decisions from the Minnesota Supreme Court.  Our state constitution does not guarantee a right to a jury trial in a civil commitment proceeding.  See, e.g., State ex rel. Anderson v. U.S. Veterans Hosp., 268 Minn. 213, 221 n.16, 128 N.W.2d 710, 716 n.16 (1964); State ex rel. Pearson v. Probate Ct., 205 Minn. 545, 556-57, 287 N.W. 297, 302 (1939); Vinstad v. State Bd. of Cont., 169 Minn. 264, 266, 211 N.W. 12, 13 (1926).  This court has followed Pearson in Joelson v. O’Keefe, 594 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. July 28, 1999). 

            This court, in several recent unpublished decisions, has refused to address the issue of whether Professor Erlinder is correct, concluding that “[i]t is the province of the supreme court to make new law on this issue, if a change in the existing law is required.”  In re Larsen, A03-1410, 2004 WL 1049844, at *5 (Minn. App. May 11, 2004), review denied (Minn. July 20, 2004); McDeid v. Mooney, A04-36, 2004 WL 728133, at *3 (Minn. App. Apr. 6, 2004), review denied (Minn. May 26, 2004).  In light of the recent influx of Minnesota cases involving this issue, and the number of other states which grant a jury trial in similar instances, perhaps it is time for the Minnesota Supreme Court to readdress the issue.  We, in this opinion, do not.  

            Appellant next argues that he is entitled to a jury trial under the United States Constitution.  We disagree.  Recently, in Poole v. Goodno, 335 F.3d 705, 710-11 (8th Cir. 2003), the Eighth Circuit held that federal due process does not require a jury trial before a person is committed as a Sexually Dangerous Person (SDP) under Minnesota law. 

            The Seventh Amendment[4] right to a jury trial does not apply to state court proceedings.  See City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 719, 119 S. Ct. 1624, 1643 (1999) (stating that it is settled law that the Seventh Amendment does not apply to suits brought in state court); see also United States v. Sahhar, 917 F.2d 1197, 1206-07 (9th Cir. 1990) (rejecting claim that due process provides right to jury trial in civil commitment proceedings); Genzel v. Halvorson, 248 Minn. 527, 531, 80 N.W.2d 854, 857-58 (1957) (stating that Seventh Amendment does not apply to the states). 

            We have reiterated in a number of recent published and unpublished opinions that there is no federal constitutional right to a jury trial in civil commitment proceedings in the State of Minnesota.  See, e.g., Joelson, 594 N.W.2d at 910; In re Larsen, 2004 WL 1049844, at *6; McDeid, 2004 WL 728133, at *2; Brown v. Anderson, No. A03-744, 2003 WL 22890425, at *2 (Minn. App. Dec. 9, 2003), review denied (Minn. Feb 17, 2004).


[1] This argument has been addressed in a number of recent decisions by this court. 

[2] Appellant’s argument mirrors a recent law review article that challenges the supreme court’s holdings that the state constitution does not guarantee a right to a jury trial in civil commitment proceedings.  See C. Peter Erlinder, Essay:  Of Rights Lost and Rights Found:  The Coming Restoration of the Right to a Jury Trial in Minnesota Civil Commitment Proceedings, 29 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 1269 (2003). 

[3]  In his law review article, Professor Erlinder points to the following jurisdictions which require a jury trial in sex offender civil commitment proceedings: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-3706 (2001); Cal. Wel. & Inst. Code § 6602.5 (2001); Colo. Rev. Stat. § 27-10-109 (2001); D.C. Code Ann. § 21- 545 (2001); Fla. Stat. § 394.916 (2002); 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3-802 (2002); Iowa Code §229A.7 (2002); Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-29a03 (2001); Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 202.140, repealed by Act of 1968, ch. 90, § 63 (as interpreted by Denton v. Commonwealth, 383 S.W.2d 681, 682 (Ky. 1964)); Mo. Rev. Stat. § 632.495 (2001); N.Y. Mental Hyg. Law §9.35 (McKinney 2002); S.C. Code. Ann. § 44-48-90 (2001); Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 841.061 (2002); Va. Code Ann. § 37.1-70.9 (2002); Wash. Rev. Code § 71.05.310 (2002); Wis. Stat. § 51.20 (2001); Commonwealth v. Williams, 733 A.2d 593 (Pa. 1999); Commonwealth v. Page, 159 N.E.2d 82 (Mass. 1959); Johnson v. Nelms, 100 S.W.2d 648 (Tenn. 1937); Shumway v. Shumway, 2 Vt. 339 (1829).

[4]  U.S. Const. amend. VII: “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court in the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”