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Owner of Duluth head shop appeals public nuisance ruling

Jim Carlson, owner of Last Place on Earth, has appealed a 6th Judicial District's finding that deemed the Duluth head shop a public nuisance and closed it down for a year.

Last Place on Earth
Last Place on Earth in downtown Duluth (File / News Tribune)

Jim Carlson, owner of Last Place on Earth, has appealed a 6th Judicial District's finding that deemed the Duluth head shop a public nuisance and closed it down for a year.

"If you don't file an appeal within 60 days of the judgment, you forfeit your right to do it," explained Carlson's attorney, Randall Tigue.

Yet Duluth City Attorney Gunnar Johnson said he was a bit surprised by Carlson's recent appeal of Judge Shaun Floerke's -- the 6th Judicial District's chief judge -- Nov. 6, 2013, nuisance ruling.

"Even if they can overturn Mr. Carlson's criminal conviction and fight off the forfeiture of his property, it seems unlikely to me that he could get back in and reopen his business in there by October," Johnson said.

"I'm not sure they could pull this appeal off quickly enough that there could be any real benefit to Mr. Carlson," he said.

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Tigue said he has asked the appeal of the nuisance ruling be placed on hold until the appeal of Carlson's criminal conviction and the forfeiture of his property, including his storefront at 120 E. Superior St., can be heard.

He contends it makes sense to appeal Floerke's ruling, even if it takes more than a year to obtain a decision from the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Tigue cited a 2009 Minnesota Supreme Court decision out of West St. Paul, which found that even when the yearlong ban on a "nuisance property" engaging in business expires, it does not necessarily render the case moot if the scenario is capable of repetition.

"Assuming Mr. Carlson gets the building back, then certainly that nuisance suit is capable of repetition. So I think the expiration of a year won't make any difference, and I was forced to file the appeal or forever give up the right to appeal," Tigue said.

"We filed the appeal, and I contemporaneously with it filed a motion asking the court of appeals to stay briefing and arguing on the case until we resolve the issues in the 8th Circuit with respect to the criminal convictions and the forfeiture," he said.

Tigue maintains that if the appeal proves successful, but stretches into 2015, his client stands to be in a better position for the effort nevertheless. "It still could be beneficial because it's possible they could do it to him again," he said.

Johnson remains skeptical Carlson will accomplish anything with the appeal.

"We will respond, of course, but it continues to take away from city resources that could be devoted to other issues," he said.

Related Topics: CRIME
Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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