Trial getting closer for Interchange owner

Published 9:44 pm Friday, November 26, 2021

The owner of The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro said Wednesday in Freeborn County District Court she still has many legal objections surrounding her case that have not been answered ahead of her jury trial, which could begin as early as Dec. 6.

Lisa Hanson faces nine criminal misdemeanor charges tied to opening her restaurant for in-person dining in December and January in violation of state executive orders enacted by Gov. Tim Walz to limit the spread of COVID-19.

In court Wednesday, District Court Judge Joseph Bueltel reaffirmed Hanson’s plans to represent herself during the trial.

Hanson said she had several constitutional and statutory issues pertaining to the case that need to be addressed. Of those issues, she said she still objects to Bueltel presiding over her case and claimed he has denied her due process and alleged he may have personal financial interests at stake.

City Attorney Kelly Martinez said the issue had already been ruled on and referenced the decision by the former 3rd Judicial District chief judge and the Minnesota Court of Appeals, both denying Hanson’s request to remove the judge. The Minnesota Supreme Court denied reviewing the case.

The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro owner Lisa Hanson speaks to a crowd in January outside the Freeborn County courthouse as part of a protest. Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Hanson, since the charges were filed against her, has also questioned the jurisdiction for the charges. She has questioned the oaths of office for both Bueltel and Martinez along with Walz’s authority to create the executive order that limited restaurants earlier in the pandemic. She said the Minnesota Constitution prohibits the governor from “creating general law applicable to the people and private sector businesses and private organizations in this state.”

Hanson also argued a city attorney does not have authority to prosecute violations of executive orders in the name of the state government and claimed only organizations for emergency management and its officers shall execute and enforce rules as may be made by the governor.

She said what happened to her business was outside of the law and that the cases against her should be dismissed.

Martinez said Bueltel, who is now the 3rd Judicial District chief judge, has been determined to be a qualified judge and the court has jurisdiction to hear criminal cases in the community. She said all proper procedures have been followed in the case.

Martinez said she, herself, is a licensed attorney per the state and as city attorney per statute has the ability to prosecute petty misdemeanors and misdemeanors.

She also referenced a few court cases that have upheld Walz’s emergency orders and said that the courts and Legislature determined executive orders to have the full force and effect of the law.

She described Hanson’s arguments as “frivolous” and “lacking any legal basis.”

Bueltel ordered both sides to submit any final comments in writing by Dec. 2, and he would then issue an order on Hanson’s motions.

Bueltel also brought up a request by KAAL-TV to allow cameras in the courtroom, to which Hanson agreed and Martinez objected.

The judge asked Hanson to also consider whether she wanted her two cases to be tried together or separately.

The date of the trial will depend on if there are other cases involving felony or gross misdemeanor charges ahead of her with the same trial date that do not get settled before the date.