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david stras

StrasWebPr*sident Donald Trump has nominated Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras for a seat on a federal appeals court. This is part of his first step in packing the federal courts with right-wingers. There is nothing to stop him from doing so, and it will remain one of the worst aspects of the Trump legacy probably for decades.
 

Corporate news outlets have been going out of their way to try to portray Stras, a former clerk for SCOTUS Associate Justice “Corrupt Clarence” Thomas, as really just a pretty harmless moderate. That seems to be based mostly on comments from retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page to the effect that they agreed more often than one might think. I’m presenting a couple of reality checks, that should be clicked on and perused in their entirety if you want to actually be legitimately informed about this.
 

Mr. Justice Carpet Bagger (The Cucking Stool)

 
With Stras’ Appointment the Minnesota Supreme Court Lurches Right (MN Progressive Project, and note the oracular foresight displayed in the final paragraph.)

 
Yeah, Governor Mark Dayton will get to pick Stras’s successor, and that’s some consolation for those of us who live here in Minnesota. But rulings from federal appeals court justices potentially affect all Americans – decidedly for the worse, if those rulings are made by the likes of Stras.
 

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StrasWebTrump’s list has drawn hoots and derision, but also a measure of concern. Associate Justice David Stras was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2010 by Minnesota’s Worst Governor Ever, Tim Pawlenty.

 

Ironically, much of Stras’ scholarship prior to joining the bench offered ideas to limit the power of the United States Supreme Court. Stras proposed creating a “golden parachute” for justices to encourage them to retire. He also proposed requiring justices to “ride circuit,” a practice abandoned more than a century ago whereby Supreme Court justices would spend much of their time traveling to various parts of the country to hear ordinary cases rather than focusing exclusively on the difficult and contentious cases that reach the Court in Washington, DC.
(Think Progress)

Stras has not been able to do a lot of mischief while on Minnesota’s top court, which has thankfully moved a little leftward since Gov. Mark Dayton has been making the picks. It’s tough to find much about Stras’s actual record; at least, it was for me, despite trying numerous search parameters and looking all the way to page 8 or 9 in some cases. A recent article notes that he would likely not be good for LGBT rights. This older one points out his limited qualifications, and the likelihood that he was wholly a political pick by Tea-Paw. And an article from this very blog does have specifics about his record prior to his elevation. (Like the Pawlenty article linked above, it’s from before we changed platforms, and I apologize for the crunched formatting. The reasoning from fact therein nonetheless remains entirely valid.)
 

Speaking of Trump, check this out, too. Hilarious.
 
Comment below fold.
 
…READ MORE

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Who Is Election Energy, And Why It Matters

by TwoPuttTommy on November 28, 2012 · 2 comments

Last week, we discussed Verified Twitter Accounts – specifically, that Minnesota Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson had one.  On Monday, we looked at Chief Justice Lorie Gildea’s expenses on her Campaign Finance Reports (“CFB”) for her campaign website – well, specifically, the lack thereof.  

Today, we’re going to look at website expenses for the campaign of Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson – and several other prominent Republicans.  We’ll start with one such prominent Republican, the soon-to-be former GOP Senate Caucus Leader Dave Senjem – a screenshot from Senjem’s CFB report is above.  On Sen Senjem’s CFB report, you’ll note the expenses of $250 and $12 on 31 July and 17 September 2012 for website related fees to “Election Energy” to a street address in Apple Valley.  That street address matches the address listed which was found during a Domain Search for www.ElectionEnergy.com; link to screenshot here.

Justice G. Barry Anderson also used Election Energy as a vendor; on his latest CFB report it’s his largest vendor – accounting for almost 30% of his campaign’s expenditures (almost $19k).  Except, on Anderson’s CFB report, there’s a different address for Election Energy; it’s listed as a P. O. Box.

Hmmm…. Time to check property tax records for the address reported by Senjem’s campaign!  And what do we find?  It seems the address used by Senjem, and NOT used by Anderson, is owned by: “Grant B. and Louise H. Anderson”.

Sources have confirmed the address used by Senjem, but NOT by Anderson, is indeed Justice G. Barry Anderson’s home.

Of course, it’s possible that “Election Energy” – using a business address of State Supreme Court Justice Grant B. Anderson, who goes by “G. Barry Anderson” – isn’t owned by Justice Anderson; it’s possible it’s owned by his son, Grant Anderson, who is acting as Justice Anderson’s digital director.

Better check with the Secretary of State’s Office, and find out who is the registered owner(s) of “Election Energy”!  

Hmmmm…..  An on-line search, via the Secretary of State’s office reveals: “No results match the criteria entered.”.  Hmmm, maybe I’m doing something wrong?  No, said the nice person at the Secretary of State’s Business Services Section – they couldn’t find any record of registration either.

Does a website company that’s physically located in Minnesota, has customers in Minnesota, and is soliciting for more business need to be registered?  Well, according to the nice person at the Secretary of State’s office, who did NOT know the nature of the people involved – a sitting State Supreme Court justice, for one – said while not an attorney, it appears that under statutes 303 and 331 – the short answer is yes.

To recap: what we appear to have is an unlicensed business being run out of the home of a Supreme Court Justice that has said Justice as a customer.  Additional customers include current GOP Senator Senjem, former GOP State Rep Keith Downey, soon-to-be GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, and fellow Supreme Court Justice David Stras, whose campaign sent $5,000 to Election Energy’s P.O. Box.

Here’s what I wrote in the post about Gildea:

If there is anyone who’s campaign finance reports should be squeaky clean and transparent, it’s a judge running for re-election – especially the judge running to retain the seat for Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.

Consider that said about Justice G. Barry too.  There’s some ‘splainin’ to do….

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Last week, we discussed Verified Twitter Accounts – specifically, that Minnesota Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson had one, and we were looking at his re-election Campaign Finance Reports.  And we are; stay tuned for what’s turned up!  While doing so, we also took a look at two of the other candidates for re-election to the Supreme Court – Justice David Stras, who also had a Twitter Verified Account, and Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, who didn’t.  Something stuck out while going through Chief Justice Gildea’s reports – by omission.  

Everybody these days has a campaign web site; candidates for State Supreme Court being no different. And as anybody that’s ever set one up knows, they cost dough.  Pick a domain name, register it, build the website, host it… Well, picking the name is free.  Registration and building a website and hosting it?  Not so much.  The image, above, is from 2007, back when Pawlenty Appointee Justice Gildea first ran for re-election; the domain for the website is www.JusticeLorieGildea.com.    

A review of Justice Gildea’s Campaign Finance Reports for 2007 does not show an expenditure nor an in-kind donation for any of that. Nor does her 2008 Report. Clearly it’s there; registered 09 Feb 07.

Fast forward to February 2012, and the image to the right.  It’s the “Who Is” Domain Registration (www.ChiefJusticeLorieGildea.com) information for the Pawlenty appointed Gildea, who is now running for re-election for Chief State Supreme Court Justice.  

On Chief Justice’s campaign website, the disclaimer on the bottom reads “Prepared and paid for by Minnesotans for Chief Justice Gildea, P.O. Box…”

Yet again, a review of Chief Justice Gildea’s Campaign Finance Reports for 2012 does not show an expenditure nor an in-kind donation for the new campaign website domain.  Nor for building a new website, nor for hosting a website.

If there is anyone who’s campaign finance reports should be squeaky clean and transparent, it’s a judge running for re-election – especially the judge running to retain the seat for Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.

An email and phone call for an explanation to the Campaign Treasurer for both campaigns have not been returned.

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About Those Twitter “Verified Accounts”

by TwoPuttTommy on November 24, 2012 · 2 comments

Regular Readers will probably remember yours truly, the ol’ TwoPutter, had media credentials for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.  And we had a LOT of fun covering Charlotte 2012, beginning with finding fake lemons in the tree outside of failed Veep Candidate Paul Ryan’s WI Office.  While in the media area of Charlotte 2012, I happened across the Twitter Office of, well, Twitter – picture to the right.

So I stopped to talk to the nice people at Twitter, and asked ’em how yours truly, the ol’ TwoPutter, could get one o’ those elusive, but coveted, blue checkmarks for my Twitter account – signifying a Twitter “Verified Account”.  There’s a screenshot, below the fold, on what these check marks look like.  

Here’s what Twitter says about ’em:

What kinds of accounts get verified?

Twitter proactively verifies accounts on an ongoing basis to make it easier for users to find who they’re looking for. We concentrate on highly sought users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, advertising, business, and other key interest areas. We verify business partners from time to time and individuals at high risk of impersonation.

We do not accept requests for verification from the general public. If you fall under one of the above categories and your Twitter account meets our qualifications for verification, we may reach out to you in the future.(emphasis added)

I figured it’d be a slam dunker; there I was with the media credentials, and I already had worked with Twitter to get a few nasty fake twitter accounts (stuff)-canned that had been causing problems for yours truly, the ol’ TwoPutter.

So when I asked the nice person at Twitter, in the media area, at Charlotte 2012 about it, the nice person handed me off to another nice person working for Twitter – in sales.

Yes, “sales.”  And here’s what I was told:
For most folks, it takes dough to get one of those elusive, but coveted, blue check marks that indicate a “verified account;” a blue check mark like you see to the right on a screen shot of Minnesota Supreme Court G. Barry Anderson’s Twitter account.

How much dough, I asked.  $15,000.00 was the answer; but not necessarily all at once – it could be spread out over a couple of months. I explained I had read the Twitter “Verified Account” policy; it seemed I qualified for a freebee for two reasons (as outlined above).  Reply? Nope.  Cash.  Well, it was also explained that if someone who was already spending dough on Twitter ads and promoted tweets, etc already had one, Twitter often gave one o’ those elusive but coveted check marks to a friend/associate/whatever of one of said spenders as a comp.

I checked around with a few media types in the media areas while in Charlotte, and heard in essence: yep, that’s how the “Verified Account” game was played.  Did a little digging on google too.  No biggie; if that’s the way the game was played and since I didn’t have – let alone plan on spending – $15 biggies, no blue check mark for yours truly, the ol’ TwoPutter.

Fast forward to October 8th, 2012, and a story by Strib Reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger: “Promoted Justice On Twitter”.  Rachel writes about the blue “verified account” check mark that’s shown on the screen shot you see just a little bit above on the Twitter Account of G. Barry Anderson, running for re-election for his seat on the bench on Minnesota’s Supreme Court.

Here’s Rachel’s lede:

Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson may be making history, 140-characters at a time.

The justice, first appointed to the high court by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2004, is using promoted tweets to advance his campaign to stay on the court. He is among the first prominent Minnesota politicians to use promotion, Twitter’s version of online advertising, in his campaign. (emphasis added)

Rachel also noted that Justice Anderson’s Digital Director is the Justice’s son, Grant Anderson.  Noted now is that Justice Anderson’s campaign web page is credited, on the web page, to Election Energy.

Didn’t think much of Rachel’s story, at the time.  And pretty much forgot about it, until I saw and retweeted the tweet to the right.  OK, a lot has been said by a lot of people about Michael Brodkorb – including by me – for, ahem, “a variety of reasons.”

One thing a lot of people that have said a lot about Michael Brodkorb also say is that when it comes down to political skills and instincts, it pays to pay attention to Michael Brodkorb.  So if Michael thought “the campaign spending & contribution report” of Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson was “interesting” – well, yours truly, the ol’ TwoPutter, pays attention.

And said report is indeed interesting – and we’ll get to what yours truly, the ol’ TwoPutter has found.

So – stay tuned!!!  

     

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As pointed out by Big E, the rise of David Stras from relative legal obscurity to Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court might make for just the perfect metaphor for Governor Pawlenty’s exit. Stras has scant legal experience in the state, but his conservative bona fides are deep, making him perhaps the most dangerous appointment to the Court in decades.
 
Now, I’m not going to attack Stras for a lack of courtroom experience, because, it’s kind of hard to judge just how much experience he has. As a member of the appellate practice group at Faegre & Benson, we know that Stras was involved in at least two cases as an attorney-of-record, and given the way Biglaw works, it’s a safe assumption that Stras consulted on a number of other briefs as well.
 
Knowing how Faegre operates, it’s also a safe assumption that Stras was brought on to the group to provide an insider’s take on appellate advocacy, and that alone provides some insight into the kind of justice he will be. There’s a universe of difference between trial attorneys (my tribe) and appellate attorneys (Stras’ tribe). Trial attorneys are the folks dealing with the day-to-day realities of the law. Appellate attorneys, on the other hands, are much more like academics, which makes sense since Stras is also a member of the University of Minnesota Law School faculty. Appellate attorneys view the law in the vacuum of theory, divorced from the realities and effects of any given decision.
 
Aside from the unallotment case, it would appear that Stras was directly involved with only two cases–both of which demonstrate a cold preference for business interests over public good and individual rights. In the first, Norfolk & Western Railway Co., v. Ayers, 123 S.CT. 1210 (2002), Stras argued against allowing railroad workers to recover emotional distress damages stemming from their fear of developing cancer once they learned that, throughout the course of their employment, the railroad had negligently exposed them to asbestos. Stras’ clients had sought to limit the amount of damages connected to their negligence as simply correlated to actual costs of treatment. Thankfully the Supreme Court disagreed.
 
But perhaps even more telling is an unpublished 2009 decision where Stras and his client, GAMC, argue against a TARP requirement that prevented mortgage lenders from refusing homeowner requests for loan modifications to prevent foreclosure. Williams v. Geithner, 2009 WL 3757380 (D.Minn. 2009).
 
The cumulative conclusion from the three cases we have is that, given the opportunity, Stras will align with corporate interests over government interests at every given opportunity.  Stras is Minnesota’s own Sam Alito, a hard-right conservative that couches a corporatist ideology in the rhetoric of “limited government” pushed by his Federalist Society cohorts.
 
Make no mistake about it, his appointment sends the Minnesota Supreme Court lurching toward the right. While Chief Justice Magnuson was by no means a leftist, as a member of the Minnesota bar I’m hard pressed to categorize him as an ideologue. He was, by all accounts, a fair jurist who became increasingly disillusioned with the polarizing political climate created by Pawlenty and his national ambitions.
 
Now, under the guidance of another ideologue in Chief Justice Gildea, Minnesota finds itself with a Court hostile to any interests other than big business. In the wake of the Citizens United decision and the ongoing efforts by the legislature to remedy that decision, this should make any reasonable Minnesotan, regardless of political affiliation, stop and take pause.
 
Stras is young and he is strident. Minnesota is left with the devil’s bargain of hoping his ambition places him in line for a federal appellate appointment sometime in the future under the next Republican presidential administration rather than a lifetime crafting Minnesota law.
 

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Governors always leave a legacy.  Occasional MN Governor Tim Pawlenty may be leaving more of an odor or maybe a uncouth hand gesture than a legacy.  The appointment of U of M Professor David Stras exemplifies this legacy.

First, Stras has nearly zero court experience.  This guy is going to be sitting on the MN Supreme Court and the most court experience he’s had is a helper on a federal case.  As an attorney I know explained to me, he assisted on a federal case and did background work.  Furthermore, he knows little about Minnesota legal precedent as he’s only been a professor at the U of M for five years.  And seriously, how much experience has he gained as a prof at the U?

Second, a member of the Federalist Society is going to be sitting on our Supreme Court for the next 40 or so years.  Stras is 35.  In other words, we have someone who believes in judicial activism ala Scalia who wants to make sure that the federal government doesn’t encroach on state’s rights and the rest of the libertarian mumbo-jumbo that passes for philosophical thought on the right these days.  Here’s a detailed expose from The Nation on the Federalist Society for some heavy weekend reading.

The two things Stras has done is clerk for Clarence Thomas and write a friend of the court brief supporting Pawlenty’s unallotment.  I’ve been unable to find anything else … the guy is literally a blank slate or maybe an empty suit depending upon how you look at it.

But what does this say about the guy who appointed him?  Let’s review.
Not only has a bridge fallen on Pawlenty’s watch, he’s overseen the gutting of our educational system.  His tax cuts and borrow-n-spend fiscal policy combined with accounting shifts have left our state with a mind-bogglingly large structural deficit.  Rather than negotiate a solution to the mess he created, he tried unallotment as a means to shrink our state government to the size where he could drown it in the bathtub.  And now these two judicial appointments.  

What I think Pawlenty is doing is giving MN the finger as he exits stage right or maybe the equivalent of passing some seriously noxious gas and locking us all in the room as he leaves.  

His mindset has to be pretty sour at this point.  His buddy and fellow conservative Eric Magnuson wouldn’t side with him on unallotment.  I’m betting this really pissed him off.  If he’d have been able to get away with unallotment, he could have played up what a wise and tough executive he is on the presidential campaign trail.  I can imagine Pawlenty ranting about Magnuson stabbing him in the back on unallotment.  So as a parting shot we get two conservative-to-their-core Justices who Pawlenty has the utmost confidence will be activists from the bench.

Fortunately, our Supreme Court doesn’t have the same power as the SCOTUS, but nonetheless, given the opportunity I’m sure Stras will try to impose his far right ideals on our state as much as he can.

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Occasional Minnesota Governor and full-time 2012 Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty had to take care of some state business today.  He appointed two people to the MN Supreme Court including a new Chief Justice.  He appointed Lorie Gildea as Chief Justice and added David Stras to the court as well.

Gildea is a far right, ideological conservative just like Pawlenty.  In fact, her husband, Andy, is on the Republican House Caucus staff.  U of M professor Stras is also a far right idealogue.  He wrote a friend of the court brief in support of Pawlenty’s unallotment.

As an aside, it’s going to be interesting to have Gildea going to the legislature to beg for money for our state’s judicial system.  Especially ironic considering ideological conservatives believe that government is the problem and are looking at ways to slash the size of it.  Gildea gets the job because the outgoing Chief Justice, Eric Magnuson, was probably sick of how underfunded our state’s system is.  At least, Magnuson complained about it incessantly and I surmise it really made him frustrated that he couldn’t do anything about it.

Possible Pawlenty unallotment gambit?

These two appointments mean that the justices are now for unallotment by a 4-3 margin.  Pawlenty’s unallotment was ruled unconstitutional by a 4-3 margin.  Is there a chance that Pawlenty will unallot?  Is he banking that a new court will side with him?

Relax.  The chances are slim, the precedent has been set.

Our legal system is based upon the concept of legal precedent.  The law of the land is that unallotment, Pawlenty-style, is illegal.  The attorney’s I’ve spoken to think that there is a very slim chance Pawlenty would try to unallot and push the court to rule in his favor.  

The question is … would Pawlenty have the gall to try a gambit such as this?

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