Governor Mark Dayton continued his excellent work in appointing judges yesterday with his appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court of current Court of Appeals Judge Wilhemina Wright.
Justice Wright is the first African-American woman to serve on the Court, and she is going to be a judicial all-star.
She will serve for about two more years with Justice Alan Page before he hits the mandatory retirement age of 70. Page became the first African-American to ever serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court when he was elected to an open seat in 1990.
So how good is Justice Wright going to be?
She is a stickler for Due Process and a fair application of the “strict construction” doctrine so that if the Constitution, or a statute, or an administrative law defines a person’s right in battles against the powerful, she will write opinions or dissents in favor of strict enforcement of the individual’s guaranteed right to Due Process.
Now, the facts of each case may differ, so sometimes a “clear right” or procedural protection may not apply to a given individual or set of litigants, but where the law is clear, Justice Wright will be a firm, strong, and reliable voice for Due Process.
Justice Wright brings the strogest judicial background to the Supreme Court as a former trial judge in Ramsey County and as a solid writer and appellate judge on the Court of Appeals. Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea is the only other former trial judge on the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Then-Judge Wright was called “a rising star of the Minnesota bench” when Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea named her to head the five-judge panel that drew up the new Congressional and legislative district maps after the 2010 census led to intransigent Republican insistence on a stupid map that Governor Dayton had to veto. because the GOP map was so crooked and biased. The GOP solons failed to negotiate with the Governor for almost a year after the veto, so Justice Wright’s panel had to go to work.
Justice Wright’s commitment to Due Process was clear from the exhaustive approach she brought to the map-drawing procedure.
Her five-judge panel held hearings in every part of the state, giving every side ample opportunity to be heard. Lawyers and ordinary citizens representing every viewpoint had a fair chance to be heard.
Justice Wright’s committee studied all the maps submitted by every side, and then they released a “lawyer-proof” map on February 21, 2012.
I say it was a “lawyer-proof” map because not one lawyer from any side challenged Justice Wright’s map even though the taxpayers would have almost cerainly covered their reasonable expenses, as they covered those expenses for lawyers who appeared in front of the five-judge panel.
So the map must be good if not one of the state’s 9,000 lawyers bothered to challenge Justice Wright’s map even though the lawyers would have had a guaranteed pay-day.
Oh, the Republicans griped that the map split a legislative district between the two buildings in a senior-living community in Edina, and that you have to cross a bridge over the Mississippi River to get from Champlin to another part of a legislative district in Anoka County. But that was not enough to get the GOP’s junkyard dogs off their haunches even though the Minnesota taxpayers would have given them a t-bone steak to do so.
Is the map drawn by Justice Wright’s panel biased towards either the Republicans or the Democrats? I would say no, but the proof will come in 11 weeks.
Part of the results will not reflect the map because the Republicans are running such mediocre candidates in the eight Congressional races.
U.S. Representatives Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, and Collin Peterson will be returning to the new Congress in January. So will Congressman Tim Walz, but that is less a product of the new map than a result of his honorable service and the GOP nomnation of porn-shop undercover detective Al Quist. Rick Nolan will also be joining the new Congress for Duluth and the Iron Range, but that is less a product of the map than the realiity of providing a “valuable parting gift” to New Hampshire tourist Chip Cravaack. “Thanks for participating, Chip, but the Tea Party is over on da Range.”
Justice Wright’s map also allows DFL candidates to be competitive against U.S. Representatives John Kline (the closer the Second District gets to St. Paul, the harder Kline has to work), Michele Bachmann (with Jim Graves as a strong challenger and working-class towns getting tired of “crossed-eyed crazy”), and even Erik Paulsen (whose challenger will be buoyed by a 70-30 win by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and a ten-point win by President Obama in Minnesota).
Those big wins by Amy and Barack will also help the DFL capture enough suburban and rural seats to recapture both houses of the Minnesota Legislature, but Justice Wright’s map will not hurt. It is a fair map.
Another reason to be optimistic about Governor Dayton’s appointment of Justice Wright is that he will get to name two more young, healthy, and smart Justices to the Supreme Court in the near future.
Justice Paul Anderson is a moderate appointed by Governor Arne Carlson. He will hit the mandatory retirement age of 70 early next spring, giving Governor Dayton his second appointment.
Justice Page will hit the mandatory retirement age in 2014, and he is expected to retire before the next gubernatorial election so that Governor Dayton would have a third Supreme Court appointment.
That is what makes this November’s three Supreme Court elections so important.
If the crazy challengers to Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, Associate Justice David R. Stras, and Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson win, they will erase the benefits of Governor Dayton’s appointments of Justice Wright and the successors to Justice Paul Anderson and Justice Alan Page.
Gildea, Stras, and Barry Anderson may be Pawlenty appointees, but they are strict constructionists who give progressives a fighting chance that allows progressives to win when the facts and the law are clear.
Before Stras joined the Court in 2010, Gildea and Barry Anderson joined the unanimous decision that held that Senator Al Franken won the 2008 recount over Norm Coleman.
Gildea wrote the unanimous decision that drove the nails into Tom Emmer’s 2010 recount challenge to the victory of Governor Mark Dayton,and both Stras and Barry Anderson joined that decision.
Progressives lose if Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea loses to “Shifty Dan” Griffith, an unqualified part-time lawyer who has run on the racist, bigoted, and hateful platform as an endorsed candidate of both the Constitution Party and the Republican Party in past races.
Progressives lose if Associate Justice David Stras loses to “God-driven” Tim Tingelstad who says that the Old Testament should come ahead of your rights under the Constitution, the statutes,and administrative rules, and that even the Old Testament should go out the window if a Justice thinks he hears whispers from God in his skull whenever a case comes before the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Progressives lose if Associate Justice G. Barry Amderson loses to “Mermaid Porn Boy” Dean Barkley who seeks female companionship on-line with women who have a taste for “exotic pornography” and an interest in “snorkeling in hot tubs” and Barkley became the night manager at the Mermaid Car Wash after he crashed three law firms with his name on the door.
During 60 embarassing days when Barkley replaced United States Senator Paul Wellstone for Minnesota,Barkley was like a cheap deal-cutter in a bazaar when he traded his vote for whatever seemed best for him in the U.S. Senate.
If the three Supreme Court incumbents lose in November, the benefits from Governor Dayton’s three expected appointments to the Minnesota Supreme Court will be wiped out.
Vote against “Shifty Dan” Griffith, “Old Testament” Tim Tingelstad, and “Mermaid Porn Boy” Dean Barkley.
Even if the three incumbents vote for the GOP version of the photo-ID and marriage-hatred positions taken by the Legislature in Monday’s decisions, the incumbents give progressives a fighting chance on strict construction grounds.
Progressives would lose every time with each of the three crazy challengers on November 6.
Give Justice Wilhemina Wright a fighting chance to persuade reasonable minds on close cases.