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Minnesota Supreme Court

enbridgeI for one sure hope so. A couple of intertwined items.

Climate change protesters are claiming victory in their effort to present an unusual “necessity defense” against felony charges stemming from efforts to shut down oil pipelines.
The Minnesota Supreme Court declined (July 18) to review a ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that backed the protesters, who will still face an uphill legal battle when their case goes to trial this fall.
Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein acknowledge turning the emergency shut-off valves on two pipelines in 2016 in Clearwater County of northwestern Minnesota as part of a coordinated nationwide action. Eleven activists were charged in all.

Environmental and Native American groups in Minnesota are gearing up to thwart the replacement of an aging pipeline that crosses the state…
Enbridge still must apply for 29 required federal, state, and local permits before they can begin construction…


MN lege: The court battle over defunding

by Dan Burns on June 5, 2017 · 0 comments

mncapitol2Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has defunded the Minnesota legislature, using a line-item veto, in response to “poison-pill” tactics used by legislative Republican majorities. The GOP is taking the matter to the state Supreme Court.

Mary Jane Morrison, professor emeritus at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said a lawsuit against Dayton could be followed by another suit challenging the Legislature and whether its budget bills violated the clause of the state constitution that says bills must be limited to a single subject.
“When the court has to deal with one of them, they’ll take up both of them,” Morrison said. “The solution won’t necessarily be one that the Legislature will ever be happy about, because the single-subject clause is really clear.”

While Dayton’s line-item veto is the immediate cause of the constitutional crisis, flagrant violation of the single subject rule by the legislature is the real culprit…
The stripping away of the State Auditor’s powers was attached to a larger unrelated bill under the cloak of darkness. The same can be said about the legislature’s poison pill in the tax bill. But even if they were not hidden as the Republican legislative leaders contend, they still violated the letter if not the spirit of the single-subject rule. They also point to how leadership has failed to enforce germaneness rules that would keep policy and appropriation bills separate. Viewed in this context, the governor’s line-item veto was constitutionally under-minded. Yes, Dayton could have vetoed entire omnibus budget bills, but that would have triggered another political and constitutional crisis in terms of another governmental shutdown. No matter the choice Dayton faced, there was a constitutional problem.
Viewed in isolation Dayton’s line-item vetoing of the legislature’s funding is constitutionally wrong. He cannot use that veto to negate or undermine the authority of another constitutionally-explicit branch of the government—this is a major separation of powers issue. Yet if the only lawsuit filed is one by the legislature then that may be the decision the Minnesota Supreme Court is forced to bring. However, there needs also to be a lawsuit brought by legislators—and Senator John Marty is contemplating one—raising the single-subject rule to many of the omnibus bills passed this term. They should also join the State Auditor in her appeal to the Supreme Court. Why? If the Court is given the opportunity to rule on both the line-item veto and the single-subject rule then it would perhaps be able either to join the cases or resolve them in a way that defines the proper limits on what the legislature can do, thereby also drawing lines regarding what the governor can do. Defining the limits of the single-subject rule and the line-item veto would then also clarify the separation of powers issue.
(Schultz’s Take)


MN Auditor Otto loses Round 1

by Dan Burns on September 9, 2016 · 0 comments

ottoThough unfortunate this was not unexpected. Judge Marek is a Pawlenty appointee. Down the road there’s a good chance that there will be a less ideological, more fact- and reason-based decision that will carry the day in the end.

Gov. Mark Dayton expressed support Thursday for State Auditor Rebecca Otto’s promised appeal of a legal setback over who reviews county government finances, with the governor saying it’s something the Supreme Court should evaluate.
Dayton said the court challenge by a fellow DFLer raises a “very important constitutional question” about the separation of powers and the duties of a statewide elected official. The law in dispute gives all counties the right to hire private firms to do annual financial reviews instead of having to use and pay the state auditor’s office.
In a ruling publicly released Tuesday, Ramsey County District Court Judge Lezlie Ott Marek upheld the 2015 law. The judge said the state auditor preserved the right to set auditing standards and demand follow-up even if it doesn’t conduct the initial audit. More than half of Minnesota’s counties have served notice they might hire or are under contract with a private company starting with the 2018 audits.


JusticeNatalieHudson(Re-posted from last week.)
Every DFLer, and every sane and rational independent voter in Minnesota, must get off of her or his magnificently sculpted bottom and get to the polls today, August 9, whether or not there are legislative primary contests in your state and/or federal districts. Period.

Depending on where you live in the state, you may not think there is much reason to vote in Minnesota’s August 9th primary.
You would be tragically wrong to think that, my friends.
There is one statewide race that is vitally important to the judiciary, the rule of law, and to anybody who thinks we should live by laws made by people, not Moses’ ghostwriter.
I write, of course, about the primary election for Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. There are three contestants: Justice Natalie Hudson, who was appointed to the Court in 2015 by Governor Dayton and must run for re-election, and challengers Craig Foss, a relative unknown — no; I take that back: a complete unknown in the words of Bob Dylan — and well, a known — for all the wrong reasons — Michelle MacDonald…
Faithful — and even unfaithful — readers here know that I have written about one of the contestants to replace Justice Hudson, Michelle MacDonald, many times. She ran before, you know, and came within a whisker of knocking off Justice David Lillehaug.


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.

{ 1 comment }

Here it is.


Michelle MacDonald was endorsed by the Minnesota Republican Party essentially because she’s a crazy extremist, and the GOP has long since been taken over by crazy extremists, and such a combination leads to obvious results. Subsequently, an eminently well-qualified, sane and rational, Minnesota Supreme Court justice got an election challenge that ended up way too close for any measure of comfort.

I don’t know of any easy fixes for this.

{ 1 comment }

Sodom and Gomorrah on the Tundra

by InformedVoter on November 8, 2012 · 0 comments

In what appears to be his farewell to the 2012 campaign, “Shifty Dan” Griffith appears to be adding to his deception to the voters.  

And one of his supporters seems to be calling down a pillar of fire on the Twin Cities, where Griffith got wiped out by a half-million votes.

Griffith lost his fifth run for State-wide judicial office when the part-time lawyer and full-time political hack lost to Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea by a 3-2 margin.

Throughout that race, Griffith tried to mislead the voters by claiming that he did not have an extremist religious agenda that he wanted to bring to the bench.  

But he revealed that agenda again in his last posting today.  And one of his supporters added a chilling post-script.

Griffith wrote today:  

Yes, we are disappointed but we also gained so much from having run this race…namely relationships…there are so many people who care and want to make a difference. There is also a peace in knowing we were called to run the race He set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2) and we will continue to focus our eyes on Him. THANK YOU FOR YOUR KINDNESS AND SUPPORT TOWARD ME AND MY FAMILY. God is still on the throne.

His supporter Lisa Doyle wrote:

I couldn’t help but think of Sodom and Gomorrah last night and Abraham pleading for God to spare the cities. As you know, he was able to persuade God to spare the cities if there were but 10 righteous (sic), and we know the end of that story. The good news, as you point out, is God is indeed still on the throne (Psalms 2) Yippee!

Burn, baby, burn!

There is no doubt that “Shifty Dan” will run again in 2014.  

If I am not here to sound the alert, I hope someone else will.  Governor Mark Dayton’s two appointments to the Supreme Court, Justice Wilhemina Wright and the successor to Justice Paul Anderson who will retire at age 70 next spring, will be facing a Tea Party Tide as Governor Dayton and U.S. Senator Al Franken will be up for re-election.

If that is the case, remind the voters that “Shifty Dan” Griffith has problems with Integrity, Independence, Impartiality, Inexperience, and Intelligence.

Minnesota needs good judges who are experienced, honest, talented, and committed to the rule of law and our access to the courts.  Watch out for political hacks with no talent but with extremist political and religious agendas.


Can you help MPP to win a national award?

by InformedVoter on November 8, 2012 · 0 comments

You are reading the Minnesota Progressive Project (“MPP”), a vibrant blog that brings insightful information and opinion.  You know that.  

But do any of you know how to nominate and earn a national award for the men and women who created and are maintaining this vibrant new forum for free thought and social change?  If so, you have a new reason to do so.

In case you hadn’t thought about it, MPP was THE primary force in shaping and winning seven of eight judicial races in Minnesota last night.

The races were not shaped by the cathode corporate media.  Not one television or radio newscast in the five months between filing and voting did anything but report the names of the challengers and the names and titles of the incumbents.  The miserable “Talking Barbie” doll from 20 years ago used to complain that “Math is hard!”  The electronic media complains that “Understanding judge races is Hard!”

It was not the papyrus corporate media, which was almost invisible in these eight races.  Emily Gurnon wrote one story in the Pioneer Press that mentioned in passing that a candidate in one race was running with extreme conservative support, and that a candidate in another race had deep religious ties.  Don Davis wrote in the Forum chain that judicial challengers were having trouble finding traction, but did not mention any issues raised by the 16 candidates in these races.  The Brainerd paper covered a debate between Judge John G. Melbye and challenger Diana Sweeney.  That was it.  Three articles in three papers tangentially raised issues involved in eight races for five million citizens.  Pitiful.

It was not the editorial writers, which was shamefully invisible.  The Star Tribune and the New Ulm Journal wrote very short endorsements of the three Supreme Court incumbents.  The Strib also made picks in the two Hennepin County races for trial judges.  The other 218 editorial pages in Minnesota were silent.  No wonder people only use them for coupons and bird cages.

The people who watch the courts most closely were also useless sin 2012.  The Minnesota Lawyer blog offered no sharp analysis of any of the races.  The Minnesota Lawyer newspaper just regurgitated the responses of candidates to bland questionnaires.  Politics in Minnesota was silent.  Even some lawyer’s groups that took plebiscites or made recommendations did little to publicize or advances public knowledge of their efforts.

I do not believe the League of Women Voters or the Bar Association tried to hold face-to-face debates for the state-wide judicial candidates.

Even the candidates did little to earn enthusiastic public support.  Maybe that is the way judicial races should be if the candidates are qualified.  Several of the candidates bought small amounts of short radio ads that told us nothing.  According to the finance reports, there probably were no more than 2,000 yard signs for any of the candidates in state-wide races in our huge area.  There were some magnetic bumper stickers.  But there was no criticism of the incumbent’s trial work or written decisions, and there was no compare-and-contrast with the biases or inexperience of the challengers.  Parades and county fair appearances are only good for photos on websites, not a discussion of challenges.  These races were tamer than a toddler’s tea party, as far as the candidates were concerned.

So it was up to MPP to Wake up the voters.  Some writers on other blogs followed the lead later.

Steve Quist from got things started on August 7 with “The Dan Griffith campaign for Minnesota Supreme Court should scare independents and Democrats.”

The respected MPP founders and contributors that included Grace Kelly, Alec, Candide, EyesOpen, Dan, and JML encouraged diary entries that took a hard look at the judicial candidates.  TwoPutt Tommy offered support for Dean Barkley that differed with other MPP diaries for strategic reasons.

And THAT WAS IT for intelligent coverage of the judicial races until a few conservative writers at other blogs realized that Republicans would be embarrassed by the election of extremists with political and religious biases, a lack of experience, and poor credentials to be the judge of anything.

Those voices were very muted, but they should be acknowledged.   They include Scott Johnson and John Hinderacker at PowerLine, Harry Niska at True North, and Michael Brodkorb at PoliticsMn.

Note should also be taken of John Hoff at The Adventures of Northside Johnny who pointed out the challenges facing attorney Jill Clark who was eliminated in the primary and now faces mental health and disbarment challenges.  But John was probably motivated by his expenses and heartache caused when Clark forced him to bravely defend the First Amendment.

But the credit should go to MPP first and foremost for being the only forum that offered hard analysis of the candidates for Supreme Court and trial judge positions that should not be the tool of partisan agendas, party platforms, and political endorsements.

If YOU know how to nominate MPP for an award for being the one major force in shaping Minnesota’s judicial elections in 2012, please pursue it.

If there is any doubt that MPP’s coverage made a difference in the judicial elections, consider these facts.  Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson carried every one of Minnesota’s 87 counties against Dean Barkley.  Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven carried 86 counties, losing only by 200 votes in Koochiching County, home of “Shifty Dan” Griffith.  And in his first political campaign ever, Associate Justice beat “Pastor Tim” Tingelstad in 72 of the 87 counties.  MPP did that, not a few 30-second radio ads.

Here are the county margins for the Supreme Court incumbents.  You make a difference.

A handful of precincts are still out:

Percentage for:
Gildea         Anderson     Stras          County:
60.00          58.93          55.93          STATEWIDE
57.20          56.10           50.71          Aitkin
56.36          54.04          47.77 *       Anoka
53.38          61.23          39.40 *       Becker
61.94          62.63          46.06 *       Beltrami
54.42          54.90          52.54          Benton
59.89          63.85          59.69          Big Stone
58.42          59.76          57.43          Blue Earth
56.27          60.26          57.14          Brown
61.22          60.91          58.02           Carlton
58.58          56.75          54.64          Carver
55.73          57.65          51.76          Cass
61.17          63.60          59.76          Chippewa
53.69          52.89          49.34 *       Chisago
64.41          65.60          58.38          Clay
50.27          55.98          41.20 *        Clearwater
71.66          69.52          68.46          Cook
56.64          66.21          57.93          Cottonwood
57.40          58.59          53.42          Crow Wing
61.25          58.59          56.46          Dakota
55.51          58.00          55.12          Dodge
50.94          55.37          48.58 *       Douglas
56.33          62.70          57.65          Faribault
57.50          62.44          58.86          Fillmore
52.90          59.01          54.90          Freeborn
57.25          57.27          56.89          Goodhue
54.71          60.25          55.44          Grant
66.38          60.14          59.79          Hennepin
54.53          62.39          59.86          Houston
53.94          58.26          44.68 *       Hubbard
54.11          55.26          49.66 *       Isanti
55.52          59.23          50.49          Itasca
57.41          63.56          58.38          Jackson
51.77          54.65          48.26 *       Kanabec
57.73          61.50          55.92          Kandiyohi
62.73          72.69          61.30          Kittson
47.01 *       65.04          56.62          Koochiching
60.11          64.29          61.37          Lac qui Parle
65.13          65.78          63.89          Lake
60.11          64.29          61.37          Lake of the Woods
57.48          57.09          56.44          LeSueur
59.02          62.66          61.14          Lincoln
58.86          61.13          60.42          Lyon
57.83          63.15          53.51          McLeod
61.71          66.37          55.47          Mahnomen
62.19          67.59          52.44          Marshall
52.43          63.50          54.24          Martin
55.21          56.27          53.13          Meeker
52.99          54.62          50.78          Mille Lacs
52.88          57.15          51.98          Morrison
55.56          62.11          59.51          Mower
55.94          61.37          57.82          Murray
61.26          61.80          60.62          Nicollet
52.10          60.92          56.07          Nobles
62.71          65.93          58.31          Norman
58.66          60.03          59.03          Olmsted
56.43          61.69          50.68          Otter Tail
66.94          65.53          52.82          Pennington
52.86          55.28          49.74 *       Pine
55.95          65.07          59.05          Pipestone
61.66          65.58          49.73 *       Polk
56.89          62.70          56.18          Pope
64.33          59.02          59.71          Ramsey
70.57          68.63          58.72          Red Lake
51.68          59.45          55.72          Redwood
58.65          57.55          56.56          Renville
57.93          57.70          56.25          Rice
54.62          65.99          48.92 *       Roseau
63.47          64.65          62.77          St. Louis
56.76          54.90          54.48          Scott
51.69          53.97          48.81 *       Sherburne
56.43          56.33          54.48          Sibley
55.79          56.60          54.48          Stearns
57.20          59.33          57.05          Steele
53.69          65.00          60.44          Stevens
59.64          62.70          58.70          Swift
52.19          55.40          48.59 *       Todd
56.46          62.80          57.76          Traverse
53.77          56.65          54.85          Wabasha
51.00          57.84          46.49 *       Wadena
55.11          59.24          55.46          Waseca
59.73          56.72          55.41          Washington
56.67          62.49          58.39          Watonwan
55.50          65.15          56.67          Wilkin
55.54          61.32          59.09          Winona
53.61          51.90          48.85 *       Wright
60.35          63.61          60.34          Yellow Medicine


MPP did it!

by InformedVoter on November 8, 2012 · 0 comments

The Minnesota Progressive Project (“MPP”) shaped the course of all eight judicial races on yesterday’s ballot and saw its positive impact in seven of those eight contests.

In the process, it also helped to beat Keith Downey, Bill Glahn, and Terry Jacobsen in Edina, and to force a change of underpants and office space for the GOP’s (soon to be former) House Speaker Kurt Zellers.

Because of MPP, people passed the word to vote against such unqualified judicial candidates as:

1. A man who has never practiced a minute of law in the four years since he left law school.  Michael L. Larson lost to the positive and experienced Judge Kathryn Messerich in the southwestern suburbs.

2. A man who has so many troubles with alcohol and depression that he told the Pioneer Press in 2008 that he had experienced “difficulty in getting off the couch” on many days and that he had crashed many law firms in his checkered legal career.  Dean Barkley lost to Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson.

3. A man who tried to conceal his right-wing ties but forgot to erase his “lonely hearts club” search for friends in “Ron Paul” circles on sites like in the past month.  Brian Gravely lost his challenge to Judge Diane Hanson in the southwest suburbs.

4. A man who believes that the “Truth of God should prevail in our highest courts” and that the “Word of God” should be applied before the Constitution.  “Pastor Tim” Tingelstad lost to Associate Justice David Stras.

5. Two men who campaigned with the support of extremist conservatives who misappropriated the data of the state GOP, made up a phony set of a title and organization, and broke state criminal law by issuing a bogus Voter’s guide for judicial activists who express support of political positions on proposed legislation.  But Steve Antolak and Marc Berris did not decry the support of these extremists, so they lost to Hennepin County’s two new trial judges, Liz Cutter and Lois Conroy.

6. One man who had been found guilty of lying and fined $1,000 for repeatedly lying in more than one case, who tried to mislead the voters about his hidden political and religious agendas, and tried to disguise his lack of experience in legal research, legal, writing, management, and legislative advocacy required from the administrative head of the Minnesota judicial system.  “Shifty Dan” Griffith lost 86 of 87 counties to Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, winning only his home county by 200 votes.

The only judicial race which the political extremists won was in northwest Minnesota, where Judge John Melbye defeated public defender Diana Sweeney.  Melbye was perhaps the candidate who appeared to be tied most closely to the extremist conspirators who put out the bogus voter’s guide because Hizzoner apparently had provided material for an entry in the guide which talked about his support of legislation to change how judicial elections are conducted, such as the range of people who are allowed to vote for trial judges.

MPP can also take part of the credit for DFL victories by new Senator Melissa Franzen and Reps. Ron Erhardt and Paul Rosenthal in Edina and a close scare for Speaker Kurt Zellers, because the blog revealed and sharpened the GOP civil war in Edina and Maple Grove over the bogus voting guide.

The newsroom journalists, opinion writers, newscasters, legal blog, and lawyer groups were almost silent on these races.  

But MPP spoke up, triggering e-mail barrages and entries by blogs on the left and the right.  

MPP made all the difference in voting on one of Minnesota’s three branches of government n2012.


Dan Griffith for Minnesota Supreme Court

by wsutton on November 6, 2012 · 0 comments

As a social liberal and an economic conservative, there are few elections this November about which I am passionate. So I threw my energy into managing a nonpartisan race: Dan Griffith for Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. 

My liberal friends would do well to support Dan Griffith. Everything in society about which we are passionate (equity, education, opportunity, poverty…etc.) require battles over progressive laws in the legislature. We also require a constitutional loyalist as Chief Justice to simply apply those laws without bias. We do not want political appointments whether they are equally qualified or not. We need Dan Griffith. 

My conservative friends would do well to support him. All the liberties we crave (business, individual rights, religious freedom, limited government…etc.) require representation in the legislature to do battle. These also require a constitutionalist as leader of our Judicial Branch to apply those laws impartially. No Minnesotan should want an activist as a judge. We need Dan Griffith.

In a nonpartisan, judicial race these points of view are not contradictory. They are the question. Will we have a partisan appointed justice or will we retain the right to vote for the judges we want?

There have been disturbing and questionable attacks on Dan Griffith on the blog. The most far-fetched are by InformedVoter, a anonymous attacker who has spent hours writing half truths and fabrications. We have no idea if s/he is paid to do this, but we know that the posts are untrustworthy. They are filled with juvenile name-calling, anger and spite. Here is a link to the best example of InformedVoter’s confusion:


There are 1000s of words that use similar logic in the other articles but as you consider the manipulations of reason, please take the time to read the responses to the underlying questions in the comments. I have done my best to correct the factual errors. You will note that InformedVoter cites himself or herself in a circular sort of argument. Readers can decide for themselves if the information is presented fully or edited for a political bias. 

Independence, Green, Liberty, DFL, GOP, and Constitution party members need someone like Dan Griffith as their Chief Justice in Minnesota. He sees the law as a guide not as a weapon for bias. Dan Griffith is one of the worst politicians I know because he is honest. He is nonpartisan to a fault: He will speak to any party at any function and these audiences walk away encouraged by his passion and by his positions on the role of the judiciary. But he has been attacked for remaining outside the political group-think which is exactly what we need in a Chief Justice. We don’t need political appointments manipulating the political pendulum from the bench. We need the nonpartisan, impartiality of Dan Griffith.

His opponent wants it both ways. Lorie Gildea was a political appointee who immediately in her inaugural speech claimed to want to keep politics out of the justice system. We aren’t fooled. My liberal and conservative causes know this is duplicitous. The Constitution clearly says that judges shall be elected by the voters. We need a Chief Justice who respects the Constitution, not someone invested in a political party. We do not need to play party games with the law. We need a Dan Griffith.

As a public school educator, union member, social liberal, activist, economic conservative, and Christian supporter of equality in marriage for all Minnesotans, I volunteer my time to help Minnesota finally win a nonpartisan judicial system. I admit freely that I do not fit comfortably in progressive or conservative circles, but I do respect the right of individuals to campaign for their ideology. This is why I spent my energy on a nonpartisan race that can benefit all of us. 

It has been 66 years since Minnesotans have elected a challenger to the Supreme Court. We have been kept ignorant of who are judges are until recently. Since 1895 we have not directly elected a Chief Justice to the bench. This must end on November 6th. We need to return the courts to the people of Minnesota. 

I hope you will consider your vote for judicial offices carefully. You may end up voting for Dan Griffith. You may not. But at least let us move Minnesota toward becoming truly informed about our judges. 

Wade Sutton