No surprise here. As requested by Gov. Pawlenty’s legal team (with the concurrence of the plaintiffs in the case) the MN Supremes will hear the appeal of Judge Kathleen Gearin’s ruling (temporary restraining order really) in the unallotment case.
This just skips the normal step of a case going through the state Court of Appeals before it can reach the Supremes. Team Pawlenty argued, very reasonably, that it’s fairly urgent for the state to find out whether the Pawlenty 2009 unallotments were legal.
The Supremes set oral arguments for March 15.
I note only this. A previous case (Rukavina v. Pawlenty, about Pawlenty’s previous use of unallotment power in 2003) challenged the basic constitutionality of the 1939 unallotment statute. The statute was ruled constitutional. The plaintiffs in the new challenge have not challenged the fundamental constitutionality of the unallotment power. Rather, they argued that either Pawlenty violated the statute by the way he used the power, or he used the power in a way that violates the state Constitution (even though the statute itself is constitutional).
Gearin, in ruling that Pawlenty’s unallotments exceeded his powers, chose the second option (the statute is constitutional but they way Pawlenty used it violates the constitutional balance of executive/legislative powers). Both the plaintiffs and Judge Gearin were deferring, to some degree, to the previous ruling that the unallotment is constitutional.But that ruling was made by the MN Court of Appeals (not the Supremes). So the state Supreme Court (which, of course, outranks the Court of Appeals) has the power to consider the underlying constitutional issue as well.
When this case is over, we should have a much clearer and more definitive understanding of what the statute means and whether it is constitutional.