Judge Gearin rejects mediator in government shutdown case

Judge Kathleen Gearin
Judge Kathleen Gearin

Ramsey District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin this morning rejected Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to order a mediator to help him and the Legislature reach a budget deal.

None of the other parties in the case supported the proposal, and several opposed it and challenged the court’s power to do so. House and Senate lawyers both said there was no constitutional authority for the court to order mediation.

Former Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, retained by the House as its lawyer, said such an order would be contrary to the state constitution and the notion of separation of powers. “You can no more tell the Legislature how to legislate or tell the governor how to negotiate than you can write the budget itself,” he said of the court.

The other order that Gearin made this morning is to not allow four Republican senators to intervene in the case as they had requested. The four senators’ attorney, former state Sen. Fritz Knaak, emphasized that the senators were needed because they were the only ones requesting the court to order the governor to call a special session. He said that Dayton’s refusal to do so is “the only thing that keeps the Legislature from doing its duty.”

Gearin rejected their effort to intervene on the grounds that their legal position was adequately represented by the participation of the Senate itself as a party in the case.

Interestingly, the Senate’s lawyer, Thomas Bottern, did not support the request of the four to intervene. The result of the ruling is twofold: One, there is now no one asking the court to order a special session. Two, the four senators had indicated that they would seek to remove Gearin from the case on bias grounds if they were admitted as parities to the case.

In opposing the admission of the senators, former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug, Dayton’s new special counsel for shutdown issues, called the senators’ legal position “the oddest platypus I have ever seen.”

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/23/2011 - 12:55 pm.

    Not much surprising here. The judge can’t make the agreement for the parties for them.

  2. Submitted by Hillary Drake on 06/23/2011 - 02:25 pm.

    How could a judge have the authority to order the executive branch to do something but not have authority over the legislative branch?

  3. Submitted by Michael Corcoran on 06/23/2011 - 06:52 pm.

    Ignominious end for a cheap political ploy…

    Just desserts Mr. Dayton!

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/24/2011 - 07:03 am.

    “You can no more tell the Legislature how to legislate or tell the governor how to negotiate than you can write the budget itself,”

    Former Justice Magnuson who, by the way, is a widely respected attorney on all sides gets it exactly right. It’s not the job of the courts to tell the legislature and the governor what to do. It can be the job of the courts, when the governor and legislature fail to do their jobs, to step in and to protect the safety and welfare of all Minnesotans.

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/24/2011 - 07:37 am.

    It should be noted that Dayton won this round so far. He didn’t get his court appointed mediator, but the decision would have been wrong if he had. Judge Gearin is quite correct in ruling that it isn’t her job to tell the other two branches of government to behave.

    And I think Judge Gearin’s evident frustration with the parties is well founded. It is really wrong for our elected representatives to as judges to do the job they were elected to do.

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