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Judge: State courts will remain open during shutdown

Judge: State courts will remain open during shutdown
By Eric Black

The state court system will remain open, even if the state government hits partial shutdown mode on Friday.

A retired judge, Bruce Christopherson, who had been specially appointed by the Supreme Court to handle that portion of the case, ruled that without a functioning court system  it would impossible to guarantee various constitutional rights that are guaranteed to Minnesotans. So he ordered that the judicial branch receive a continuation of its state funding at the same level as the current biennium, which expires June 30.

The question of which other state functions might stay open during a shutdown in under advisement before Kathleen Gearin, chief judge of Ramsey County District Court. Gearin recused herself from hearing the portion of the case that affects the judicial branch, perhaps because she is a member of that branch and her own salary and those of her staff would be at issue. Christopherson, as a retired judge, was paid by the day to handle that part of the case.

In his order, Chrisopherson acknowledged that the state constitution bans any money being spent without “an appropriation by law.” But he said the constitutional harm of closing the court system was certain, while the question of whether spending that occurs under an a court order  might qualify as a kind of appropriation was less clear.