Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin, who’s had some tough cases in her tenure on the bench, talked to Politics in Minnesota about that her work on the state shutdown rulings and other topices.
Her rulings on shutdown issues, along with other high-profile political cases like the legal fallout from the Republican National Convention, the Franken-Coleman recount and the Tim Pawlenty unallotment case, led her to say:
“I think I’ve had the chief judgeship from hell.”
She said the 20-day shutdown was “one of the hardest things I’ve done.”
Among the questions in the Q and A item:
Q: What does it mean for our system of government that the courts are becoming more involved in budgeting?
Gearin: I think it’s a negative. We shouldn’t be involved in budgeting. Obviously, it means that our political system is becoming more and more divisive. It’s easy to say people are becoming less willing to compromise. Compromise doesn’t mean you give up your principles. Compromise to me means you realistically look at your position, one, see how realistic it is that it can succeed at this time. You don’t give up your position. And then you look at, all right, if I hold my position, how much is it going to hurt the state if I just stick with my position? How much should I basically reach some common agreement that isn’t exactly what I wanted, what either side wanted? I think people have lost sight of the effect of their decisions on average citizens who don’t pay much attention to government.
Q: Any other thoughts on this month-long ordeal?
Gearin: I kind of really didn’t think it would happen. I’m staring right now at the wall, where I put this [January 2011 Capitol Report] article that refers to me as “The Decider.” I was laughing about it, but I thought, well, if it comes, it comes. Since that article, it was in the back of my head and worrying me, but I thought, they won’t do this. This is too much.
You know, the bloggers have both Blatz and me as leftists, and I’m laughing. Blatz was a Republican legislator. They have us both appointed by Democrats, too, and neither of us were, so that was good.
But, you know, what would be the last reflection on the thing? I think I’ve had the chief judgeship from hell. The RNC. The Franken-Coleman [recount]. The unallotment. And I guess I didn’t want to believe that this would happen also, but it did.
It’s one of the hardest things I’ve done. And do I know that I’m right? I made the decision I made. There are people who think I should have totally denied the attorney general’s petition. The governor does, because he thinks he should have been making the [spending] decisions as I read his brief — that’s an interesting position. That certainly gives an awful lot of power to the governor. And I think those Republican senators who are at the Supreme Court think I shouldn’t have [ordered any state spending to proceed] because it would have forced a compromise or because [Article 11 of the Minnesota Constitution] should have been interpreted even more strictly than I did.
But let’s just say: People can disagree with my decisions, but I feel all right about the job I did. I don’t feel ecstatic, but I feel all right about it. I did as good a job as I could do given the time, given the complexity, given the number of issues I had to deal with so quickly, given the passion of the people involved in these issues, given the constant public scrutiny. I gave it the best effort I could, the best analysis I’m capable of, and I felt that I rose to the occasion judge-wise. I know some people think differently.
And it’s brought me a lot more public scrutiny than I have ever wanted in my life. That’s it. I’m happy it’s done.