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Bible comments by GOP’s candidate for state Supreme Court alarm legal experts

Candidate Michelle MacDonald’s speech at the GOP convention, courtesy of the UpTake.

Controversy has hounded Michelle MacDonald’s run for the Minnesota Supreme Court since she accepted the state Republican Party’s endorsement 25 days ago.

The lawyer, whose practice is based in West St. Paul, faces a September trial on charges of drunk driving filed last year by the Rosemount city attorney.

In another 2013 incident, law-enforcement officers removed MacDonald from the courtroom of Dakota County Judge David Knutson due to contempt and detained her in a cell.

Now, a video of some remarks regarding governing the world “without God and the Bible” that MacDonald made during her GOP endorsement-acceptance speech have a few legal and political experts wondering about the candidate’s fitness to be a state Supreme Court justice. Others, however, say MacDonald has done nothing wrong and, if anything, only exercised her constitutionally protected right of free speech.

Seconds into her remarks, MacDonald lofted a Bible over her head and said, “In the words of George Washington, it is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” (The former president didn’t actually say that, however, according to the website of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the nonprofit historic estate of the nation’s first president.)

MacDonald said in an interview with MinnPost on Tuesday that using the Bible at the convention was meant only to be a symbol that God is the highest court.

‘Not to be taken literally’

“It was not to be taken literally that I was going to be looking to the Bible for law, not at all,” MacDonald said. “I was surprised it was taken that way.”

Minnesota Republican Party spokeswoman Brittni Palke declined to respond to questions from MinnPost about MacDonald’s talk of God and the Bible in an email. But the state GOP continues to back MacDonald’s campaign against incumbent Justice David Lillehaug, according to a message that the Republican Party executive committee sent to convention delegates and alternates last week, which Palke shared with MinnPost on Monday.

“Regardless of anyone’s individual opinion on these issues, in a party which respects the rule of law and the constitution, we are not in a position to look backwards or change a decision which was made under the rules as they are,” the message read, in part.

But MacDonald’s behavior horrified Sarah Walker, president of the Minneapolis-based Coalition for Impartial Justice, a nonprofit organization that advocates for performance evaluations, merit selections and retention elections of judges.

“Judges should be running on one thing: upholding the constitution, regardless of what side of the aisle they’re on,” Walker said.

Church and state issue

Fred Morrison, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School who teaches constitutional and comparative law and local government, went further. He said that MacDonald’s words are alarming because they “run up against” a founding principle of the United States: the separation of church and state.”

“(MacDonald’s) actions bring into question two things,” Morrison said. “One, the level of her judgment, overall; and, two, given that there are constitutional limitations and she seems to think she can ignore them, it brings into question her competence.”

Prior to 2002, candidates for Supreme Court justice could not publicize their views on disputed legal or political issues. But Minnesota lawyer Greg Wersal — who has unsuccessfully run to become a state Supreme Court justice several times, most recently in 2010 — filed a lawsuit in 1998 seeking to overturn that ban, arguing it violated his First Amendment rights.

Michelle MacDonald
MacDonald Law Firm
Michelle MacDonald

Wersal appealed each adverse ruling until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in his favor in 2002. In the majority opinion of Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, Judge Antonin Scalia also concluded that the Minnesota rule failed to achieve its reason for existence: preserving judicial impartiality.

Wersal laughed at MacDonald’s critics.

“She’s got free speech; she can say whatever she wants,” Wersal said. “She can invoke the devil for all I care. But she invoked God. It seems to me they’re still using Bibles in courtrooms.”

Morrison, the University of Minnesota law professor, agreed that what MacDonald said is not prohibited.

“She certainly has the right to say things, even stupid things like this,” Morrison said. “But it’s something that voters ought to be careful about, whether she intends, if elected, to impose her particular sect or religion on everybody else in the community.”

But MacDonald reiterated during the interview what she said at the convention. The reason people stand up when the judge enters the courtroom is because the judge used to arrive holding a Bible overhead, she said. Those in the courtroom would stand out of respect for God, acknowledging, “God was above us all,” MacDonald said.

“I know some people don’t believe in God, but most people do,” she said, adding that includes herself. “I’m just going to be a godly person and an individual up there [on the bench].”

Few talk about issues

Timothy Johnson, a University of Minnesota political science professor with an expertise in Supreme Court decision-making, said Republican Party of Minnesota v. White hasn’t had much effect on the state. Most judges don’t say much about the issues while campaigning, he said.

“Among the group of people who become judges, they realize it’s probably not the most ethical thing to do in the world,” Johnson said. “While they have the right to do so, they don’t take that right and use it very often.”

Wersal said that people with arguments like Johnson’s and Morrison’s are simply wrong.

“I won at the [U.S.] Supreme Court and they lost,” said Wersal, who sometimes criticized former state Supreme Court decisions as a candidate. “I can’t believe this is really an issue.”

MacDonald, Wersal and anyone else running for political office are allowed to gather support whatever way they choose, said Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not a matter of law,” said Shapiro, who’s also editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review. The Cato Institute is a nonprofit organization devoted to “individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace,” according to its website. “If she wants to say, ‘I’m the godliest candidate,’ to appeal to evangelical voters, she can.”

Shapiro said the question is: How would MacDonald apply the law if elected?

Based on what she did and said at the state Republican convention last month, it would be wise to be careful before assuming anything, said David Masci, a senior researcher who focuses on religion, law and church-state issues at the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. The nonprofit organization takes no policy positions and conducts empirical social-science research.

“While most candidates don’t hold Bibles over their heads, it’s not uncommon for judges to make religious appeals,” Masci said. “I don’t think you can assume she’s going to try to destroy the First Amendment.”

Comments (47)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/25/2014 - 08:47 am.

    I’m glad this candidate opened her mouth !!

    If she didn’t, we wouldn’t know how confused she is, and how poorly qualified for the office of MN Supreme Court Justice.

    • Submitted by Scott Shaffer on 06/25/2014 - 10:57 am.

      She said she will uphold the law, be faithful to god, and be accountable to the public. What if the people dislike a law, or if a law conflicts with biblical teachings? I don’t know why anyone would vote for her if she can’t articulate her principles.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/25/2014 - 09:08 am.

    Scary legal opinions

    I’m not a supporter of any candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court, including Ms. MacDonald, but it seems to me that the person with the scariest point of view in this soap opera is Professor Morrison.

    He said, “MacDonald’s words are alarming because they “run up against” a founding principle of the United States: the separation of church and state.”

    No they don’t. The First Amendment bars the government from establishing a state religion. By invoking “God,” which particular sect or religion was she promoting? Catholicism? Protestantism? Judaism? The Church of England? Because they all refer to the book that she held over her head; the same book that courts and legislatures have been using to take oaths and to ensure pledges to tell the truth for two and a half centuries.

    Furthermore, for those who question her impartiality, like the horrified Sarah Walker, MacDonald specifically says in her video that she ” … will protect and enforce the laws for all of us … I will not deny any person’s justice under the law.”

    The founding of this nation was unique in world history because the founders declared that the people’s rights don’t come from the king or from any man. They are endowed by their Creator, whomever that citizen believes his creator to be. It seems to me that all Ms. MacDonald was doing was assuring her fellow citizens that she agrees with the Founders and that she will protect their rights accordingly.

    If the secular humanists who are in power in government and academia are so offended by the notion of the people or their representatives invoking God in our legal proceedings, then they should openly and publicly campaign to have the use of the bible removed from all of our courtrooms and legislative bodies. Now that would be a radical act.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/25/2014 - 11:58 am.

      Oh, Dennis..

      Don’t be confused. Waving a Bible to support your point of view rules out any religion besides Christianity, and is 99% indicative of a conservative version of Christianity.

      She, of course, is free to say whatever she wants. Or wave any book she wants. Or make up quotes to fit whatever she thinks the constitution says.

      (By the way, the judges swear to uphold the Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence–“endowed by their Creator” !?!)

      But she has to bear the consequences of her speech (and book-waving), including people’s reactions to her speech.

      As for her qualifications, according to the Minnesota Supreme Court, “Judges of the supreme court, the court of appeals and the district court shall be learned in the law.” Passing the bar sets the level–low.

      So, with any law degree, she meets the qualifications.

      Now, it’s up to the voters.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/25/2014 - 12:49 pm.

        Do you know MacDonald’s religion?

        Because if you don’t, your arguments just fell apart. And what’s the “conservative version of Christianity?” Because I know conservatives who practice all sorts of “versions of Christianity” and some who don’t practice any versions of any religion at all.

        • Submitted by Jon Lord on 06/25/2014 - 01:20 pm.

          I know her religion!

          Look real closely at the video. She’s waving The Bible. That usually means the person doing that while espousing God is a Christian. No other religion would do that. That, and ‘her’ religion, is not in question.

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/25/2014 - 10:13 pm.

            Which religion

            did you have on your dog tags? Why is it important for the U.S. government to get it right?

            The United States military considers Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism as three different religions. Yet they all use the same bible in their services. Go figure.

            • Submitted by Matthew Levitt on 06/26/2014 - 12:30 am.


              They absolutely use three different versions. Look it up, it’s not that difficult.

            • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/26/2014 - 06:42 am.

              I’ve never seen a Jew…

              Wave the Christian Bible around to emphasize their beliefs. They share some texts but the literalist Christian fundamentalists I know all say that the New Testament replaces and overrides the requirements of the Old Testament. I think it is discussed in Acts where it is decided that nonjewish converts don’t need to keep all the laws and restrictions of the Jewish converts. By the way I believe that Muslims also believe in the first five books of the Old Testament. I assume Allah is Arabic for God and that they worship the same God that the Jews and Christians do. But I never see you, Dennis, list them when you are naming religions. Could you, like many fundamentalist Christians, think that Islam is an evil cult?

              Finally, just my opinion, despite what the military may say, I don’t consider Catholicism and “Protestantism” to be seperate religions. They are branches of Christianity. I don’t know anyone who calls themselves Protestants. They call themselves Lutherans or Baptists….

            • Submitted by Jon Lord on 06/27/2014 - 08:19 am.

              Dog tags

              This doesn’t make sense Dennis. It doesn’t matter if some people or organizations think different Christian churches are different religions without really thinking about it in depth. What matters is that Christianity isn’t the only religion that should be considered as strictly American. Judaism isn’t Christianity, nor is Islam but they should all be considered as equal under American law.

              All three of the Religions, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, are really branches of the same ‘religion’ in that all three share the same background. They just see it differently.

      • Submitted by James Hamilton on 06/25/2014 - 03:12 pm.

        A comment on the Declaration and judicial qualifications.

        Though some non-lawyers contend that the Declaration of Independence is the predicate for the U.S. Constitution, (e.g.,, legal scholars are in wide agreement that it has no place in American law, except as a court may find it’s sentiments persuasive.

        As Mr. Rovick notes, the legal minimum requirement for a place on the courts is that the individual be “learned in the law.” As citizens, however, we should demand far more than the possession of a law degree or a law license. Ideally, in my view, we should expect an appellate court judge to have a broad background in the law and significant experience in the practice of law before the courts, including the appellate courts. Why? Because an appellate judge must be familiar with the principles and rules governing practice in both the district and appellate courts. Most important, in my view, a candidate must know that he or she does not sit as a trial court judge, a finder of fact, but as an appellate judge who is bound by the facts as found by the trial court judge or jury, unless a finding lacks any evidence to support it. The appellate judge must apply the law, as he or she understands it, to these facts and determine whether the trial court erred in its understanding or its application of the law. That’s it. Where the law commits a matter to the trial court’s discretion, an appellate judge may consider only whether that discretion was abused.

        All judges are bound to uphold the state ande federal constitutions. However, appellate judges rarely are called upon to rule on constitutional issues. Even when such an issue is presented, court established rules of long standing require that they decline to rule on the issue where the matter can be resolved in another way. In the rare case in which it cannot, they are bound by precedent, decisions of their predecessors or, where the U.S. Constitution is involved, of the U.S. Supreme Court. There is little leeway. Thus, those who base their votes on the hope that a particular candidate’s election will result in the reversal of a particular constitutional holding are, frankly, wasting their votes.

        As I’ve indicated in another post on this subject, I do not believe Ms. MacDonald is qualified to sit on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Her statements and behavior at the GOP convention are the least of my concerns.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 06/25/2014 - 12:33 pm.

      Maybe you should remind your own party

      because everywhere we turn, there’s yet another example that the GOP wants a Christian theocracy in this country. You had GOP legislators in North Carolina attempt to declare Christianity as the state religion, a senate candidate in Georgia who doesn’t think that the 1st amendment applies to Muslims, an Alabama Chief Justice who thinks that only Christians should have freedom of religion, lawmakers in Louisiana attempting to make the bible the state book and Texas school board members altering textbooks to favor their religious beliefs. So please spare us your righteous indignation that secularists are the problem or that it’s impossible that McDonald would let her religious views color her interpretation of law and justice, because it’s happening all of the time, all over this country.

  3. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/25/2014 - 09:39 am.

    Her Right to Say It

    I don’t understand Mr. Wersal’s point. Of course Ms. MacDonald has the right to say whatever she wants in the course of her campaign. That is not the point. The point is the substance of what she says. Her right to say what she wants does not extinguish the right of anyone else to criticize or disagree with what she says. Is there any substantive argument behind her comments? If so, let’s hear it. Don’t resort to the defensive “I have a right to say it” evasion.

    Mr. Wersal should also understand that having the right to speak doesn’t necessarily mean it is the ethical thing to do. One would think that went without saying.

    “I was surprised it was taken that way.” In other words, “I am surprised people think I meant the Bible when I said ‘the Bible.'” Priceless.

  4. Submitted by mark wallek on 06/25/2014 - 10:01 am.

    The last thing we need

    We already deal with a degree of corruption and a sense of “living in my own world” that characterizes the modern day court. The last thing we need is a religious zealot pretending her beliefs are truths and imposing them on the citizenry.

  5. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 06/25/2014 - 10:17 am.

    sounds like the perfect GOP candidate

    Drunk driving, contempt of court, bible thumping, making up Founding Fathers quotes…yes, GOP, please stand by your choice. She’s a winner.

  6. Submitted by Sandra Gabrelcik on 06/25/2014 - 10:24 am.


    I wonder if Ms. MacDonald will feel justice when she goes before the Court for her DUI. She is an attorney, she refused the test and then had a blood test the next day to prove she had not been drinking? This woman does not belong on the Supreme Court. Either she was not bright enough to figure out that if she didn’t take the test within 2 hours the test would be invalid and she would loose her driver’s license automatically for the refusal or she beleived that she doesn’t have to follow the same laws as ordinary citizens (“above the law”?). I wonder which it is. Well it doesn’t matter. I am only a paralegal and apparently I know more about the law than she does. This is not someone I want on the Supreme Court.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/25/2014 - 11:07 am.

    Weird sense of entitlement

    It’s funny, these people make big deal out of being able to say what they want to say, but when people listen to what they say and react to it they’re outraged. Listen, this is how free speech works: You say what you want to say… and then everyone else gets to comment and respond to what you just said. This is the difference between free speech and dictation.


    “I don’t think you can assume she’s going to try to destroy the First Amendment.”

    Oh, I think we can safely assume that she would pursue a right wing agenda, given the history of republican initiatives over the last three decades. We would be fools to assume anything else. We have a supreme court right now that’s loaded with reactionaries that a torturing the constitution in order to advance a reactionary agenda, why would McDonald be different?

  8. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/25/2014 - 11:28 am.

    Michael Brodkorp’s blog

    I followed all the links the other day concerning Ms MacDonald. Brodkorp had some very interesting information about how little actually went into this endorsement. I may not be recalling correctly (in a reality-based sense, so not important to a republican reader) but I think he said her resume presented to the endorsing committtee was 141 words long. Her speech to the convention was about 700. That her courtroom behavior and her behavior at her traffic stop don’t alarm the quoted Republicans shows how little the current Republican party respects our country’s laws and institutions, in spite of what they say. I wonder (not really) how they would react if she had been waving a Koran instead of the Bible.

  9. Submitted by Marc Post on 06/25/2014 - 11:45 am.

    A thought experiment

    Let’s change just one thing in this story: change the Bible to the Koran.

    How do you feel now? Would the GOP still back this candidate?

  10. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 06/25/2014 - 12:15 pm.


    There are a number of major religions that don’t believe in God, Buddism, New Age, Indegent peoples religious beliefs, etc. How is she going rule on thetre behalf. Christians are getting arrogant with there beliefs.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/25/2014 - 02:23 pm.

      She is going to rule on their behalf

      regardless of their religion. Apparently you missed that part. Everyone’s rights are protected in a constitutional republic that has religious liberty as its one of its founding principles.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 06/25/2014 - 03:54 pm.

        Nobody missed it…

        many of us just have a hard time believing it.

      • Submitted by david hanners on 06/25/2014 - 04:23 pm.

        Yet again, Mr. Tester completely misses the point. Of course Ms. MacDonald *says* she’ll act without regard to a person’s religion. But when she holds up a well-thumped Bible, what faith (no pun intended) do I have as a litigant before the Court that her brand of justice will be blind to such things as religion? In a word, none. She seeks to mix her brand of Christianity with the business of the Court. At least she is open about it.

        I’m also guessing the version of the Bible she held aloft contained 1 Corinthians 11:3. I wonder what her legal view of that is….

  11. Submitted by Ray Marshall on 06/25/2014 - 01:10 pm.

    MN Supreme Court

    Will Prof. Morrison (and Minn Post) be outraged when the first Muslim runs for a position as a judge or justice and cites the Koran during a campaign speech?

    I believe that they would be terrified to speak against a Muslim or a Hindu or some other faith that is a real minority in this country. They wouldn’t want to be known as being a bigot.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/25/2014 - 01:37 pm.

      The crushing blow of logic

      Mr. Marshall, you have just settled the entire debate. Everyone knows that Christians–especially conservative Roman Catholics and evangelicals–are the true oppressed minorities in America. Those darn liberals would fall all over themselves declaring how wonderful it is that a Muslim jurist would cite the Koran. The truth has been laid bare.

      Two questions: Do you see any difference between “citing” a book, and declaring that it is “impossible to rightly govern the world” without it? Sometimes, the context is important.

      The second question is, do you not recall the flap about Rep. Ellison taking his oath of office on Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Koran? Or did you miss that, because of the outraged liberals screaming about the many representatives taking their oaths on the Bible?

  12. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 06/25/2014 - 02:45 pm.

    swearing to uphold the law?

    How can we expect her to uphold the law when on the court when she can’t do it in her personal life (frefusing the intoxication tests) or in her work life (contempt of court to the extent of being handcuffeed to a wheel chair and spending what I read as several days in jail)?

    She ain’t wavin’ the constitution, she’s wavin’ the Bible and from what I’ve seen of people waving the Bible in my life, they are almost all unrepentant judgemental hypocrites. Republicans and conservatives used to stand for law and order. Now they just stand for reaction and the law be damned: as long as you’re white and waving a Bible and/or a gun, you should be able to do anything your conscience dictates because “that’s what the founding fathers really meant”.

  13. Submitted by James Hamilton on 06/25/2014 - 02:47 pm.

    A note on Ms. MacDonald’s Background.

    Ms. Macdonald has been licensed to practice law for almost 27 years, since September 11, 1987. In that time, court records available on-line indicate that she has been involved in approximately 20 appeals. Opinions and order regarding these matters can be found here:

    I have read only the first of these opinions. Having been a licensed attorney for just a few years longer than Ms. MacDonald, I believe the contents of that opinion raise serious questions about Ms. MacDonald’s fitness to sit on any appellate court. The opinion to which I refer can be found here:

    The following are excerpts from that opinion. [Note that Ms. MacDonald was representing herself at this point in time.]

    “In the supreme court, appellant Michelle MacDonald (the Does‟ attorney), filed a respondent‟s brief, the majority of which argued, for the first time, that Minn. Stat. § 259.58 is unconstitutional. C.O.‟s attorney filed a reply brief that addressed the constitutional questions and a motion to strike the constitutional arguments from the Does‟ brief. The supreme court granted the motion to strike and ruled that the lack of an evidentiary hearing denied C.O. due process of law. C.O., 757 N.W.2d at 348 n.8, 349-52. For guidance on remand, the supreme court noted that Minn. Stat. § 259.58 does not identify who bears the burden of proof regarding motions to enforce or modify contact agreements and that, generally, that burden is on the party seeking to benefit from a statutory provision. Id. at 352. It also ruled that the burden of showing exceptional circumstances that justified modification of the contact agreement was on the Does. Id. at 353.

    After the supreme court released its opinion, C.O. moved the supreme court for attorney fees on grounds including but not limited to Minn. Stat. § 549.211 (2008). Each party also filed several other motions in the supreme court. By order, the supreme court denied most of the parties‟ motions but remanded to the district court C.O‟s motion for attorney fees incurred on appeal.

    On remand, the district court held an evidentiary hearing. Because the parties made multiple additional motions in the district court, many of which involved requests by the parties to sanction another party or another party‟s attorney, the district court issued a series of orders. In relevant part, those orders (a) denied the Does‟ motion to modify or terminate the contact agreement; (b) rejected the Does‟ argument that Minn. Stat. § 259.58 unconstitutionally deprived them of their liberty interests in the custody, care, and control of A.D.; (c) awarded C.O. $16,350 in attorney fees from MacDonald for the fees that C.O. incurred responding to MacDonald‟s constitutional arguments in the supreme court; (d) awarded C.O. $95,942.65 in attorney fees from the Does for other aspects of the proceeding; (e) appointed a parenting-time expediter; and (f) denied motions by MacDonald to have C.O.‟s attorney (Mark Olson) sanctioned. During the proceedings on remand, the Does retained attorney Mark Fiddler as co-counsel.

    * * *

    After the district court entered judgment on the fee awards, MacDonald appealed the judgment against her (A10-404). Attorney Fiddler separately appealed on behalf of the Does (A10-406).

    The brief submitted by MacDonald challenged both the fee award against her and purported to raise issues on behalf of the Does. C.O. moved to strike the issues that MacDonald raised on the Does‟ behalf, as well as certain aspects of the Does‟ brief. C.O.‟s motions were deferred to the panel assigned to consider the merits of the appeal.

    D E C I S I O N


    * * *

    B. MacDonald’s Brief

    MacDonald argues that the district court abused its discretion by not sanctioning C.O.‟s attorney. MacDonald also argues that a judge who signs an ex parte order in violation of the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct and fails to vacate the order, is disqualified from ruling on a sanctions request and that the conduct of C.O.‟s attorney requires that he be reported to the Lawyers Board of Professional Responsibility.

    1. Standing: By motion, C.O. argues that MacDonald lacks standing to argue that the district court should have sanctioned C.O.‟s attorney. To have standing to appeal, an appellant must be aggrieved by the appealed ruling. Hammerlind v. Clear Lake Star Factory Skydiver’s Club, 258 N.W.2d 590, 592 (Minn. 1977). Because MacDonald is not aggrieved by the district court‟s refusal to sanction C.O.‟s attorney, she lacks standing to challenge that ruling.

    MacDonald asserts that, in addition to pursuing appeal A10-404 on her own behalf, she also represents the Does and can raise the propriety of the district court‟s refusal to sanction C.O.‟s attorney on their behalf. MacDonald, however, did not appeal on the Does‟ behalf. Her notice of appeal identifies herself, not the Does, as the appellant in A10-404. See Sammons v. Sammons, 642 N.W.2d 450, 456 (Minn. App. 2002) (noting that a party may appeal a “judgment that adversely affects his or her rights, even if the person was not a party to the proceeding below”). Also, her statement of the case and her briefs in A10-404 recaption the appeal to name herself as the appellant. Moreover, attorney Fiddler filed appeal A10-406 on the Does‟ behalf, and MacDonald has not moved to dismiss A10-406 as improper.

    Because MacDonald does not represent the Does in her appeal, she lacks standing to challenge the district court‟s refusal to sanction C.O.‟s attorney on the Does‟ behalf. Nor does she have standing to raise issues on the Does‟ behalf based on the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, the Minnesota Rules for Admission to the Bar, the Minnesota Rules of the Supreme Court on Lawyer Registration, and the Minnesota Rules on Lawyers Professional Responsibility. Because MacDonald‟s brief raises issues on behalf of the Does, whom she does not represent in her appeal, and because MacDonald lacks standing to raise those issues, we dismiss those issues from appeal A10-404. . . . Because we grant C.O.‟s motion to strike from MacDonald‟s brief the arguments addressing matters that MacDonald lacks standing to appeal, we also grant C.O.‟s motion to strike the associated portions of the statement of facts in MacDonald‟s brief.

    2. Disqualification of the Judge: MacDonald argues that the district court judge should have disqualified himself from ruling on C.O.‟s motion for sanctions because the judge allegedly violated the code of judicial conduct. C.O. notes that MacDonald did not raise this issue in the district court. MacDonald‟s response to C.O.‟s motion does not assert that the issue is properly before this court, and we decline to address this issue.

    * * *


    The district court ordered MacDonald to pay C.O. $16,350 in attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 549.211 (2008) for the attorney fees C.O. incurred in responding to MacDonald‟s briefing of the constitutionality of Minn. Stat. § 259.58 in the supreme court. MacDonald challenges this award. C.O. asks this court to affirm the award. “Attorney fees are recoverable if specifically authorized by contract or statute.” Van Vickle v. C. W. Scheurer & Sons, Inc., 556 N.W.2d 238, 242 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Mar. 18, 1997).

    Whether to award appellate attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 549.211 is discretionary with the appellate court. * * * Under Minn. Stat. § 549.211, subd. 4(a), a party cannot file or present to the court a motion for attorney fees “unless, within 21 days after service of the motion, or another period as the court may prescribe, the challenged paper, claim, defense, contention, allegation, or denial is not withdrawn or appropriately corrected.” The purpose of this provision is deterrence, to give the allegedly offending party an opportunity to withdraw the allegedly improper papers or otherwise correct the situation before a court orders payment of fees. * * * In the supreme court, MacDonald filed a brief which, for the first time in the proceeding, challenged the constitutionality of Minn. Stat. § 259.58. This forced C.O. to both brief the constitutionality of the statute and move to strike the argument. The supreme court granted C.O.‟s motion to strike the constitutional arguments and later decided the appeal. After the appeal was decided, C.O. moved for attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 549.211, among other authorities.

    “A policy of deterrence is not well served by tolerating abuses during the course of an action and then punishing the offender after the trial is at an end.” Johnson, 726 N.W.2d at 519 (quotation omitted).3 The district court excused C.O.‟s failure to satisfy the safe-harbor provision, noting that Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 139.06, which governs attorney-fee requests on appeal, does not provide for hearings on attorney-fee motions and that C.O.‟s motion was otherwise timely. These observations, however, do not address the fact that seeking fees under Minn. Stat. § 549.211 after a court makes its decision strips the statute of the deterrent effect it is intended to have.

    * * *

    Because Minn. Stat. § 549.211 is not satisfied here, we reverse the award of attorney fees against MacDonald.

    B. Findings

    [Ms. MacDonald’s clients were found liable to the opposing party for attorney’s fees incurred in defending against their claims. The Does appealed that award.]

    The Does argue that the district court failed to make adequate findings to support its $95,942.65 fee award to C.O. As the district court noted, Minn. Stat. § 259.58(c) gives no guidance on fee awards, other than a requirement that the award be “reasonable.”

    * * *

    The district court made findings regarding its fee award, including that the legislature intended litigants to “tread lightly” when pursuing modification or enforcement of contact orders, that C.O. spent “over $100,000 trying to enforce the contact agreement,” and that “there was no basis for [the Does] to interfere with [C.O.‟s] contractual access to the child.” The district court further found that the Does took a “calculated risk” when they deprived C.O. of access to A.D. and that the Does “should bear the financial burden thrust upon [C.O.]” But these findings do not address most of the Paulson factors, and, given their factual nature, this court cannot address the Paulson factors in the first instance. * * * Therefore, we remand for findings on the Paulson factors regarding the fees awarded to C.O. On remand, the district court shall make adequate findings of fact to support whatever amount of fees it concludes is reasonable to award.”

    Has Ms. MacDonald been asked to indemnify her former clients for the attorney’s fees ultimately awarded against them? Under the rules governing civil matters in Minnesota district courts, “By presenting to the court whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) a pleading, written motion or other paper an attorney * * * is certifying to the best of the person’s knowledge, information and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances, * * * (b) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of exiting law of the establishment of new law. (c) the allegations and factual contentions have evidentiary support[.]” Rule 11.02. Given the trial court’s extreme and unusual findings regarding the merits of her clients’ claims, and the sanctions initially imposed, one could reasonably conclude that Ms. MacDonald herself violated this rule. If so, she should not sit on any bench, in any court.

  14. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/25/2014 - 02:53 pm.


    I get a kick out of these religious people who, the moment they get in trouble, argue that the Bible is just a “symbol”. How little it takes for them to sell out their faith.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/25/2014 - 09:58 pm.

      The Bible

      is just a symbol. Their faith is in God.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 06/25/2014 - 10:57 pm.

        Horse Hockey

        these people consider the bible to be the literal word of God. The crucifix is a symbol.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/26/2014 - 06:02 am.


        “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

        And it’s not just the Bible. When prayer is at issue, they are so quick to argue that it’s a meaningless public ritual which unifies. When did it become ok with the faithful to say their faith wasn’t deep and profoundly controversial?

  15. Submitted by Mike Worcester on 06/25/2014 - 04:36 pm.

    Party Endorsements of Judicial Candiates

    Yes I understand that they can, and that the Republicans do, though not the Democrats. So my question is this — are endorsements for judicial positions which are supposed to be non-partisan, a good idea? I have yet to hear one that makes any cogent sense.

  16. Submitted by David Frenkel on 06/26/2014 - 10:09 am.

    not inclusive

    The GOP continues to want to be the party that wants to isolate itself from mainstream America. Unfortunate that one of the two major political parties in the US continues to be more polarizing about religious and immigration issues.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/26/2014 - 04:52 pm.

      The GOP is inclusive

      Everyone who wants to live in a free society is welcome with open arms, regardless of race, creed or color. The democrats are a party of groups seeking help from government to solve their problems that other people, with a little effort, have learned to solve on their own.

      So yeah, whiners and leeches aren’t very welcome.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/26/2014 - 05:06 pm.

        Whiners and leeches

        Conservatives are the biggest whiners in America today. “Look at how the intolerant liberals are picking on me! They want to take MY money!”

        Leeches? How many Republican business people got where they are through doing business with the government that they claim to despise?

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/27/2014 - 01:07 am.

          Do you want the government

          bureaucracies to make the products they need instead of buying them? I don’t. Imagine if the people who work at the Pentagon made the military’s ammunition or if MNDOT actually built the roads.

          • Submitted by Jon Lord on 06/27/2014 - 08:39 am.

            I think

            You miss the point. The government sanctions the building of roads and making military ammunition. The GOP complains about it but they want military ammunition, and they need the roads, although they complain about having to spend their money on it.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/27/2014 - 09:00 am.


            You make a valid point. Why, however, are the people who make money doing work for the government get a pass when they kvetch about the size of government? For that matter, why do they get do defensive about it?

      • Submitted by jason myron on 06/26/2014 - 07:32 pm.

        Unless of course

        you’re a minority, gay, unemployed, underemployed, non christian or a woman seeking reproductive health care. just to name a few…outside of that, the GOP wants YOU!

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/28/2014 - 10:26 am.


        “Everyone who wants to live in a free society is welcome with open arms,”

        You guys have spent years trying to oppress gay and lesbian people who wanted to live in a “free” society. On top of that you’ve spent years trying to keep blacks, old people, legal immigrants, and maybe even women, from voting… I suppose you just assume that none of those people want to live in a “free” society?

  17. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 06/27/2014 - 10:00 am.

    Two Michelle think-alikes in a row, whoa…

    …but as long as McDonald is willing to expose herself publically; political clown suit and all…not to worry.

    Just like Bachmann, plus the up-and-coming Mcfadden with Eric doing his ongoing shake-down interviews of Mcfadden policy platform and candidate credibility slowly being reduced to mere meaninglessness?

    That is unless a long cold winter or other cultural or environmental factors has evolved this once good land and the party itself, into a bevy of theocratic sycophants?

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/28/2014 - 12:03 pm.

    All inclusive republicans

    I dunno, it always amazes me when guys like Tester make claims like this with an apparently straight face. Sure, they’ll include you as long as your promise to follow their dictates to the letter. Look what happened to those republican legislators that exercised their “freedom” a while back and voted to over-ride pawlenty’s veto of the gas tax increase? They got drummed out. So much for the big tent.

    The problem is they have no coherent concept of a “free” society. They talk about freedom but they demand conformity.

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