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April 24, 2012
Present: Mike Unger – Chair, Stacey Fujii, Ryan Kaess, Brandon Thompson, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Kevin Beck, Hon. Louise Dovre Bjorkman, Karen Cole, Dyan Ebert, Fred Finch, Mike Ford, Ruth Marcott, Karna Johnson Peters, Ryan Kaess, Jesse Kibort, Lawrence Rocheford, Michael Ryan,
Discussion of Alternative Judicial Plebiscite Recommendation: Mr. Unger informed the Committee that since the last meeting in March, additional concerns about the proposal to discontinue the judicial plebiscite have been raised. There is fairly common agreement the plebiscite in its current form has not accomplished its mission very well. However, if the Committee goes forward with its current resolution, there is a risk it will fail at the Assembly and the MSBA will be left with the status quo. To prevent that possibility, an alternative proposal was developed for consideration by the Committee.
Mr. Unger presented the alternative proposal, which maintains prior language and adds two new provisions. The first provision is that the MSBA work with relevant Sections (most likely Civil Litigation, Appellate Practice and Criminal Law) to conduct a plebiscite for statewide contested races. Focusing the plebiscite in this way will mean that attorneys who vote will be much more knowledgeable about the particular judges and better able to cast an informed and meaningful vote. The Sections would assist in ensuring a substantial majority of their members participate in the plebiscite. The alternative proposal also contains a provision that the MSBA would work with district bars interested in conducting a plebiscite for local contested races to explore lower cost options.
The alternative proposal was moved and seconded. The Committee discussed the alternative proposal. Ms. Cole offered an amendment that would require the MSBA to dedicate the amount of staff and financial resources that would have been spent on the plebiscite to informing the public about the need for impartial judges and qualities to look for in a judge, among other things. The amendment was moved and seconded, but did not pass. The Committee then voted on the alternative proposal language, which passed. The Committee adjourned.
March 22, 2012
Present: Mike Unger – Chair, Don Betzold, Hon. Louise Dovre Bjorkman, Fred Finch, Stacey Fujii, Ryan Kaess, Lawrence Rocheford, Michael Ryan, Brandon Thompson, Hon. Mary Vasaly, Hon. Bruce Willis, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Kevin Beck, Karen Cole, Dyan Ebert, Mike Ford, Tracy Harris. Guest: Anne O’Reilly.
Update on justice system funding and judicial election reform efforts: MSBA lobbyist Bryan Lake was unable to attend due to commitments at the legislature. Ms. Mischel reported that justice system funding has not been issue this session, although it will be next year. The retention election bill for judges, sponsored by the Coalition for Impartial Justice and supported by the MSBA, did not receive any hearings this session. Other bills related to judicial elections also have not received any hearings. Because policy committee deadlines have passed, it is extremely unlikely any of these bills will move this session. But there may be informational hearings on the bills later.
Mr. Unger alerted the Committee to the fact that the MSBA’s legislative position supporting retention elections for judges will expire in June 2013. Over the next year, the Committee will review this position and determine whether to recommend renewal of the position.
Judicial Plebiscite Subcommittee Report and Recommendation: Mr. Kaess provided a summary of the subcommittee’s report and recommendation to discontinue the plebiscite and instead concentrate MSBA resources on providing more information to the public about the need for impartial judges, the qualities that make a good judge, and the Affirmation of Responsible Judicial Campaign Conduct. Following discussion, the Committee voted to adopt the report and recommendation. It will be heard by the Assembly in April.
Review of Supreme Court definition of retired judge or attorney: The Office of Attorney Registration contacted the MSBA regarding complaints they have received from attorneys who would like to claim retired attorney status but are unable to do so because they have some “gainful employment.” Mr. Unger proposed a subcommittee be formed to explore this issue in more detail to see whether the MSBA may want to recommend a change in the attorney registration rules. Mr. Betzold and Mr. Thompson volunteered to serve on this subcommittee.
Review of MSBA’s Affirmation of Responsible Judicial Campaign Conduct: Ms. O’Reilly, Chair of the JECCC (Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee), informed the Committee about the role and authority of the JECCC. Mr. Unger discussed the importance of the Bar’s role in encouraging responsible voluntary judicial election conduct. Some of the differences between the MSBA and the HCBA’s Affirmation were noted and Mr. Unger suggested a subcommittee to explore whether a uniform Affirmation could be developed to strengthen the Bar’s role by speaking with a unified voice about responsible conduct at both the State and District election levels. He suggested that district bar representatives could be invited to participate in such discussions, and that the discussion be done in coordination with JECCC as well. Committee members agreed with these suggestions. Some questions and discussion occurred on the subject of improving the Bar’s effectiveness in influencing responsible campaign conduct. Judge Vasaly, Mike Ryan, Stacey Fujii, Ryan Kaess and Anne O’Reilly volunteered to serve on the subcommittee. Mr. Unger indicated that committee members who were not in attendance would be given an opportunity to participate and that he would reach out to the appropriate district bars.
April 4, 2011
Present: Mike Unger – Chair, Don Betzold, Daniel Cragg, Ryan Kaess, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Hon. Louise Dovre Bjorkman, Karen Cole, Daniel Cragg, Dyan Ebert, Fred Finch, Mike Ford, Stacey Fujii, Mike Iwan, Jesse Kibort, Brett Olander, Hon. Mary Vasaly, Evan Weiner.
Judicial Plebiscite Subcommittee Report and Recommendation: Mr. Kaess provided a summary of the subcommittee’s report and recommendation to discontinue the plebiscite. Committee members discussed the proposal and reviewed the comments received from district bar presidents regarding the subcommittee’s recommendation. Because there will be no plebiscite in 2011, and work on the 2012-13 budget will begin in December of 2011; the Committee optimally needs to have a recommendation to the Assembly by their December meeting. The Committee decided to solicit additional input on the recommendation of the subcommittee, particularly from statewide judges. The issue was laid over to the next meeting.
Future Meetings: The Committee set a tentative meeting for Tuesday, May 31 at 4:00 p.m.
November 29, 2010
Present: Mike Unger – Chair, Brent Routman, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Kevin Beck, Hon. Louise Dovre Bjorkman, Karen Cole, Daniel Cragg, Dyan Ebert, Fred Finch, Mike Ford, Ryan Kaess, Joseph Kelly, Jonathan Levy, David Ludescher, Karna Johnson Peters, Rep. Steve Simon, Mary Vasaly, David Stowman-Guest.
Status of Judicial Election Reform in Minnesota post-election: Mr. Unger noted that the shift to Republican control of the legislature may make it more difficult to pass a retention election bill. Mr. Routman, in his capacity as President of the Coalition for Impartial Justice ICIJ), noted that the Coalition is meeting with Republican leadership later this week to gauge their level of interest and support. The Minnesota business community is still stepping up to assist in the reform effort. Regardless of the feasibility of passing legislation, a concentrated grassroots effort will take place this year to build support and increase education on the issue so that the support is there when the time is right. CIJ has hired the Lockridge firm to work on grassroots; they will be holding a grassroots training on December 13 for interested members. Members briefly discussed whether life tenure for judges might be a better option than retention elections, given what happened in the Iowa elections.
Discussion of the MSBA’s Affirmation and judicial elections: Mr. Stowman, Chair of the Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee (JECCC), summarized their efforts this year. The JECCC asked candidates several times to sign the Affirmation of Responsible Judicial Campaign Conduct; monitored contested elections outside of Hennepin and Ramsey county (including reviewing websites and ads), fielded questions from candidates regarding the Affirmation, and sent out a letter to the editor regarding the Affirmation to all media outlets in the 10th judicial district. The JECCC particularly focused on the six contested races where a candidate had Republican party endorsement (no other parties endorsed candidates).
Although the JECCC cannot endorse candidates and has no enforcement power, Committee members had the following suggestions for how the JECCC might be more effective in the future: begin its education of candidates earlier; work on making its website more user friendly for the public and candidates; and rename the Affirmation to something that is more explanatory, such as “Impartiality Pledge.”
Mr. Stowman noted agreement with the suggestion that the website identify those candidates who have signed the pledge, with an explanation/disclaimer that while the pledge is supported and encouraged by the MSBA, the MSBA does not endorse particular candidates, and voters must consider the fact of the pledge signing or lack thereof as just one of many factors for their consideration in deciding who to support.
Future Meetings: The Committee will not meet again until early January, most likely on a Monday at 4:00 p.m.
September 27, 2010
Present: Mike Unger – Chair, Hon. Louise Dovre Bjorkman, Fred Finch, Stacey Fujii, Ryan Kaess, Brett Olander, Brent Routman, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Kevin Beck, Steve Besser, Daniel Cragg.
Overview of comments received from Committee members: Mr. Unger had earlier solicited suggestions from members regarding what the committee might work on this year. Some of the suggestions duplicated work that is being done by other MSBA committees or entities, which is why Mr. Unger invited representatives from those committees/entities to discuss their work with the Judiciary Committee.
Coalition for Impartial Justice (CIJ): Mr. Routman serves as President of CIJ, which existed last year as an informal group of organizations supporting judicial election reform. Minnesotans for Impartial Courts, a formal nonprofit started by Gov. Quie, recently changed its name this year to Coalition for Impartial Justice. Members interested in being involved in CIJ’s work or possibly serving on their Board should contact Brent Routman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee (JECCC):
Fair Response Committee: Mr. Besser provided members with the history of this Committee, which was formed to respond to unfair media articles regarding judges and judicial decisions. The Committee meets on an as-needed basis.
Judicial Plebiscite Review Subcommittee: MSBA President Terry Votel has requested the Committee review the judicial plebiscite conducted by the MSBA and determine whether it should be continued, and if so, whether any changes should be made the process. In addition, the Committee should consider whether, if it is continued, county attorney races should be added to the plebiscite. Ms. Fujii, Mr. Kaess and Mr. Olander volunteered to serve on the Plebiscite Review Subcommittee. Ms. Mischel will contact Judiciary Committee members who were not present to see if any of them are interested in serving. Mr. Unger will appoint a chair of the subcommittee.
Future Meetings: The Committee will not meet again until late November, most likely on a Monday at 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Present: Karna Peters – Chair, Kevin Beck, Senator Don Betzold, Karen Cole, Daniel Cragg, Fred Finch, Steve Giacalone, Joseph Kelly, Jesse Kibort, Mike Unger, Mary Vasaly, Hon. Bruce Willis, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Mike Ford, Dana Mitchell, Mike Ryan. Guest: Judge George Perez.
ABA Standing Committee on the Judiciary—Standards for Judicial Disqualification: Since the feedback provided at the Committee’s last meeting, Judge Perez reported that the ABA’s Standing Committee has met and decided two things. (1) A process to handle disqualification issues separately from other motions is needed. This will likely take the form of a model rule or procedure which each state can then choose to enact or not. (2) More attention needs to be paid to peer review issues that have been raised. Judge Perez believes there will not be anything concrete coming from the Standing Committee until the spring.
Judicial Elections Coalition: MSBA leadership has spearheaded two meetings thus far of organizations interested in passing judicial election reform this session, leading to a ballot initiative in the fall of 2010. President Brisbois is hoping the Judiciary Committee can assist this effort in two ways: (1) updating the Committee’s educational materials to reflect support for the retention election bills from last session; (2) increasing the number of speaking engagements made to Rotary and other community groups on the topic and (3) assisting in contacting key legislators as appropriate. Senator Betzold emphasized the importance of talking to legislators now on this topic and not waiting until closer to session when their workload ramps up. Various members volunteered to contact some of the House representatives who sit on the Committees the retention elections bill must travel through. Ms. Peters suggested a conference call for new Committee members interested in assisting with this effort to get them up to speed on using the materials the Committee developed.
Judiciary Committee Public Speaking Materials: Mr. Giacalone and Mr. Cragg volunteered to help create a shorter version of the Committee’s powerpoint. Mr. Kibort and Mr. Beck volunteered to work with a subcommittee of the Judicial Elections Coalition that is identifying source data for information provided in various fact sheets. Ms. Cole volunteered to work on updating the Committee’s two-page handout for the public. Ms. Wolpert and Ms. Flom will also be asked to assist.
Next Meeting: Ms. Mischel will send an email announcing the next meeting date; it will likely be November 11 or 12.
Wednesday, September 17, 2009
Present: Karna Peters – Chair, Hon. Louise Bjorkman – Vice-Chair, Senator Don Betzold, Karen Cole, Fred Finch, Stacey Fujii, Ryan Kaess, Jesse Kibort, Mike Unger, Mary Vasaly, Hon. Bruce Willis, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Dyan Ebert, Mike Ford, Representative Steve Simon. Guests: Judge George Perez.
Caperton v. Massey Decision: Ms. Cole provided a summary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in this case. The issue at the Supreme Court level was whether a state Supreme Court Justice’s refusal to recuse himself from hearing a case, where one of the parties had made independent expenditures to organizations that made political contributions in his judicial election campaign, violated due process. In a 5-4 decision, the Court decided it did, even where actual bias on the part of the judge could not be proven. Chief Justice Roberts, in the dissent, pointed out 40 questions he thought were raised by ambiguities in the case.
ABA Standing Committee on the Judiciary—Standards for Judicial Disqualification: Judge Perez provided a brief summary of the draft resolution and report relating to standards for disqualification of judges, which is being prepared by the ABA Standing Committee on the Judiciary for the House of Delegates to consider at the ABA meeting in February. Judge Perez would like to take any suggestions/comments of members back to the Standing Committee for their October 15 meeting. The resolution provides various recommendations for improving judicial disqualification standards, practices and procedures among the States, in order to improve those standards and promote public confidence in the Courts. The Standing Committee was concerned with the appearance of bias to the public, not whether there actually is bias.
Members spent some time discussing the resolution and report. The members discussed the availability of preemptory challenges in Minnesota (an option recommended in the report), both pros and cons, and the difficulty that this and other methods of qualification can sometimes cause in rural areas, where there are fewer judges. In the report, the terms “party” and litigant” seemed to be used interchangeably. Members advised using the term “litigant” for consistency and to avoid any confusion that the word “party” might refer to political parties.
The question was raised whether the MSBA as a whole should adopt a resolution supporting the ABA Committee’s report. Judge Perez agreed to return to our Judiciary Committee after October 15 to provide an update and the Committee can decide at that time whether to make a recommendation to the Assembly.
Outlook for Legislation in 2010: Senator Betzold noted that the retention election bill (authored by Senator Ann Rest and co-authored by Sen. Betzold) made it through two policy committees in the Senate last year. He believes the bill ended up in the Rules Committee, which is a necessary stop for bills involving a constitutional ballot question. Representative Simon indicated that he met with House leadership recently about the retention election bill, which he authored in the House. The House bill was not heard in any Committees last year. Rep. Simon plans to make some changes to the bill; a stumbling block last year was the $500,00 fiscal note attached to the bill.
Next Meeting: The Committee will meet next over the noon hour on a date TBD in the latter half of October.
- Last Updated 11/16/09 -
Present: Karna Peters – Chair, Karen Cole, Dyan Ebert, Mike Ford, Ruth Marcott, Mary Vasaly, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Fred Finch, Mike Iwan, Jesse Kibort, Mike Ryan, Robin Wolpert.
Pro Bono Discussion with Legal Assistance to the Disadvantaged (LAD) Committee Co-Chairs Pat Burns and Cathy Haukedahl: The LAD Committee looks to fill gaps in legal services for low-income Minnesotans and target their activities where they are most needed. They have an active subcommittee called the Pro Bono Council that is focused solely on encouraging pro bono in Minnesota. The Council provides coordination among the various pro bono efforts statewide.
Robin Wolpert of the Committee had asked whether due to the proposed state budget cuts, pro bono efforts could be maximized through targeting in certain areas where there might be more need. There was some discussion of the LAD committee contacting MSBA sections to coordinate with them. Some of the sections have specialized pro bono efforts. Mike Ford suggested a discussion at the beginning of the next bar year to get a better sense of where needs might be greatest as a result of the budget cuts..
Legislative Update: Mr. Ford reported that as of the time the Committee met, the Courts, public defenders and legal aid would face a 1% budget cut. Because an appropriation received in the last biennium was not built into the base, legal aid’s cut is really more than 5%. A $75 increase to the attorney registration fee will go to funding the public defender’s office. There are also increased fees for copying and filing. A sales tax on legal services is not included in any current tax bill. Although the retention election bill made it out of two committees in the Minnesota Senate, the bill did not get heard in the House. Ms. Cole is attempting to contact a House Committee Chair to discover why he would not give the bill a hearing.
Update on the Committee on Performance Evaluation: Ms. Vasaly reported that the Committee is circulating a draft report. It is relatively short and would only be adopted in connection with passage of a retention election model. The report calls for a Committee of 26 members, split equally between public members and attorney/judge members. The Governor would select 11 members and the Chief Justice would choose 11, with the MSBA and MDJA able to nominate two additional members and the last two members would be judges elected to serve by their peers. The Chair would be a public member appointed by the Chief Justice. Diversity in appointments is stressed. The report recommends dedicated funding outside the judicial branch, and independent of the executive branch also. The report is not yet available to the public.
Report on AJS/MIC/MSBA Event: Ms. Peters thanked members who worked on this educational event on possible changes in judicial selection and retention, which was held at the Lexington in St. Paul on April 14. Speakers included MSBA officers, judges, legislators, representatives from the American Judicature Society and the Committee for Economic Development. The speaker panels on merit selection and retention elections and on judicial performance evaluations were very interesting and the turnout was good. Thanks to Mary Vasaly, Ryan Kaess, Kate Flom and Nancy Mischel, and special kudos to Robin Wolpert who did the bulk of the work on the event from the MSBA end.
Volunteers for the Fair Response Committee: Leo Brisbois had asked whether any members of the Committee would like to serve on the MSBA’s Fair Response Committee, which responds to unfair attacks on our judiciary that occur outside of campaign conduct. One committee member expressed interest during the meeting. Others with interest are encouraged to contact Leo Brisbois or Nancy Mischel.
ABA Standing Committee on the Judiciary—Disqualification: Judge George Perez reported that the ABA is studying many of the same issues that concerned the Quie Commission and the Committee on Performance Evaluation that Ms. Vasaly has been serving on. The ABA Committee on which Judge Perez serves is drafting a resolution relating to disqualification for the House of Delegates to consider at the ABA Convention this August. A draft should be released shortly, at which time comments are welcome. Judge Perez will forward the draft to Ms. Mischel for distribution to the Committee.
Presentations – Public Outreach: Ruth Marcott presented the Committee’s materials on the importance of an impartial judiciary to the Lakeville Rotary. She suggested a shorter version of the current powerpoint would be useful as her presentation time was limited to 20-30 minutes. Ms. Marcott volunteered to work on a shorter version.
Next Meeting: The Committee agreed to meet again on June 17 at 10:00 a.m. to review and discuss the draft from Judge Perez and other matters.
Present: Karna Peters – Chair, Karen Cole, Fred Finch, Kate Flom, Stacey Fujii, Jesse Kibort, Mike Unger, Mary Vasaly, Hon. Bruce Willis, Robin Wolpert, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Hon. Louise Bjorkman-Vice-Chair, Dyan Ebert, Ryan Kaess.
Report on the Hearing by the Ad Hoc Committee on Corruption in the Judiciary: Ms. Fujii gave a brief report on this hearing which was held in mid-March. Some of the speakers included Greg Wersal, John Degni and Jill Clark. Representative Steve Simon also spoke about his retention election bill.
Court Funding Update: It appears as though the Courts will still take a small percentage cut from their base budget in the recent proposals from the Governor, Senate and House. Various bills assessing increased or additional filing fees have been introduced, and there is a bill to increase the attorney registration fee by $50 with the revenue going towards the public defenders office.
Update on Status of Judicial Selection Bills: Ms. Cole reported that Senate File 70 passed out of two Senate Committees but the companion bill did not receive any hearings in the House. SF 70 is a bill that incorporates the majority recommendation from the Quie Commission for retention elections. It also establishes public performance evaluations for judges. Ms. Cole indicated that the Chairs of the House Committees that would hear the bill are opposed to it and that might explain why the bill did not receive a hearing in the House. Ms. Cole will attempt to find out more information as to why the Committee Chairs are opposed.
Update on the Committee on Performance Evaluation: Ms. Vasaly said the Committee has one more meeting before their work is complete and that a report will be issued.
Update on AJS/MIC/MSBA Event: The American Judicature Society (AJS) is funding this event, co-sponsored with the MSBA and Minnesotans for Impartial Courts (MIC). The event will be held at The Lexington in St. Paul on April 14 from 5-8 p.m. There will be two panels, one on merit selection and retention elections and the other on judicial evaluation issues. Ms. Peters thanked all the members who volunteered to help plan this event
Judicial Plebiscite Funding: Due to budget constraints, funding for the judicial plebiscite of $10,000 is not included in the 3-year budget plan MSBA staff prepared for the Operations Committee. This cost would be incurred in the 2010-11 bar year. Mr. Stowman, who chairs the Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee, stated that he and his Committee members are opposed to eliminating funding for the plebiscite. Mr. Finch moved to oppose the proposal to eliminate funding for the judicial plebiscite on the grounds that it is contrary to the goal of an informed electorate and that it is the duty of the bar association to provide information to the public that helps them reach a decision as to which judicial candidates to vote for. The motion was seconded and passed. Ms. Peters and Mr. Stowman will present this position to the Operations Committee.
Present: Hon. Louise Bjorkman-Vice-Chair, Karen Cole, Fred Finch, Kate Flom, Jesse Kibort, Jon Levy, Brynn Rhodes, Mike Unger, Mary Vasaly, Robin Wolpert, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff. By phone: Karna Peters–Chair, Tracy Harris, Brett Olander, Stacy Ratner.
Court Funding/1000Supporters.org: The 30-minute video regarding the crisis in justice system funding is being distributed to cable television stations across the state. This audience for this video is the general public and it ends with a recommendation for viewers to call their legislators.
Update on Judicial Selection Bills: Ms. Cole reported that Senate File 70 was heard and passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It has been sent to another Senate Committee. SF 70 is a bill that incorporates the majority recommendation from the Quie Commission for retention elections. It also establishes public performance evaluations for judges. The House companion bill has not received any hearings.
Update on the Committee on Performance Evaluation: Ms. Vasaly provided an update on this Committee. The Minnesota District Judges Association will not support judicial evaluation unless an independent funding source is tied to it. For this reason, the Committee will recommend the evaluation system have a funding source, although it will remain silent on the source of that funding.
Update on new Judicial Canons: Mr. Finch provided Committee members with background on the deliberations that took place with regard to the Judicial Canons, particularly revisions to Canon 4. Mr. Finch noted that the limits on campaign contributions to judicial candidates are now the same as the limits on campaign contributions to candidates for statewide office such as the office of Governor. Also, judges are allowed to identify themselves as a member of a political party.
Update on AJS/MIC/MSBA Event: The American Judicature Society (AJS) is funding this event, co-sponsored with the MSBA and Minnesotans for Impartial Courts (MIC). Ms. Wolpert thanked all the members who volunteered to help plan this event. She will be in touch with volunteers once a date is set, which will probably be in mid-April. A cocktail hour from 5-6 p.m., followed by a program and dinner from 6-8 is the likely format. Future tasks include: planning the dinner and set-up logistics; planning the program and speakers; ensuring the business community attends the event; and exploring whether legislators can receive a free meal. Ms. Wolpert noted that the American Judicature Society is particularly interested in encouraging attendance by persons in the business community, and so asked the Committee to consider ways in which we could assist with this.
Pro Bono Discussion: Ms. Wolpert suggested that there might be a way to help alleviate some of the current crisis in justice system funding by having firms assist in various targeted pro bono efforts. Mary Vasaly provided information about meetings organized by a local judge that have a similar focus--ways in which firms can assist the courts on a pro bono basis. Mary Vasaly will give Ms. Wolpert additional information about this effort. For example, a firm might commit to having three associates work in the courts, legal aid or public defenders office one day per month. Because there might be some overlap with initiatives in the pro bono area pursued by the Legal Assistance to the Disadvantaged (LAD) Committee, the LAD co-chairs will be invited to the next Judiciary Committee meeting to discuss the idea.
Present: Karna Peters – Chair, Hon. Louise Bjorkman-Vice-Chair, Mike Ford, Ryan Kaess, Mary Vasaly, Robin Wolpert, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff.
Court Funding/1000Supporters.org: MN CLE presented a webcast earlier today with moderator Mike Ford, the MSBA President, and a panel including Chief Justice Magnuson and representatives from the county attorneys, legal aid, and the public defenders. The focus was on the crisis in justice system funding. The webcast will be posted on 1000Supporters so that members can watch it at their leisure. It is very important for lawyers to talk to their local legislators about the funding crisis. The legislature is holding town hall forums across the state to receive input regarding the budget crisis. It is very important that lawyers and their clients show up at these hearings and speak about the impact a decrease in funding has had or will have on them.
Justice System Funding video: Ms. Vasaly reported that the half-hour video regarding justice system funding is complete. The target audience for this video is the public. HCBA and RCBA will take care of distributing the video to the public access channels in their respective districts. The MSBA will be responsible for distributing it in outstate Minnesota using both 1000Supporters network members, district bar presidents and Judiciary Committee members.
Update on Judicial Selection Bills: Mr. Ford wrote a letter to the House and Senate authors of the retention election bill to let them know of MSBA support. It was noted that merit selection is not included in the bill, unlike last year’s version. However, merit selection is in statute for the district court judges and any amendments to it can be dealt with separately rather than as part of a constitutional amendment.
Social/Educational Event around Judicial Selection: Mr. Ford inquired if the Committee is interested in working with Minnesotans for Impartial Courts and the American Judicature Society to plan a social/education event for legislators, lawyers and business people. Malia Reddick indicated the Society may have funding to underwrite the event. Ms. Vasaly, Ms. Wolpert and Mr. Kaess volunteered to work on this; Ms. Mischel agreed to assist.
Update on the Committee on Performance Evaluation: Ms. Vasaly provided an update on this Committee. Their report has been delayed until May (from February). The idea is to put a judicial evaluation system in place regardless of what happens legislatively with judicial selection. The cost of the evaluation system currently is estimated to be between $300,000-500,000.
Update on Wersal Lawsuit: Ms. Cole informed the Committee that Judge Ann Montgomery granted the state’s summary judgment motion in the Greg Wersal federal lawsuit. Mr. Wersal challenged three of the judicial canons. The ruling for the state was based on the merits (the court found the canons are narrowly tailored and do not violate the first amendment) and not on standing or mootness.
Present: Karna Peters – Chair, Hon. Louise Bjorkman-Vice-Chair, Dyan Ebert, Tracy Harris, Ryan Kaess, Valerie LeMaster, Ruth Marcott, Mary Vasaly, Hon. Bruce Willis, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff.
Court Funding/1000Supporters.org: Members are highly encouraged to join this website/listserv in order to stay abreast of the latest information on justice system funding. It is very important for lawyers to talk to their local legislators about the funding crisis. A webcast is being planned for January 23 that will give lawyers more detailed information directly from Chief Justice Magnuson, the public defenders office and legal aid. The Governor’s budget will be released around January 27.
Justice System Funding video: Ms. Vasaly reported that she has been organizing the taping of a 28-30 minute video that will be distributed throughout the state on public access channels. It is a joint project of the Hennepin County Bar Association and the MSBA. Chief Justice Magnuson will speak, and there will be two panels talking about the impact of insufficient court funding on their programs and/or clients.
Update on the Committee on Performance Evaluation: Ms. Vasaly serves on this Committee, which had hoped to have a recommendation ready for the end of January, but that has been revised to February. The idea is to have a judicial evaluation system in place regardless of what happens legislatively with judicial selection. It is very important that such a system have adequate funding but it is difficult to see where this funding would come from given the current budget.
Update on Public Education Efforts: Ms. Vasaly and Mr Smith-Hanen presented at the New Lawyers Section in the fall. Ms. Marcott has an upcoming presentation to a Rotary group. Members are encouraged to make presentations in their communities regarding the importance of an impartial judiciary.
Update on Wersal Lawsuit: Ms. Cole informed the Committee that motions in the Greg Wersal suit currently pending in federal court were argued in October and await a ruling from Judge Ann Montgomery. Mr. Wersal is challenging three of the judicial canons.
Other Business: Changes to the Code of Judicial Conduct were adopted and are effective July 1, 2009. The changes include certain limits on campaign contributions to judicial candidates. Fred Finch will be asked to attend the next meeting and provide an overview of the changes.
Present: Karna Peters – Chair, Don Betzold, Karen Cole, Fred Finch, Stacey Fujii, Sue Holden, Ryan Kaess, Valerie LeMaster, Jonathan Levy, Michael Ryan, Bruce Willis, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff.
Justice System Funding video: Mr. Ford reported that representatives from the MSBA, HCBA and RCBA recently met to discuss creating a public education video regarding the importance of adequately funding our justice system. The video would be distributed to cable and public news outlet channels throughout the state. HCBA and RCBA would take responsibility for their respective counties, with the MSBA responsible for covering the remaining counties. HCBA and RCBA agreed to pursue creating such a video.
Review of recent judicial elections: Mr. Stowman, Chair of the Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee (JECCC), thought that overall Minnesota avoided any serious problems in terms of politicized judicial elections. The JECCC received no formal complaints regarding campaign conduct.
The Committee discussed involvement of parties and special interest groups in the recent elections. The Republican party did not endorse any judicial candidates this year. A special interest group was involved in a primary election for a district court judge seat. Another special interest group had listed candidates as pro-life or not, sometimes based in part on which Governor had appointed the judicial candidate (and even though the candidate did not seek an endorsement or fill out the group’s questionnaires). However, this activity did not get significant attention in the media. There were no statewide TV commercials by special interest groups in any of the races for Supreme Court or Court of Appeals, which has not been the case in other states recently.
Members were of the opinion that with four Supreme Court justices up for election in 2010, no assumptions could be made that things would go so smoothly in future judicial elections. Minnesota seems to have been very lucky so far to avoid the problems of politicization and special interest group involvement in judicial elections seen in other states.
Discussion with representatives from the Kansas Judicial Performance Commission:
Yes, a 2003 House bill proposed a system of judicial evaluation, but it did not pass. Also, the Chamber of Commerce and other groups were doing their own evaluations and it seemed useful to replace a lot of individual evaluations with one general evaluation.
In response to the failed 2003 bill, the Judicial Council was asked to study and recommend a judicial evaluation system. The study group consisted of half lawyers and half non-lawyers. It included the biggest critics of the courts. In 2006, the Council’s recommendations passed the Legislature and the Commission started July 1 of that year.
The process of actually drafting the rules and agreeing on the questionnaires was arduous and took a very long time. The Judicial Council has a lot of credibility at the legislature, so their recommendations were fairly easy to pass. The Chairs of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees are members of the Council; the other eight members are appointed by the Chief Justice.
Yes, a number of them. However, the Colorado model was followed most closely and the Arizona rules were used as a starting point.
Surveys are done of both attorneys and nonattorneys. The latter group is made up of litigants, jurors, court staff, law enforcement, witnesses and interpreters. The surveys of nonlawyers are very important in establishing credibility.
It consists of 13 members: 6 nonlawyers, and 7 lawyers/judges. The Chair is either a retired judge or an attorney. No active judges are members. At least one lawyer member and one nonlawyer member must reside in each of the state’s four congressional districts. There are two lawyer and two nonlawyer at-large members. The Judicial Council appoints the Commission. Staff consists of the executive director and three other lawyers, plus three secretaries, all of whom split their time between the Commission and the Judicial Council.
The Commission is funded by a $2 docket fee increase which raises $700,000/year. Docket fees are important because they are protected from political and economic hardship. 266 judges are evaluated within a four year period, adding in retired judges brings it to a total of 296. The start-up year of the Commission cost more than following years; the budget now settles in right around $700,000/year.
--judges; attorneys; public; other stakeholder groups?
Getting computerized mailing addresses from the courts in order to send surveys to court users was extremely difficult and expensive. The Commission initially ended up having to physically go to each courthouse separately while new software was being written in order to download the information from a central source. Make sure you have an experienced IT person figure this out in advance. It’s difficult to attract public attention to the results of the surveys.
Yes, there have been some amendments to the enabling statutes, especially to grant access to contacts for court users and attorneys involved in confidential case files. The Commission is set to sunset July 1, 2010, so they will be seeking an indefinite extension to continue their work.
Consider having district commissions do evaluations for the trial courts. Closely monitor whether sufficient responses were being received.
Hire a professional pollster to conduct the surveys. Kansas used the same one that Colorado uses. Hire a professional public relations firm to publicize the process and survey results.
Other Business: Justice Barry Anderson is chairing Minnesota’s Performance Evaluation Commission. Mary Vasaly has been appointed to it as the MSBA representative.
Senator Betzold mentioned that Gov. Quie is making rounds at the legislature and believes the retention election bill will be introduced early this session.
Present: Karna Peters – Chair, Don Betzold, Hon. Louise Bjorkman, Karen Cole, MSBA President Mike Ford, Stacey Fujii, Tracy Harris, Ryan Kaess, Jonathan Levy, Ruth Marcott, Brett Olander, Robin Wolpert, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff.
Update from MSBA Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee (JECCC): Mr. Stowman, Chair of the JECCC, plans to contact candidates in contested races outside of Hennepin and Ramsey counties and ask to meet with them over lunch or coffee, along with any other interested and available members of the JECCC. The goal of the meetings is to generate goodwill between the parties in a race so that they will be more likely to run a non-negative campaign against each other. In addition, Mr. Stowman will solicit suggestions regarding the JECCC’s efforts and how it might be more effective.
Public Education Efforts: Ms. Peters presented the Committee’s public education materials at the Stearns/Benton County Bar meeting on September 5. Ms. Peters is also presenting at the MSBA’s Bench & Bar conference in Duluth on September 12. Mary Vasaly spoke using the materials at a Rotary Club in St. Louis Park on August 4. Mr. Ford and Ms. Peters are participating in a forum at the College of St. Benedict on September 23 that includes a panel discussion on judicial elections. Former Governor Quie and Judge Sharon Hall, as well as Senator Julianne Ortmann are also participating. Minnesota Women Lawyers has an ad in the Park Rapids paper that provides a link to a survey on judicial impartiality as an experiment. Ms. Cole will send a copy of it to the Committee. They are doing this in connection with a forum on judicial selection in Park Rapids/Hubbard County on Wednesday, September 17th. David Stowman is one of the participants, along with a District Court Judge and others.
Crookston Times article: Tim Tingelstad, a candidate in the Supreme Court race against Justice Paul Anderson, had an article published in the Crookston Times where he speaks against retention elections for judges. Ms. Mischel is checking to see if anyone from Minnesotans for Impartial Courts is responding. The Committee agreed that the Committee should have a general editorial piece available on judicial selection. It would not be tailored to respond directly to a particular author or piece, but could be used generally to explain the need for change in how judges are selected and retained. Ms. Mischel will follow up with Judge Louise Bjorkman and Tracy Harris on a piece they had started working on during the past year.
Voter Education: Information about judicial candidates can be found on the Minnesota Lawyer website as well as Minnesota Women Lawyers and the Star Tribune. Ms. Mischel will look into getting these links and including them in the minutes and making them available to Judiciary Committee members, so we will have them at the ready in the event we are asked. We will not have the links directly on the Judiciary Committee’s webpage, as they are available on other websites.
Revisions to Public Education Materials: Ms. Peters thanked Mr. Kaess and Ms. Harris for their help in updating the Committee’s public education materials. The Committee approved the recommended changes in the powerpoint and handout. Ms. Peters is discussing with MN CLE the possibility of revising the Judiciary Committee CD to include the updated materials, which will also be posted on the Judiciary Committee’s website (with the exception of the video portions). The video portions would be shortened to focus only on the sample judicial election ads and former Governor Quie’s explanation of why this issue is important.
The Committee agreed to meet again at noon on Wednesday, October 8.
Present: Karna Peters – Chair, Members, Louise Bjorkman, Leo Brisbois, Karen Cole, Fred Finch, Ryan Kaess, Jonathan Levy, Ruth Marcott, Representative Steve Simon, Mike Unger, Mary Vasaly, Honorable Brue Willis, Robin Wolpert, Guest David Stowman, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff.
Public Education Efforts: Chair Peters mentioned that the Committee’s public education materials need some updating. Ms. Peters, Ms. Harris and Mr. Kaess agreed to take on this task. Ms. Peters is presenting the materials at the Stearns/Benton County Bar meeting on September 5. Mr. Smith-Hanen reported that he presented to a Minneapolis Rotary Club meeting on July 1. The presentation went well. There were about 40 attendees who were interested and concerned about the topic. Members suggested it would be useful to have a list of where presentations have occurred so far. Ms. Mischel will distribute this list. Mr. Ford stated that the College of St. Benedict is holding a forum on September 23 with a panel discussion on judicial elections.
Ms. Wolpert moved that individual Committee members commit to giving the Judiciary Committee’s educational presentation four times in the coming year. Ms. Vasaly seconded the motion. The motion passed. The goal of the presentations is to create a base of people educated on the importance of a fair and impartial judiciary. Representative Simon suggested presenters have sign-up sheets at presentations to collect contact information for the attendees.
A few Committee members are participating in a project of the Civic Education Committee, writing curriculum for the Kids Voting initiative. For the first time, the kids’ ballot will include judicial candidates.
Minnesotans for Impartial Courts (MIC) is creating educational materials to use during the legislative session. The Committee will explore whether they can combine efforts on any of these materials.
Update from MSBA Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee (JECCC): Mr. Stowman, Chair of the JECCC, stated that their goal is to educate judicial candidates. The JECCC is trying to influence conduct of the candidates so that they act in a way that is consistent with the dignity of the office that they are seeking. Mr. Stowman is sending a letter to all judicial candidates (except those in the 2nd and 4th districts where separate campaign conduct committees exist) informing them of the JECCC and asking them to sign an affirmation regarding how they will conduct their campaign. Candidates can publicize the fact they have signed the affirmation; the MSBA will not do so.
Update on Efforts by Common Cause: Chair Peters reported that she and Ms. Bjorkman met with Mike Dean of Common Cause MN. This citizens group has been recently reinvigorated and became active last session on the topic of judicial elections. Common Cause has signed onto the Quie Commission approach of retention elections. However, they are focusing more on educating people about the problem, rather than a particular solution.
Committee members agreed to keep discussion open with Common Cause and other groups working on judicial elections such as MIC, League of Women Voters and MN Women Lawyers, especially with regard to public education-related efforts such as possible educational forums that might be sponsored by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters in the later November/December time frame.
Rep. Simon commented that last year he introduced legislation to limit contributions to judicial candidates; there is currently no limit. The legislation did not pass. The Governor indicated he wanted it to be part of an overall judicial elections reform package.
Present: Karna Peters and Mary Vasaly - Co-Chairs, Members Don Betzold, Louise Bjorkman, Karen Cole, Mike Ford, Stacey Fujii, Lloyd Grooms, Jerry Lane, Jonathan Levy, Dana Mitchell, Brett Olander, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff.
Report from Public Education Subcommittee:
Members agreed to meet once during the summer, possibly in early to mid-July. At that point, there will be more information regarding the JECCC (Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee). The Committee can continue to discuss educational outreach presentations.
Update on Judicial Selection bills at Legislature
The MSBA has set up a ballot question fund so that any expenditures possibly related to a ballot question are allocated to that fund.
Mandatory Retirement Age for Judges
Report from Legislative Forum Subcommittee: Co-Chair Vasaly reported that the informational forum for legislators on February 20 only drew four legislators (Senators Gen Olson and Yvonne Prettner Solon and Representatives Joe Atkins and John Berns). Professor Malia Reddick, Justice Alan Page and former Governor Al Quie were present, along with the Judiciary Committee co-chairs and a few members. The forum began at 11:30 and unfortunately the House went into session at noon that day.
Report from Public Education Roll-out Subcommittee: Ms. Harris reported on the subcommittee's efforts to distribute information about the CD materials to attorneys across the state. Information has gone out to the county attorneys, public defenders, district bar association presidents, MSBA sections and committees. The April 14 webcast is being prominently advertised by the MSBA. Mr. Finch suggested the subcommittee write to editors of small town newspapers and offer them op-ed pieces, perhaps written by one of their local attorneys, on the importance of an impartial judiciary and judicial selection issues. Mr. Finch also suggested that a resolution regarding judicial impartiality and selection should be prepared for use at precinct caucuses.
Report on Other Outreach Efforts: Co-Chair Peters presented the video and other Judiciary Committee public education materials regarding judicial selection and impartiality at an MSBA Bench and Bar outreach CLE event in Willmar on March 7. Mike Ford, MSBA President-Elect, and Steve Besser, last year's Co-chair, assisted in the presentation. There were close to 90 attendees, including seven of the eight district judges from the 8th Judicial District, and the information was well-received. There will be another district outreach meeting in Bemidji on April 25. Ms. Peters will present there as well; she would like another volunteer from the Committee to join her.
The MSBA's Civic Education Committee had a booth at a social studies teachers conference last week. Copies of the Judiciary Committee's fact sheet and CD's were available and about 20 teachers picked them up. There will be additional opportunities to distribute the CD and talk to the public at the state fair this summer.
Update on Judicial Selection Bills at Legislature: It appears unlikely any judicial selection bill will advance this year since the first policy committee deadline is this Friday and no additional hearings are scheduled. The MDJA Board of Directors is meeting March 21 to reconsider its position on judicial selection. A number of individual judicial districts have passed resolutions supporting retention elections.
Report on New Lawsuit by Greg Wersal: Ms. Vasaly reported that Greg Wersal has filed a new lawsuit challenging some of the provisions in the Judicial Code.
Co-Chair Vasaly reported that she attended a workshop in Dallas sponsored by the National Center for State Courts on effective judicial campaign conduct oversight committees. Based on what she learned, Ms. Vasaly believes the documents forming Minnesota's Judicial Election Campaign Conduct Committee will serve us well. Representatives from Texas indicated that judicial candidates who do not sign the affirmation in their state are generally defeated.
Report from Legislative Forum Subcommittee:
Several Senate Committees are holding a joint informational hearing on February 4 at 12:30 p.m. regarding judicial selection issues. Brian Melendez is speaking on behalf of the MSBA. Other invited speakers include representatives from Minnesotans for Impartial Courts, National Center of State Courts, MN Women Lawyers and League of Women Voters. Mr. Melendez's talking points will be distributed to Committee members to enable them to answer questions they may get regarding judicial selection issues in a manner that is consistent with the MSBA's position.
Members discussed the MSBA position on judicial selection, which leaves open the option of supporting retention elections if that is the method favored by legislators. Rep. Steve Simon and Sen. Ann Rest are authoring a retention election bill on behalf of the Minnesotans for Impartial Courts (MIC). MIC held a press conference on January 31.
Mr. Grooms suggested members sign up for the MSBA Grassroots Action
Network, which may be activated later this year for purposes of encouraging
legislators to support change regarding judicial selection. Members
can sign up online at:
Ms. Peters mentioned she will be representing the MSBA position on judicial selection in an upcoming MN CLE program on the Legislative Process on February 15.
Report from Public Education Subcommittee:
MN CLE is sponsoring a webcast at noon on March 4 that will include showing the Committee's video with a live introduction by Mr. Melendez and Ms. Peters. Members discussed the possibility of obtaining CLE credit for the webcast in the hope of drawing more people. Mr. Smith-Hanen and Ms. Mischel agreed to look into this; it was noted there must be a "live" person available to answer questions in order to qualify for CLE credit. We will follow up with Frank Harris on details of the webcast, including sign up and whether it can be a free webcast.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 p.m.
Present: Karna Peters and Mary Vasaly - Co-Chairs, Members Don Betzold,
Louise Bjorkman, Karen Cole, Fred Finch, Kate Flom, Tracy Harris, Heather
Lang Jacobsen, Matthew Lemke, Josh Smith-Hanen, Mike Unger, Ken White,
Honorable Bruce Willis, Robin Wolpert, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff.
Recent Judicial Elections News: A large amount of money was spent by
outside organizations to influence recent Wisconsin judicial elections.
In addition, the candidates themselves raised a large amount of money.
Here is an attachment to the Milwaukee Journal article that gives further
Report from Legislative Symposium Subcommittee:
MSBA lobbyist Lloyd Grooms has approached Senator Betzold and asked him to author a bill putting forward the MSBA position on judicial elections. Sen. Betzold has not yet decided if he will do so.
Report from Public Education Subcommittee: Co-Chair Peters reported
that the goal of having the public education materials ready for the
Assembly on December 14 was met. All Assembly members in attendance
received a hard copy of the handouts, as well as a CD with all the materials,
including the powerpoint and video presentation. All of the public education
materials, with the exception of the video, are available on the Judiciary
Committee's MSBA webpage at:
There is also a link from the MSBA home page, left side links, under Jud. Independence Resources. Committee members were encouraged to take a CD and look for opportunities to present on the topic in their communities, and to let Nancy Mischel at the MSBA know when they do so. Nancy is keeping a map of the state in her office with red stickers added every time the materials are used in a presentation. The goal is to have the map covered in red.
Volunteers were solicited to serve on a roll-out subcommittee. This group will be charged with getting word out to lawyers, judges and other interested groups on the availability of the public education materials, so they can be presented in communities around the state. One idea is to have a point person in every bar district. Louise, Ken, Josh, Tracy and Karna volunteered for this effort and Louise agreed to convene the first meeting. An e-mail will be sent to let the members of the Judiciary Committee know that the roll-out subcommittee has been formed and that others can join if they are interested. The committee discussed a draft roll-out plan (attached). Additional suggestions for distribution points included county attorneys, colleges and universities, county district chairs, public access television and the 7th and 8th district bench & bar meetings being planned for this spring.
There was some discussion regarding the MDJA's position on judicial elections. The poll taken of MDJA members reflected different results than the in-person vote taken at their meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 p.m.
Present: Karna Peters and Mary Vasaly - Co-Chairs, Members Don Betzold,
Karen Cole, Fred Finch, Kate Flom, Stacey Fujii, Heather Lang Jacobsen,
Dana Mitchell, Brett Olander, Steve Simon, Honorable Jon Stafsholt,
Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff.
Recent Judicial Elections News: Co-Chair Vasaly mentioned a recent editorial by former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who is speaking out about the importance of maintaining impartiality in judicial elections. Recent judicial pay increases in Pennsylvania led to an effort to oust all but one of the current district court judges there, who were up for re-election in retention elections.
Report from Public Education Subcommittee: Co-Chair Peters reported that the subcommittee has prepared a number of materials for public education. There is a powerpoint, which was previously viewed by the Committee, along with new talking points that track the powerpoint presentation. The powerpoint focuses on the strong asset we have in Minnesota's judiciary which is highly regarded across the country. It also mentions various options for change. The subcommittee also developed a Judicial Selection Fact Sheet/Handout and a Question and Answer document dealing with frequently asked questions or concerns about judicial selection. Last, a DVD is being put together with the help of MN CLE that is directed to lawyers and judges who might be presenting on the topic of judicial elections. Part of the video includes Gov. Quie, who speaks about creating the merit selection commission. At the December 14 Assembly meeting, MSBA President Brian Melendez will mention the availability of these materials. Mr. Finch made a motion that the Committee approve the materials, including any remaining improvements still being made. The motion was seconded and approved. Members thanked the subcommittee for their work. Subcommittee members were Karna Peters, Robin Wolpert, Karen Cole, Kate Flom, Judge Jon Stafsholt, and Dale Hansen.
Rule of Law Conference: Ms. Peters reported that the Public Education Subcommittee reviewed information received regarding holding a Rule of Law Conference, which is being promoted by the ABA's World Justice Project. The subcommittee did not feel they had sufficient time to work on planning such a conference. Judge Stafsholt suggested perhaps something could be tied into the Equal Justice Conference that will be held here in May. Mr. Olander is on the Minnesota planning committee for the conference; he will bring the idea to their attention.
Report from Legislative Symposium Subcommittee:
Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee (JECCC): Co-Chair Vasaly informed the Committee that documents forming the JECCC were created by the Judiciary Committee in 2006. Due to some concern regarding the activities proposed by the JECCC and restrictions under campaign finance laws, the Committee was never officially formed. A small working group is revising the documents and will present the proposed changes to the MSBA Assembly on December 14 for approval.
Discussion of David Ludescher Letter: Mr. Ludescher briefly summarized his letter for the Committee. Co-Chair Peters reminded Mr. Ludescher that the MSBA took a position on the judicial selection issue at their Assembly meeting in June of 2007. Representative Simon stated that he is misquoted in the letter; he believes legislators can and should promise outcomes, but that promising outcomes is bad for the judiciary. One member commented that the MSBA position was not prompted by a mistrust or distrust of the public, but by a fear of national groups putting out slanted, misleading information which requires the other side to spend a lot of time and money disputing it.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 p.m.
Present: Karna Peters and Mary Vasaly - Co-Chairs, Members Don Betzold,
Louise Dovre Bjorkman, Gail Chang Bohr, Karen Cole, Jacqui Dorsey, Fred
Finch, Kate Flom, Stacey Fujii, Dale Hansen, Tracy Harris, Jerry Lane,
Heather Lang, David Ludescher, Steve Simon, Honorable Jon Stafsholt,
Mike Unger, Robin Wolpert; Guests Lloyd Grooms, Brian Melendez, Gov.
Al Quie; Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff.
Minnesotans for Impartial Courts (MIC):
Representative Simon stated that while he personally favors an appointive system he believes a retention election system is much more politically feasible, both with his colleagues in the legislature and with the general public. He has been pushing for an interim hearing on the issue. A retention election bill has been drafted. He recognizes the danger of last-minute campaigns in retention elections, but stated that data gathered by Justice G. Barry Anderson shows that such campaigns rarely, if ever, happen.
Rep. Simon is cautiously optimistic that a bill could actually pass the legislature this session. It will not be easy though, as the legislature has many big items on the agenda, including several proposed constitutional amendments, and it is a short session. He does not see any disadvantage to giving the judicial appointment bill a full push this year, however, even if it does not pass.
Judge Stafsholt reported that the MDJA voted and their first preference is the appointive system favored by the MSBA, second is the status quo and last is retention elections.
Members agreed it made sense to work with the Minnesotans for an Impartial Judiciary group in convincing the legislature and the public that change is needed.
Further Discussion of Educational Symposium for Legislators:
Ms. Peters reported that our committee invited former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to speak at such an event. Former ABA President Bob Stein also sent a letter encouraging Justice O'Connor to come to Minnesota. If Justice O'Connor were to accept the invitation, both Rep. Simon and Sen. Betzold thought a joint session of the legislature could be called.
A subcommittee was formed to work on the legislative symposium, consisting of the following members: Stacey Fujii, Steve Besser, Rep. Simon and Senator Betzold.
Other Educational Efforts:
The Committee's webpage has a link for "Recent News." Members are encouraged to send items they would like posted under that link to Nancy Mischel at the MSBA.
The next meeting of the Judiciary Committee is Friday, November 30 at noon at the MSBA.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 p.m.
Present: Karna Peters and Mary Vasaly - Co-Chairs, Members Don Betzold,
Gail Chang Bohr, Karen Cole, Dyan Ebert, Tracy Harris, Dana Mitchell,
Tom Neuville, Honorable Bruce Willis, Robin Wolpert, Nancy Mischel-MSBA
Welcome and Introductions:
History of Committee:
Judge Stafsholt reported that at the last Minnesota District Judges Association (MDJA) meeting in September 2007, a resolution was unanimously passed to authorize the MDJA President to establish a public education committee for the purpose of organizing a speakers' bureau and a powerpoint presentation to assist judges in educating the public about judicial independence. The goal would be to create a message suitable for presentation to civic groups, college political science students and high school social studies students. A questionnaire will also be sent to each MDJA member to determine their level of preference for judicial selection and retention methods.
Karna Peters went through a powerpoint she developed on the importance of an impartial judiciary with the goal of making it available to members so they can easily understand the issue and in turn explain it to others. Committee members praised the powerpoint and suggested it incorporate more strongly the likelihood that most (all) people will come before a court at some point in their lives, which will reinforce the message that they have a personal stake in the issue.
Discussion of Possible Symposium for Legislators:
Karna Peters reported that a letter is being drafted inviting former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor to speak. Senator Neuville questioned whether the judicial selection constitutional amendment issue is really ripe for this legislative year because if it passes, the funding and the people power required to convince the public to vote yes must be in place. He also stressed that if judicial elections were going to be replaced, there would need to be a workable process to assure accountability of judges. Senator Betzold said key legislators are needed to advance the issue. Both Senators agreed a panel of presenters representing different perspectives on judicial selection would be very useful for legislators.
Members agreed that Kevin Magnuson or another person working on implementation of the Quie Commission's majority report will be invited to October's meeting. Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committees will also be invited, along with the Republican leads. In addition, the Chair of MSBA's Legislative Committee, Sue Holden, will be invited with Lloyd Grooms, the MSBA lobbyist.
Mary Vasaly mentioned that the Supreme Court Committee reviewing the Code of Judicial Conduct will hold a public hearing next month.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 p.m.
Present: Co-Chairs Mary Vasaly and Steve Besser, Members Louise Dovre
Bjorkman, Jacqueline Dorsey, Fred Finch, Kate Flom, Mark Gehan, Brian
Melendez, JoMarie Morris, Brett Olander, Wayne Struble, Mike Unger,
Honorable Bruce Willis, MSBA staff Nancy Mischel
Resolution regarding judicial selection:
The Committee, following review of the comments and testimony received, engaged in extensive discussion regarding the optimal judicial selection process, which included the option of retaining the status quo. A motion was made and seconded to adopt the majority position. It failed on a vote of 2-11. A straw vote disclosed an overwhelming majority of Committee members felt proactive change was necessary and preferable to doing nothing. A motion was made and seconded to support the minority position (see Minority Report of Brian Melendez). The motion passed by a vote of 10-3. A motion was then made and seconded to support the Besser approach (see Separate Comments of Steven V. Besser) of preferring an appointive system, but supporting retention elections should that approach pass the legislature. This motion failed on a tie vote of 6-6. The Committee discussion reflected the idea that should the legislature pass a selection system different from the system described in the Minority Report, the MSBA should review and either reaffirm or reconsider its position at that time. Judge Willis abstained from all voting.
Members thanked Mr. Besser for his service to the Committee; his term as co-Chair ends as of June 30, 2007.
The meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.
Present: Mary Vasaly and Steve Besser - Co-Chairs, Louise Dovre Bjorkman,
Kate Flom, Benjamin Hayek, Mike Iwan, Brian Melendez, Robin Wolpert,
Discussion of Quie Commission Report:
Mr. Melendez outlined the procedure developed by the MSBA officers for the Quie Commission report. The report has been referred to the Judicial Elections Committee. The Committee's charge is to: a) review and discuss the report; b) gather input from members; and, c) provide a recommendation for the MSBA Assembly in June. The Committee's recommendation should be in the form of a resolution setting forth a proposed MSBA position either supporting or endorsing the Quie Commission Report (this support could be qualified, i.e. endorsing either the majority report or the minority report), or the MSBA could decline to endorse or oppose the report. The Committee's resolution will then be forwarded to the MSBA Legislative Committee for review and action.
Quie Commission Reporter Robin Wolpert will be providing a brief overview of the report at the April Assembly meeting. MSBA President Patrick Kelly is using various forums (Bench & Bar, Legal News Digest, Assembly meeting, district bar annual meetings) to solicit member comments and input. The Committee, through President Kelly's signature, will send an email to all MSBA members seeking their comments, which will be directed to Nancy Mischel, staff liaison to the Judicial Elections Committee. Nancy will forward any comments to the Committee via email. The Committee will meet one last time on Monday, May 21 at noon to consider the comments, draft and vote on a resolution. The Legislative Committee will meet and take a position on the resolution in time for the Assembly to debate and vote on the matter at their June 29 meeting.
Members discussed whether it was important to have a united front rather than competing proposals, recognizing that regardless of MSBA action, such a goal would be foiled if the MDJA takes a position different from the Quie majority. Discussion followed, with many members noting that MDJA opposition should not dictate our Committee's reason4ed response; and, MDJA taking any position may appear self-serving. Members also debated whether to take a practical approach, recommending what is likely to pass the legislature, or focus on the "best" approach regardless of likely success.
Judge Stafsholt moved that the Committee recommend the pure appointive process set forth in the Melendez Minority Report, but withdrew the motion as premature.
Discussion of Possible Symposium for Legislators:
The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 p.m.
Present: Mary Vasaly and Steve Besser - Co-Chairs, Senator Don Betzold,
Louise Bjorkman, Larry Buxbaum, Dyan Ebert, Fred Finch, Kate Flom, Paul
McCarten, Dean Thomas Mengler, Representative Steve Simon, Wayne Struble,
Mike Unger, Nancy Mischel-MSBA Staff
Judicial Elections Campaign Conduct Committee (JECCC):
The Committee invited David Stowman to provide information about the current status of the JECCC. Mr. Stowman attended by telephone conference call. He is chairing a precursor group to the JECCC called the Stowman Committee. This is a smaller group than required by the JECCC Bylaws. The charge of the Stowman Committee will be to review the legal opinions received by the MSBA, make recommendations to the MSBA Council regarding the scope of activities the JECCC might undertake, review the incorporating documents of the JECCC and recommend any necessary changes. The Stowman Committee will meet for the first time in a few weeks.
The meeting adjourned at 2:45 p.m.
Members Present: S. Besser and M. Vasaly, Co-chairs; C. Anderson, P. Costello (by telephone), D. Ebert, J. Dorsey, M. Gehan, D. Knutson, P. McCarten (by telephone), A.McKinsey, T. Mengler, J. Stafsholt, W. Struble, B. Willis, A. Moravetz, MSBA Staff
Guests: B. Anderson, J. Kostouros, J. Michels
Co-chair Steve Besser called the meeting to order and asked members to introduce themselves. Greg Wersal arrived at the meeting and asked if he could attend – Mr. Wersal is not an MSBA member. The committee discussed Mr. Wersal’s request – as this was both the Committee’s first and organizational meeting, he will not attend, but will be invited to attend a subsequent meeting. Mr. Wersal agreed.
The Committee discussed its charge and how it wants to respond to the White case between now and the 2006 elections. (The Rules of Professional Conduct Committee is looking at changes to the Code of Judicial Conduct.) Following lengthy discussion the committee agreed that:
The Co-Chairs will set the next meeting and communicate with the Committee
in a letter articulating how the Committee will proceed.
- Last Updated 11/11/05 -