Public Law Newsletter | Winter 2014 | Volume XXIV | Issue 1

by Jennifer Brask | Apr 25, 2014

Public Attorneys on the Move

Michael Goodwin has recently joined the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.  Goodwin was formerly with the law firm of Jardine, Logan and O’Brien and previously served as a student liaison on the PLS Executive Council while he was a student at Hamline Law School.

News From the Bench

Governor Dayton appointed Mark C. Vandelist as District Court Judge in Minnesota’s First Judicial District. Mr. Vandelist  replaces the Honorable Edward I. Lynch, who retired earlier this year. The judgeship will be chambered at Le Center in Le Sueur County.

Mr. Vandelist was a trial attorney and partner at Vandelist & Vandelist, P.A., where he primarily handled personal injury cases and provided pro bono services in criminal areas. He previously served as a trial attorney at Heuer & Vandelist, P.A., and Cousineau McGuire Chartered. Mr. Vandelist earned his B.A. from American University in Washington, D.C. and his J.D. from the Hamline University School of Law.

Additionally, Mr. Vandelist is a certified civil trial specialist, served as an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association and volunteers as coach for Lakeville North High School Mock Trial.

Mr. Vandelist resides with his family in Lakeville.

Minnesota’s First Judicial District consists of Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, Le Sueur, McLeod, Scott and Sibley Counties.

Governor Mark Dayton appointed Marta M. Chou, Nicole A. Engisch, Thomas S. Fraser, Carolina A. Lamas and Bruce D. Manning as District Court Judges in Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District. The appointees will be filling vacancies created upon the retirements earlier this year of the Honorable John L. Holahan, Jr., the Honorable William R. Howard, the Honorable Marilyn J. Kaman, the Honorable Richard S. Scherer and the Honorable Lloyd B. Zimmerman. These judgeships will be chambered at Minneapolis in Hennepin County in the Fourth Judicial District.

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Eyes on the Court

By: Patricia Beety, League of Minnesota Cities

Helmberger v. Johnson Controls Inc., 839 N.W.2d 527 (Minn. 2013)

The Minnesota Supreme court recently held that private businesses contracting with government entities are not required to comply with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (“MGDPA”) when there is no notice requiring statutory adherence in the underlying contract. The question about what type of contracts between government entities and private contractors are subject to the MGDPA was left unanswered.  Many were watching this case to see if the lower court decisions adopting a multi-factored test for what constitutes a “governmental function” would be followed by the supreme court.  Instead, we were given a primer on following the plain language of a statute and adhering to core principles of contract law in this much anticipated decision, leaving the governmental function question for another day and another case.

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Because I Said So: A Chance to Rethink Chevron Deference

By: The Honorable Eric L. Lipman

My eleven year-old is an independent thinker.  He assumes nothing.  He takes nothing for granted: “Why must I go to bed?” “Why do I need to wear a hat?” “Why is there gravity?” “Why can’t I juggle steak knives?”  Why? Why? Why?

Sometimes these interrogatories can be trying.  Recently, at the end of one very long day of questions and answers, I just broke. Tumbling toward the refuge of exhausted parents everywhere, I blurted out: “Why? Because I said so…. That’s why!!!”

I recalled that day, and that feeling of exasperation, as I read through the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in City of Arlington v. Federal Communications Commission.  I remembered that: Just because I can say something authoritatively, does not mean that my authority is the best answer to a question.

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The ABA's Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division

By: Greg Brooker, Assistant U.S. Attorney

The ABA’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division (GPSLD) had a productive year in 2013, sponsoring several live webinars and CLEs for members.  What follows is a short update on the Division’s activities:

New Officers
The GPSLD met at the ABA’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco in August and elected the following officers:
Chair – Al Purdue, Los Alamos, NM
Chair-Elect – Greg Brooker, Minneapolis, MN
Vice-Chair – Joan Burke, Newark, NJ
Secretary – Jenae Naumann, Phoenix, AZ
Treasurer – Pauline Weaver, Oakland, CA

ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco
At the ABA Annual Meeting,  GPSLD council members voted to co-sponsor several ABA resolutions and listened to Erik Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, announce a new national policy on drug prosecutions.  Also at the meeting, Hillary Rodham Clinton received the ABA’s highest award for her contributions as a lawyer and her work for some 40 years in the ABA.

Fall Council Meeting in Santa Fe
The GPSLD Fall Council Meeting took place in October in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The GPSLD sponsored an ethics CLE for New Mexico government lawyers and co-sponsored several seminars with the ABA’s State and Local Section, which was meeting in Santa Fe at the same time. 

Upcoming ABA Mid-Year Meeting in Chicago in February
At the ABA’s Mid-Year 2014 Meeting in Chicago, the GPSLD will sponsor an interactive CLE on depositions for new government lawyers.  The Division’s popular Ethical Issues for Government Lawyers will also be held.  The GPSLD Council will also be voting on several resolutions for the ABA House of Delegates to consider.

Outreach to Law Schools
Each year the GPSLD sponsors approximately 25 programs at law schools throughout the country on government service and public law.  The programs are well attended.  Last year local GPSLD members in the Twin Cities sponsored a program at the University of Minnesota Law School, and this spring one is planned for the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

Military Lawyers Outreach
The GPSLD has two committees on military justice that provide support for military lawyers.  The committees sponsor legal help and advice clinics to military families near bases.  The committees also sponsor CLEs on such issues as prosecuting sexual assaults in the military.  In addition, the committees publish a separate newsletter each quarter for lawyers practicing in the military.

GPSLD Publications
Check out the Division’s magazine, Public Lawyer and the GPSLD’s newsletter, Pass It On, for timely legal topics for government lawyers.

Check Out the New ABA Website.  The ABA’s website is more user friendly and interactive. Check it out at

Minnesota members of the GPSLD Council.  U.S. District Court Judge Jack Tunheim and Hennepin County District Court Judge Susan Nolting Burke are members of the GPSLD Council.  Greg Brooker of the U.S. Attorney’s Office serves as Chair-Elect of the GPSLD.  Please contact them if you have any questions about the Division and its activities and CLEs.

Public Law Section Seeks Nominations for 2013 Public Attorney Awards

The Minnesota State Bar Association-Public Law Section (PLS) invites nominations for awards honoring attorneys and judges engaged in public service and in the public practice of law.  Through these awards the PLS celebrates our commitment to public service and the public practice of law. These awards are also used to recognize attorneys and judges who have distinguished themselves by their significant and outstanding contributions to public service and the public practice of law.  Nominations are due April 1, 2014.  Please contact the chair of the Awards Committee or any executive council member of the PLS for further information about the awards.  A nominee does not need to be a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association to be eligible for an award.  The awards include:

1. Rosalie E. Wahl Judicial Award of Excellence
2. Julios E. Gernes Prosecutor Award of Excellence
3. William E. McGee Public Defender Award of Excellence
4. Public Attorney Awards of Excellence
- Civil Law: Public Law Office Counsel
- In-House Agency Counsel
5.Douglas K. Amdahl Public Attorney Career Achievement Award
6.P. Kenneth Kohnstamm Pro Bono Attorney Award of Excellence

Click here for more information on award nominations.

Click here to view a list of prior award recipients.

PLS in Action - Public Service News

Loaves & Fishes

PLS members and their friends came together on October 2 and December 4 to prepare food for the approximately 300 men, women and children who come to the Loaves & Fishes dinner at Holy Rosary church off Cedar Ave. and 26th St. in south Minneapolis.  For many years the Public Law Section covered the cost of the food for the meal, approximately $600.  Due to reduced revenues, the PLS can now only contribute $300 to the effort.  Individual contributions have been making up the difference.  Thank you to Nancy McLean, Nancy Gove, Lynn Belgea, Nancy Norman and Kim Buechel Mesun for their generous contributions.  Also thanks to the University of Wisconsin – Madison Alumni who have been serving and cleaning up after the bimonthly meal and have been providing the fruit.  If you are interested in participating in the meal cooking or set up or making a financial contribution towards the cost of the food, please contact Kim Buechel Mesun at  The next meals will be prepared and served on February 5 and April 2.

Sponsor a Family

The PLS participation in Sponsor a Family was a little different this year.  Previously, PLS worked through Catholic Charities to find families to sponsor for the holidays through the purchase of gifts and gift cards.  This year Catholic Charities decided not to be involved with the Sponsor a Family effort and instead a separate non-profit was organized specifically for the purpose – Sponsor a Family MN.  All of the sign up and communication was done electronically this year so the exact number of public lawyers involved is not known.  We do know that at least four families were sponsored by PLS members and that individual financial contributions were made.  If you know of people who participated in the effort, please contact Corrine Heine at so that we can plan for next year.

clip art  clip art
Kim Mesun prepares gift tags and Nan Miller wraps the gifts purchased by the members
of the Minneapolis Public Schools General Counsel’s Office for the family they sponsored this year.

Habitat for Humanity Landscaping Project

Members of the PLS met on Saturday, October 5 to do gardening and lawn work for a family in Coon Rapids, Minnesota.  People who participated were Margaret Westin, Nancy Norman, Alexandra McWhorter, Whitney Brooke, and Jim Alexander.  The cool and damp weather was perfect for planting, moving perennials, spreading mulch, and preparing a vegetable garden for spring planting.  As a bonus, the volunteers were treated to a wonderful lunch prepared by the host family!

Undone Stuffed Pepper Casserole

1 lb lean ground beef
2 green peppers, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked long–grain white or brown rice
1 jar (24 oz) spaghetti sauce
1 ½ cups shredded cheese

Heat oven to 350°.
Brown meat with peppers and garlic in large skillet; drain.  Stir in rice, spaghetti sauce and ¾ c cheese.
Spoon into 2 qt casserole sprayed with cooking spray; top with remaining cheese.
Bake 25 min. or until heated through.

Makes 7 one cup servings.

We had a bumper crop of peppers this year and I found this recipe after we tired of making the traditional stuffed peppers.  This recipe freezes well and can be made in the crock pot.  We needed to use peppers but you can substitute cabbage for the green pepper and have “Undone Cabbage Rolls”

We preferred more peppers.  I used a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheese.  I added salt, pepper and onion to the meat as it browned.  I used ½ jar of spaghetti sauce and 1 can of diced tomatoes.  I added ½ package of taco seasoning.  You can add corn.  To make it creamier, you can add 2 tbsp cream cheese. 


Department of Administration
Advisory Opinions Index

This index uses the Department of Administration’s opinion numbers, dates of opinion, government entity involved and opinion requester.  We add a brief topic description.  Text of the 2013 opinions is available on line at  .

No. of Opinion

Date of Opinion

Gov’t Entity Involved


Opinion Requester



City of Mound

Open Meeting Law: Minn. Stat. sections 13D.01 & 13D.03

Closing a meeting to consider labor negotiations strategy




City of Spring Lake Park

Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. sections 13.03 & 13.82

Classification of driver’s license and law enforcement data elements collected by a local police department

City of Spring Lake Park, Speltz



MN Housing Finance Agency (MN Housing)

Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. section 13.05

Preparation of summary data

MN Housing, Sporlein



Florence Twp.

Open Meeting Law: Minn. Stat sections 13D.01 & 13D.04

Bodies subject to the Open Meeting Law; use of email communications; preparation of meeting agenda; notice of special meetings


Prepared by Lynn Belgea

Upcoming CLE programs for Public Lawyers

Award Winning advocates to present at PLS’s annual CLE
Representatives from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) will speak on Friday, May 16th, 2014, at the MSBA’s Public Law Section’s Annual Meeting CLE.  The council’s executive director, Lori Saroya, Esq., and its Civil Rights Director, Saly Abd Alla, Esq., will address issues facing Minnesota’s substantial Muslim community.  CAIR’s Minnesota chapter has been recognized by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits with their Mission and Excellence Anti-Racism Award in 2011 and the ABA’s Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division with their 2013 Difference Makers Award.  Standard and Elimination of Bias credit will be sought for this presentation.


Ms. Saroya and Ms. Abd Alla (pictured left to right)

Report from the ABA's Midyear Meeting in Chicago, February 10, 2014

The ABA’s House of Delegates convenes twice a year to review recommendations on resolutions submitted by various entities of the Association.  The resolutions passed by this body become ABA policy that influences future legislation, education policy, the courts and other important initiatives.  Some of these policies should be of interest to public lawyers.  At their last meeting, The House of Delegates, in part,  approved resolutions urging businesses to adopt and implement policies on labor trafficking and child labor; urging governments to ensure that juveniles are provided effective appellate representation; urging state governments to apply administrative procedure acts’ notice and comment rule-making provisions to regulations governing correctional facilities and officers; urging governments to adequately fund judicial system security protocols and urging courts to review security system protocols so they may communicate their needs to policy makers; urging governments to enact and implement legislation and policies which prohibit youth from transitioning from foster care to a status of homelessness.

To view a full summary of all the resolutions by the ABA’s House of Delegates follow this link:



Local Rule Amendments

The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota has approved amendments to the Court's Local Rules, effective November 18, 2013. Local Rules 83.8 and 83.13 are amended. In addition, the Court has approved a new form, Student Practice Certification and Notice of Appearance of Student Attorney. To see the public notice, amended rules, and new form, visit the Court's website at:

On Demand CLE Credits Approved by Minnesota Supreme Court Effective 7/1/14.
Starting July 1, 2014 lawyers will be allowed to claim 15 of their 45 required CLE credits every 3 years using “on demand” course credits.  “On demand” courses are defined by the court as “archived CLE programming that meets all the requirements of Rule 5A and is available to participants at any time.”  To see the full amendments to the CLE rules approved by the court go to

The MSBA Public Law Section is seeking 
nominations for positions on the 2014-15 Council.

Please submit your statement of interest to Jennifer Brask at by April 1, 2014.
Nominating Committee
Laura Zajac- (651) 284-5019
Corrine Heine - (952) 939-8262
Ariel Pittner -
Colin Laffey -

Annual Report

MSBA Public Law Section
Annual Report


Section Membership

As of June 22, 2020 the Section has 450 members.

Financial Status

The Section had an account balance of $9,386.58 as of May 31, 2020.

CLEs & Events

The Section hosted 7 events in fiscal year 2019-20. 

Program Title


Event Code

CLE Credits

Number of Attendees

MSBA Public Law Data Practices Retreat




2.0 Standard

1.0 Elimination of Bias


Mindfulness – Living a Lower Maintenance Life



1.0 Standard


Anatomy of an Ethics Complaint



1.0 Ethics


Public Service Loan Forgiveness – Where We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We May Be Heading



1.0 Standard


Help for Attorneys in Crisis – Dealing with Lawyer Addiction and Impairment



1.0 Elimination of Bias


Contract Checkup – Diagnosing Problems in State and Municipal Contracts



1.0 Standard


Public Law Section Elections and Q&A





Annual Meeting and Election Results

The Section’s Annual Meeting was held on June 12 and 19 people attended. 

The following new council members were elected to serve on the Section’s Governing Council from 7/1/2020 to 6/30/2022:

• Sarah McGee, Minnesota State Colleges & Universities
• Kathryn Iverson Landrum, Minnesota Attorney General's Office
• Lisa Godon, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office

The following council member was re-elected to serve on the Section’s Governing Council from 7/1/2020 to 6/30/2022:

• Meg Jacot, Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities

The following council member will serve as an ex officio member of the judiciary on the Section’s Governing Council from 7/1/2020 to 6/30/2021:

• The Honorable Tracy Smith, Minnesota Court of Appeals 

The following council members will continue to serve on the Section’s Governing Council from 7/1/2020 to 6/30/2021:

• Andrew Wold, Minnesota Office of Higher Education 
• Amber Eisenschenk, League of Minnesota Cities 
• Craig Gustafson, Minnesota Department of Transportation 
• Nancy Norman Sommer, Anoka County Attorney's Office

The following officers were elected to serve on the Section’s Governing Council from 7/1/2020 to 6/30/2021:

• Co-Chair: Justin Kwong, Minnesota Department of Health 
• Co-Chair: Kate Swenson, Greene Espel, PLLP
• Treasurer: Cathy Miller, Rice County Attorney’s Office    
• Secretary: Ethan Landy, Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry

The following law students will serve on the Section's Governing Council from 7/1/2020 to 6/30/2020:
• Ivy Marsnik, University of Minnesota Law School 
• Cyle Cramer, Mitchell Hamline School of Law 

Diversity and Inclusion
What diversity and inclusion goals did the Section include in the 2019-2020 work plan, how did you approach these goals, and what was the result?

  • The Section completed a Diversity & Inclusion plan in the 2017-2018 year, and the Section referenced this plan as it conducted its 2019-20 business. The Section completed its goal of hosting a CLE in Greater Minnesota when it held its Data Practices Retreat in Baxter, MN. 
  • The Section continued to fill law student representative positions on the Council to ensure there is representation from all three law schools. 
  • The Section provided remote access to most CLEs to provide access to public law attorneys throughout Minnesota. 
  • The Section cultivated COVID-19 resources and made them easily accessible via the Section website. 

Other Section Accomplishments

  • The Section donated funds to the MSBA New Lawyers Leadership Conference ($100), Minnesota Justice Foundation ($250), and Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers ($50). 

Submitted By:
Amelia Jadoo and Justin Kwong, Section Co-Chairs
Date July 8th, 2020