Public Law Newsletter | Winter 2015 | Volume XXV | Issue 1

by Jennifer Brask | Feb 13, 2015

Public Attorneys on the Move

One individual and two teams were selected as the 2014 recipients of achievement awards specially designed to recognize outstanding work on the part of DHS employees in the arena of diversity and cultural competency.  Inta Sellars and Louis Thayer, co-chief human services judges in Appeals Division of the Compliance Office, were recognized for their substantial gains in creating greater diversity in the DHS workforce through their hiring and promotional practices. This is the first year that this award has been given, and Sellars and Thayer were specifically recognized for their long commitment to fostering and promoting an inclusive and pluralistic work environment, demonstrated through their hiring and promotional practices. The results of these practices show in the greater diversity in the Appeals Division workforce, and in their emphasis on diversity education for all their employees.  

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News from the Bench  

Governor Dayton appointed Sara R. Grewing and Nicole J. Starr as District Court Judges in Minnesota’s Second Judicial District. Ms. Grewing and Ms. Starr will be replacing the Honorable Paulette K. Flynn and the Honorable Gregg E. Johnson, who retired earlier this year. Both appointees will be chambered at St. Paul in Ramsey County.

Sara Grewing is the St. Paul City Attorney, where she serves as the chief prosecutor for all misdemeanors within the city, oversees all civil litigation, and provides legal counsel to the Mayor and City Council. Previously, she was Chief of staff to the Mayor of St. Paul, the State Director for United States Senator Amy Klobuchar, and an associate attorney at Flaherty and Hood, PA. Ms. Grewing earned her B.M. from the University of Minnesota and her J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law.

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Greg Brooker, currently the First Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Minnesota, and formerly an active member of the MSBA Public Law Section, was recently elected Chair of the American Bar Association’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division.  Greg is following two other Division chairs from Minnesota; the Honorable John R. Tunheim, federal district court judge for Minnesota and Allen Giles, whose public service included service as General Counsel for the Minneapolis Public Schools, as an Administrative Law Judge in the Office of Administrative Hearings and in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.   Judge Tunheim was instrumental in establishing the Division as well as serving as its chair.

The ABA’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division is celebrating its twenty-fifth year this year.  Its over 10,000 members represent the spectrum of public lawyers from representatives of local, state, and federal offices to judges and includes military personnel.  Like the MSBA Public Law Section, Division members include lawyers from both public law offices and lawyers in private practice who represent public clients.  Greg also noted that the division has many law student members who take advantage of the opportunity to network. 

The twenty-fifth anniversary year presented an opportunity to do some strategic planning for the future.  The Board has looked at ways to best serve its members, taking advantage of technology for communication and providing webinars for affordable and relevant continuing legal education.      

Eyes on the Court

By Patricia Beety, League of Minnesota Cities

Schwanke v. Minn. Dep’t of Admin., 851 N.W.2d 591 (Minn. 2014).

Performance evaluations just got a bit more complicated in the public sector.  Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that a public employee may challenge the “accuracy and completeness” of a performance evaluation by appealing to the Department of Administration in a contested case proceeding under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA). The court also held that the employee can present new evidence in such a proceeding beyond that raised to the employer.  This decision reversed the Department of Administration who summarily dismiss the employee’s challenge in the first instance finding a performance evaluation was not a proper subject for an MGDPA challenge because it typically contains only subjective judgments and opinions.

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PLS Public Service Projects

Loaves and Fishes
Public Law Section volunteers and friends cooked meals for 250 to 300 people at Holy Rosary church in south Minneapolis on August 6, October 1 and December 3, 2014.  On August 6, we continued to branch out by serving more warm-weather food – beef tacos and corn.  Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped with meal prep and set up and to Laura Booth and Nancy McLean for supervising the effort.  Also thank you to Laura Booth, Jim Alexander, Kim Mesun and Nancy Norman for their financial and food donations towards the meal. Finally, thank you to the UW-Madison alumni led by Linda Wandt for their donation of fresh fruit and salad and for serving the meal and clean up.  We also appreciate the Loaves and Fishes site supervisor Tracy Nordby for all of her support and for finding us good food purchasing deals.

On October 1, we returned to our more cold-weather menu of tator tot hot dish and green beans. Thank you to Greg Brooker, Nancy McLean, Nancy Gove and friend Renee, Nancy Norman, Roseann Schreifels, Ginny Hinzman and Kim Mesun for meal prep and set up and the UW-Madison alumni for the fresh fruit, salad, serving and clean up.  Thank you also to Greg Brooker, Nancy McLean Ginny Hinzman, Nancy Gove, Nancy Norman and Kim Mesun for their financial and food donations.

On December 3, we once again whipped up tator tot hot dish and green beans.  Based on a recent survey taken of the people who eat at the Holy Rosary Loaves and Fishes site, our tator tot hot dish meal was voted the most popular meal served! Thank you to cooks Nancy McLean, Nancy Gove, Kim Mesun, Beth and John Gloppen, Nancy Norman, Ginny Hinzman and Margaret Olson.  Once again thank you to the UW-Madison alumni and to Tracy Nordby.  And finally thank you to Nancy McLean, Kim Mesun, Beth and John Gloppen, Nancy Norman and Ginny Hinzman for their financial and food donations towards the meal.  The Public Law Section contributes $300 to each Loaves and Fishes meal cooked by PLS volunteers and the remaining cost (approximately $250) is paid through individual donations and food obtained from the Second Harvest Food Bank by Loaves and Fishes Site Supervisor Tracy Nordby.

Our future Loaves and Fishes meals are on February 4, April 1 and June 3.  If you are interested in helping, contact Kim Mesun at  Both willing helpers and financial support is welcome!

Sponsor a Family

Members of the Public Law Section once again participated in the Sponsor-a-Family project during the December holidays.  PLS members individually or in groups sponsored several families who registered with Sponsor a Family MN to receive donations of holiday gifts.   Thank you to all who participated!

Members of the Minneapolis School District General

Counsel’s Office and Special Education Dept. volunteered

 to provide gifts to 10 Sponsor-a-Family registrants.  Pictured

are Kim Buechel Mesun and Janice Robinson as they prepare

the gifts for delivery to the Sponsor-a-Family drop-off location.



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 3, 2015. 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. 

Click here for more information about the different awards.

Click here to view prior award recipients. 

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 2014 opinions is available on line at .


No. of Opinion


Date of Opinion


Gov’t Entity Involved




Opinion Requester





Independent School District 833 (South Washington County)

 Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. sections 13.43 & 13.601

 Classification of data on applicants for appointment to public body

South Washington County Bulletin, Wente









Data Practices Act:  Minn. Stat. section 13.32 & FERPA

 Designation under FERPA of “limited directory information” about students









Baldwin Township Planning Commission

Open Meeting Law: Minn. Stat. section 13D.01

Public availability of a copy of materials related to agenda items provided while the governing body considers the subject matter of the agenda item











Office of the Legislative Auditor

Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. sections 3.979 & 13.591

Classification of proposals submitted and the resulting contracts to conduct (or help conduct) a Legislative Auditor’s audit of a state program*

*Commissioner indicates that he does not intend for this opinion to be generally applicable



Public Record Media,







 City of Minneapolis

Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. section 13.43

Classification of “de-identified” data in a public employee survey












City of Waite Park

Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. sections 13.82 & 13.025

Classification of certain law enforcement data; requirement to provide copies of data access policies to the public












City of Corcoran

Open Meeting Law and Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. sections 13D.01, 13D.05, & 13.03

Requirement for the public body to state on the record the specific grounds for closing a meeting; requirement for the public body to identify specific properties proposed to be bought or sold as discussed in a closed meeting; responsibility of government entity to clarify scope of unclear requests













City of Crystal

Open Meeting Law: Minn. Stat. 13D.01, 13D.04, & 13D,05

City Council email communications with City Manager; notice of special meetings; requirement for the public body to state on the record the specific grounds for closing a meeting; discussion of improper topics in a closed meeting; need to adjourn a meeting in open session; changing meeting agenda; baring disruptive members of the public from a meeting; closing a meeting to evaluate the performance of an individual and summarizing the body’s evaluation; public availability of a copy of materials related to meeting agenda items



Communities United Against Police Brutality,







Winona County

Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. section 13.10

Release of data on a decedent to a trustee appointed in a wrongful death action


Winona County,







 City of East Grand Forks

Open Meeting Law; Minn. Stat. section 13D.05

Closing a meeting on the basis of the attorney-client privilege exception; effect of a third party’s presence at a portion of the closed meeting


Grand Forks Herald,










Dept. of Public Safety

Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. sections 13.37 & 13.82

Determination of trade secret information for data in contracts and non-disclosure agreements regarding cellular exploitation equipment; classification of data that reflect deliberative processes or investigative techniques of law enforcement agencies; necessity of redaction of versus withholding of a document



Star Tribune Media Company, LLC,










Dept. of Human Services

Data Practices Act: sections 13.43, 13.355, 13.37, 13.601, 13.462, & 13.392

Classification of data in supporting documents relating to an internal audit of a non-profit organization that is also a political subdivision subject to Chapter 13



Dept. of Human Services,











Independent School District 833 (South Washington County)

Data Practices Act: Minn. Stat. section 13.43

Classification of data relating to a complaint about a local public official who resigned and signed a release of claims document after the government entity closed its investigation without disciplining the official



Independent School District 833,


Prepared by Lynn Belgea

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies


  • 2 cup(s) sugar
  • 1 stick(s) unsalted butter
  • cup(s) cocoa powder
  • 1/2  cup(s) milk
  • 1 teaspoon(s) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2  cup(s) peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
  • 2 1/2 cup(s) rolled oats, plus 1/2 cup more if necessary


In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, cocoa, milk, and vanilla. Bring to a slow boil, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the peanut butter. Remove from the heat. Stir in 2 1/2 c. oats. The mixture should be thick. Add the remaining 1/2 c. oats if necessary.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop the mixture by the heaping tablespoonful onto the parchment. Allow the cookies to firm up at room temperature, about one hour.

ABA House of Delegates Report

By Juan Hoyos, ABA Delegate, MSBA

The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates convened on February 9, 2015, at the ABA’s mid-year meeting in Houston, Texas. The House of Delegates meets twice a year at the ABA Annual and Midyear Meetings.  Action taken by the House of Delegates on specific issues becomes official ABA policy. 

The House of Delegates consists of 560 members. Fourteen Minnesota lawyers represented the Minnesota delegation at the February meeting.  The group passed several resolutions that will define the ABA’s policy in the future.

The House passed resolutions encouraging laws that prohibit the private possession, sale and transport of dangerous wild animals; encouraging law schools and bar associations to provide debt counseling and financial education for law students; encouraging restraint in the use of shackles during juvenile proceedings and allowing a hearing to consider whether such restraints are necessary and a resolution urging governmental agencies to repeal stand your ground laws or severely limit them. 

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The MSBA Public Law Section is seeking nominations for positions on the 2015-16 Council!  Please submit your statement of interest to Jennifer Brask at by April 3, 2015.

Nominating Committee
Corrine Heine, 952/939-8262
Margaret Westin, 763/391-7083


The annual meeting and CLE of the Public Law Section will be held on Friday, May 15th 2015, at 9 a.m. at Hamline University's Klas Center.


Please mark your calendars.

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