Public Law Newsletter | Spring 2018 | Volume XXVII Issue 3

by Abby Ward | Dec 09, 2019

Issue Editor: Nancy Norman Sommer, Assistant Anoka County

The 2017-18 Public Law Section Council members are:

Patricia Beety, Co-Chair
Daniel Abelson, Co-Chair
Lynn Belgea, Treasurer
Nancy Norman Sommer, Secretary
Katherine Engler, Member
Amanda Harrington, Law Student Liaison
Juan Hoyos, Member
Amelia Jadoo, Member
Justin Kwong, Member
Nathan LaCoursiere, Member
Wendy Willson Legge, Member
Charles Ramstad, Member
Amy Schutt, New Lawyers Section Liaison
Katherine Swenson, Member

Notice of Solicitation of Nominations for Election of Section Officers and Council Members

The MSBA Public Law Section is seeking nominations for positions on the 2018-2019 Council, including the four officer positions. Nominations are due April 20, 2018. The election will be held at the Section’s Annual Meeting on Friday, June 8, 2018 at the Section Luncheon which will be held at the Midland Hills Country Club, 2001 Fulham St., Roseville, MN  55113 beginning at 11:30 a.m. following the Public Law Section Annual CLE, “Leading Across Differences:  Impact of Bias on the Profession” to be held at 9:00 a.m. Please submit your nomination or letter of interest to Kara Haro at 

Nominating Committee:
Daniel Abelson, Katie Engler and Justin Kwong

It is that time of year again when we ask you to nominate those exceptional attorneys that you work with each and every day.  The Public Law Section has seven (7) categories for awards honoring attorneys and judges engaged in public service and in the public practice of law. We’re asking for your help in identifying them.  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 2, 2018. Please contact Kara Haro 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 will be presented on June 8, 2018 at the Public Law Section Annual CLE and Awards meeting.  The categories for nominations are:

1. Rosalie E. Wahl Judicial Award of Excellence  
This award is named for former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Wahl whose work as a Justice encompassed the attributes of the award. Justice Wahl was highly regarded, not only for her work as a judge but also for her dedication to and tireless efforts on projects improving the justice system. Read more...

2. Julius E. Gernes Prosecutor Award of Excellence  
This award is intended to recognize the work and dedication of an outstanding public attorney working in the State of Minnesota as a County/City Attorney and/or as a criminal prosecutor at the federal, state, or local level. Read more...
3. William E. McGee Public Defender Award of Excellence  
The William E. McGee Public Defender Award of Excellence is intended to recognize the work and dedication of an outstanding public attorney working in the State of Minnesota as a public defender at the federal, state, or local level. Read more...  
4. Public Attorney Awards of Excellence  
There are two Public Attorney Awards of Excellence. These awards are the primary method of recognizing the work and dedication of outstanding public sector attorneys. Award recipients are selected from the following areas: Civil Law (Public Law Office Counsel) & In-House Agency Counsel. Read more...
5. Douglas K. Amdahl Public Attorney Career Achievement Award  
This award is intended to recognize retired or retiring public attorneys who have had distinguished careers as public attorneys, have made many significant contributions to public service and are recognized as models of the dedication and commitment of public attorneys. This award may be given to more than one recipient per year.  
6. P. Kenneth Kohnstamm Pro Bono Attorney Award of Excellence  
This award is intended to recognize an outstanding public attorney (or public law office) who has engaged in activities that show dedication and commitment to provide volunteer services to underserved communities. Read more...
7. Public Lawyer Diversity Award
This award recognizes outstanding effort and dedication by a public lawyer or office or organization of public lawyers in Minnesota who has had a demonstrated impact on (i) improving the employment opportunities for lawyers from groups historically under-represented because of race, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental disability or sexual orientation or (ii) eliminating bias based on race, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental disability and sexual orientation in employment of lawyers.  Read more...
Your nomination should consist of the following:  
1) Nominee's full name, employer, address and telephone number;  
2) Nominator's name, employer, address and telephone number;  
3) Attach a short narrative statement (not to exceed two pages) explaining how you know the nominee and describing the nominee's qualifications for the award; and  
4) Nominee's resume, if available.

A list of previous recipients can be found here.
Nominations must be submitted no later than April 2, 2018. Please submit nominations to Kara Haro via email, fax or mail (email with attachments in MS Word is preferred): 
Kara Haro
600 Nicollet Mall, Suite 380  
Minneapolis, MN 55402 
AWARDS COMMITTEE (for questions)  
Dan Abelson
Associate General Counsel
Office of General Counsel
390 North Robert Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
Pat Beety
General Counsel
League of Minnesota Cities 
145 University Ave. West
St. Paul, MN 55103

Eyes on the Courts 

By:  Katherine Engler, Minnesota BCA and
       Patricia Beety, League of Minnesota Cities
Peterson v. Martinez (A17-0355; Minn. App. Dec. 18, 2017) is an unpublished decision about data held by a contractor of a government entity. The Board of Medical Practice received complaints about Dr. Peterson and reached a stipulation with him in 2014. Later Dr. Peterson was alleged to have continued the prohibited conduct and was subject to further discipline proceedings by the Board. As part of this process, the Board hired a third party to conduct an evaluation of Dr. Peterson. 
Dr. Peterson signed a participation agreement with the third party that included a waiver of his right to review or receive data other than the final evaluation. The final evaluation was provided to Dr. Peterson and the Board. Dr. Peterson began seeking access to the data that supported the report. As the Board did not possess it, it could not provide it. Dr. Peterson then turned to the third party who cited the waiver.

2018 City Attorneys Conference 

By:  Patricia Beety, League of Minnesota Cities
The Minnesota Association of City Attorneys’ Annual Education Conference was held February 8-9, 2018, at the Sheraton Bloomington. This highly attended annual event proved itself an excellent training opportunity for city attorneys once again this year.  Informative sessions included presentations on the “Parcel as a Whole” Doctrine after Murr v. Wisconsin; a discussion of Harstad v Woodbury (currently pending before Minnesota Supreme Court); best practices for handling veterans preference in hiring; and a “short shots” session with 15 minute presentations on hot municipal issues including vacation rentals, drones, and hazardous property abatement.

PLS Public Service Projects

By:  Kim Mesun, Minneapolis School District
Ronald McDonald Cooking for Kids
On August 2, 2017, the Public Law Section cookers moved their act north to cook meals for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House near the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital.  Ronald McDonald House has a Cooking for Kids program at two sites in Minneapolis and two in St. Paul.  PLS volunteers and their friends have been making meals at the Oak St. site every Wed. of even numbered months since August.
August 2, 2017
Ten volunteers whipped up tacos, taco salads and chocolate chip cookies for about 60 adults and children.  Any left overs are packed up and refrigerated at RMH for later consumption by the families.  Thank you to volunteers Nancy McLean, Laura Booth, Beth Gloppen, Ann Rodel (1st timer), Nancy Gove, Greg Brooker, Ginny Hinzman, Michael Greene, Renee Fritz and Kim Mesun for preparing and serving the meal and for cleanup.  Thank you to Kim Mesun for a food donation to supplement the food paid for by the Public Law Section.  It was a new experience for everyone!

News From the Bench

By:  Kim Mesun, Minneapolis School District
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras won Senate confirmation to the Eighth Circuit Court bench January 30, 2018.  Judge Stras was confirmed by a vote of 56-42.  Judge Stras was nominated in May by President Donald Trump.  Judge Stras, 43, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and also for appellate judges in the Ninth and Fourth circuits. He grew up in Wichita, Kan., and graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1999, where he edited the Kansas Law Review Criminal Procedure Edition.  Judge Stras was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2010 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and was a law and political science professor at the University of Minnesota from 2004 until his appointment.

Department of Administration Advisory Opinions Index

By:  Lynn M. Belgea, Minnesota Department of Health
       Stacie Christensen, Minnesota Department of Administration
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 opinions is available online in the Data Practices Office Opinion Library at 

Breaking Down Barriers: Government Attorneys and Pro Bono Services

By:  Jeannette Behr, League of Minnesota Cities
“As a public defender I deal on a daily basis with the ultimate human tragedy: loss of liberty.  But my pro bono work on behalf of SMRLS family law clients and LegalCORPS sanctuary institutions has broadened my horizons with regard to other vital human and institutional priorities: making sense of family upheaval and being true to the immensely noble mission statements of the churches and synagogues I represent about housing and helping those in greatest need.  Championing those diverse causes alongside my work as a public lawyer makes me proud to serve as a pro bono attorney.” Quoting Greg Egan, public defender. 
Ninety percent of government attorneys in Minnesota want to provide pro bono services, based on recent survey results. However, they list these barriers: money, time, lack of a policy, professional liability coverage, and conflicts.  In a recent interview, public defender Greg Egan, responded to each of these issues. Let’s take them on, with his help. 
Money: It’s not about the money, says Greg. Yes, government attorneys often make less at their day jobs than those in private practice. Weigh this against pro bono work where you learn new lawyering skills, opens doors for those in need and deals with issues of great importance to individuals. 
Time: Greg notes that many organizations provide clinics that require only a few hours on an afternoon or weekend.  

Public Attorneys on the Move

By Kim Mesun, Minneapolis School District

Erica MacDonald was sworn in as the United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota on June 11, 2018.  U.S. Attorney MacDonald was nominated by President Donald Trump on April 10, 2018, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 24, 2018. As United States Attorney, Ms. MacDonald is the top-ranking federal law enforcement official in the District of Minnesota.

Read more... 

The Start of the 2018 Legislative Session

By:  Anne Fuchs, Assistant Revisor, in collaboration with the attorneys and staff at the Office of the Revisor of Statutes
The 2018 legislative session commenced on February 20, 2018. As the second year in the 2017-2018 biennium, it is a nonbudget year. Thus far, session has focused on hearings related to federal tax conformity, elder abuse, Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS), opioid abuse, and resolving the legislature’s vetoed funding. 
Minnesota’s Constitution & The Legislature
The legislative interim was livelier than usual with two constitutional challenges.
First, Governor Mark Dayton line-item vetoed funding for the house of representatives and senate in the state government omnibus finance bill, Laws 2017, First Special Session Ch. 4, S.F. 1. On November 16, 2017, the Minnesota Supreme Court held, in part, that the Governor’s line-item vetoes were constitutional under Article IV, section 23, of the Minnesota Constitution. Reversing part of the district court’s order, the Court explained that the legislature had access to and statutory authority to use sufficient funds to carry out the legislature’s functions. The Court declined to address whether the line-item vetoes were unconstitutionally coercive under Article III.

Upcoming Public Law Sections CLE's 

By:  Wendy Willson Legge, Chief General Counsel, Department of Labor and Industry

We have a great selection of upcoming CLEs. Watch for upcoming emails announcing registration.
March 23, 2018:  “Government Services Meet Immigration Enforcement.” Program time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Location: Minnesota Judicial Center, conference room 230, St. Paul.  This CLE is co-sponsored by the Administrative Law Section, Immigration Law Section, and Public Law Section. Register here by March 21st.
April 20, 2018: “Residency Restrictions: Sound Public Policy or Tinfoil Hats?” Program time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Location: Minnesota Department of Revenue, 600 North Robert St., Room 2000 (Skjegstad Room), St. Paul. The speakers will discuss local ordinances restricting where sex offenders may live. Are these ordinances prudent policy or unconstitutionally punitive? Register here by April 18th.
May 9, 2018: The Honorable Eric Lipman will speak about expert witnesses and expert discovery in contested case hearings. Program time: noon to 1:00 p.m. Location: to be determined.  This CLE is co-sponsored by the Administrative Law Section and Public Law Section.
May 25, 2018: "Body Cameras, ALPRs, and Other Law Enforcement Technology Meets the New World of Data Practices." Location: PierB Resort in Duluth. More information coming soon.
June 8, 2018: Public Law Section Annual CLE and Meeting. CLE, 9:00-11:00 a.m.: “Leading Across Differences: Impact of Bias on the Profession.” We will explore unconscious bias and the impact it has on practicing and leading across differences.  In a world where the only constant is change, understanding how our backgrounds impact the way we view the world and make decisions is another tool to improve our practice.  Speaker: Valerie M. Jensen, JD. (We will apply for 2 elimination of bias credits.) Networking: 11:00-11:30 a.m. Lunch and annual meeting beginning at 11:30 a.m. Location: Midland Hills Country Club, 2001 Fulham St., Roseville, MN 55113.

Winter Recipe

Award Winning Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chicken Chili (This chili has won 3 chili cook off 1st place awards)
By:  Kim Buechel Mesun
4 chicken breasts, still frozen
2 cans diced tomatoes (I use the garlic basil diced tomatoes)
2 can corn kernels (do not drain) (I sometimes use the Southwest corn)
2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
2 pkgs. Ranch dressing mix
2 T. cumin
2 t. chili powder
2 t. onion powder
2 – 8 oz. pkgs. of cream cheese
Put the still frozen chicken breasts in a 5 quart crock pot.  Top with the tomatoes, corn, black beans, ranch dressing, cumin, onion and chili powders.  Stir to combine and then top with the cream cheese. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring once or twice to blend in the cream cheese.  Shred the chicken into large pieces.  You can serve this chili over rice or in tortillas or taco shells.  You can also just have it plain with soft-shelled taco shells or taco chips on the side.
Serves 8.

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