The Minnesota Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of Republican lawmakers over last summer’s state government shutdown.
The legislators, including Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, were challenging the constitutionality of court-ordered spending on functions and services that a Ramsey County judge had deemed essential. The shutdown lasted 20 days before lawmakers passed a budget solution in a special session. In an opinion released today, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea explained that the passage of the budget and its signing into law made the challenge moot.
“The constitutional questions posed by this case are currently moot and will not arise again unless the legislative and executive branches fail to agree on a budget to fund a future biennium,” Gildea wrote on behalf of the court. “In addition, the legislative and executive branches have the ability to put mechanisms in place that would ensure that the district court is not again called upon to authorize expenditures by executive branch agencies in the absence of legislative appropriations, even is a budget impasse were to occur. Resolution of these budget issues by the other branches through the political process is preferable to our issuance of an advisory opinion adjudicating separation of powers issues that are not currently active and may not arise in the future.”
Justice Alan Page dissented.
“Even if there is never another budget impasse, the authority of the district court to do what it has done in this and the previous impasses must be addressed. Indeed, the particular answers to those questions are of far less importance than the simple fact that they are answered, so the judiciary can no long be used as a pawn in the two political branches’ partisan disputes,” Page wrote. “Our obligation to protect the judicial branch requires it, and the integrity of the judicial branch demands it.”