Is Minnesota becoming a judicial basket case?

It didn’t take long for Pawlenty-appointee Lorie Gildea, the new chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, to pick up on her predecessor’s theme — funding cuts are killing Minnesota’s justice system.

According to the MinnLawyer blog:


Gildea called on the criminal law bar to join in grassroots effort to educate the public on the situation. “We must take our case to the people,” she said.

In a panel discussion on the funding crisis following Gildea’s remarks, State public Defender John Stuart outlined the dire situation faced by resource-starved public defenders. More funding cuts would likely mean defenders would no longer be able to handle cases involving out-of-custody defendants or to cover first appearances.

Gildea’s predecessor, Eric Magnuson, a former law partner of Pawlenty’s, spent much of his term railing against the lack of adequate funding for Minnesota courts.

“As delays in criminal case processing grow, so do the threats of having cases dismissed or convictions overturned because the state failed to provide a constitutionally guaranteed speedy trial. It happened twice last year on appeal in significant felony cases, because the courts were compelled to follow the provisions of the state Constitution,” Magnuson wrote in an MPR commentary earlier this year.

The issue has yet to come up in this year’s gubernatorial campaign.

(Justice Gildea will be on MPR’s Morning Edition with Cathy Wurzer on Tuesday)

(Update 10:11 a.m. 8/24) – I asked Stuart what sort of crimes should be “decriminalized.” He e-mailed a starting list:

Sure: I think we should use the “petty misdemeanor” treatment (like a speeding ticket) for most cases involving:

–theft under $100

–disorderly conduct

–fishing law violations

–trespassing

–loitering

–driving with a suspended license (currently this is a “payable misdemeanor”)

–NSF check under $100

I’m sure there are a few more, this is for example.

  • SEG

    When a judiciary is in crisis, you can pretty much bet that the state public defenders have been in crisis for at least three years prior to it hitting the courts. We need major funding NOW to ensure that cases move forward and that defendants receive their right to a fair trial.

  • http://www.justiceinmn.org JIM

    ‘Gildea called on the criminal law bar to join in grassroots effort to educate the public on the situation. “We must take our case to the people,” she said.’

    Justice Gildea- I am concerned that you are not in favor of allowing the people in the great state of Minnesota to elect their judges, but you have no problem going to the people to ask for their help!