Maintaining MN Courts' Impartiality PDF Print E-mail


Keeping Special Interests out of MN's Judicial Elections

 

Report on October 2013 Think Again Brooklyns Forum

 


mcbridekate 150Appellate Attorney Kate McBride explained that her commitment to informing MN citizens on how to keep MN's courts impartial stems from her practice as an appellate attorney in different states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum October 15. In states such as Texas and Wisconsin which have big contributions by special interests to judicial campaigns, one is often aware of the outcome of an appeal based on the judge's bias in favor of special interests.  In states like MN where judges follow the law, the outcome of an appeal is harder to predict.  Kate McBride wants the law to matter in the outcome of a case, not whether a campaign contribution was made.

Prior to 2002, Minnesota had judicial elections in which campaign rules did not allow judges to take stands on disputed political and legal issues.  That all changed with the U.S. Supreme Court Decision  in the White Case in which Greg Wersal and the Republican Party contended this MN judicial cannon violated their right to free speech.  The U.S. Supreme Court declared in their favor. 

The Quie Commission - Following this decision, a group of citizens with backgrounds in law, politics, business, labor, and academia formed a commission under the leadership of former Governor Al Quie called the Quie Commission.  They concluded that the White decision fundamentally altered the rules for judicial elections in MN to allow political parties, special interest groups, public opinion, and moneyed interests to influence the judicial decision making process and obtain rulings that reflect their preferences.  In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Citizens United magnified the effect of the White Case by declaring that the First Amendment guarantees corporations and unions the right to make unlimited independent political expenditures.

The Impartial Justice Act - To prevent the impact of special interests on judicial elections, the Quie Commission recommended that the MN Constitution be amended to change the way judges are chosen in MN.  Representative Steve Simon will present the Impartial Justice Act, HF1666 in the MN House and Senator Ann Rest will present SF1465 in the Senate.  The Impartial Justice Act would place on the ballot an Amendment that included the following provisions:

1) Merit Selection of all Judges - Currently a Merit Selection Commission nominates 3 to 5 candidates for a vacant trial judge position based on nonpartisan factors such as integrity, ability, judicial temperament, experience, maturity, community service, diligence, and legal knowledge. The Governor chooses from the nominees.  The Merit selection statute does not apply to the selection of Appeals Court judges or MN Supreme Court judges.  The Amendment would extend Merit Selection to these judges as well.

2) Judicial Retention Elections - Currently judges run for reelection every six years and most are unopposed.  There is the possibility that special interests could support challengers.  In other states millions have been spent on judicial elections.  The Amendment would avoid the influence of special interests by having retention elections that would give citizens the power to remove a judge by voting yes or no on whether the judge should be retained.  If a judge were removed, a new judge would be selected using the Merit Selection Method, which avoids the problem of special interests funding judicial campaigns.

3) Judicial Performance Evaluation - To help voters decide on whether judges should be retained, a Judicial Performance Commission would evaluate judges in a nonpartisan manner.  The Commission would establish written standards for the evaluation that would include a judge's knowledge of the law, procedure, integrity, impartiality, temperament, respect for litigants, respect for the rule of law, administrative skill, punctuality, and communication skills.  The Judicial Performance Commission would consist of 24 Minnesota Citizens eight appointed by the Governor, eight by the MN Supreme Court, and eight by the legislature with non lawyers forming a majority of the Commission.  The evaluations of the Commission would be available to the public

Great Reduction, but not Complete Elimination of Special Interests - During the Question and Answer session, it was noted that the campaign in 2010 against three Iowa Supreme Court Judges who had voted to overturn the state's ban on gay marriage resulted in their removal. Kate McBride agreed that special interests could still have an impact on retention elections, but they are less likely to try to remove a judge when they are not able to influence the selection of a judge's replacement.  Brian O'Shea, Grassroots Advocacy Director at the Coalition for Impartial Justice, added that 90% of special interest money has been spent on contested judicial elections and only 10% on retention elections.

think again brooklyns logo wnameThe forum was co-sponsored by the Coalition for Impartial Justice, the Brooklyn Park Diversity Team, African Immigrant Services, and the League of Women Voters, Brooklyn Park, Osseo, Maple Grove, and Brooklyn Center. For further information, see the Coalition for Impartial Justice and the LWVMN.


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Judicial Elections: Maintaining the Impartiality of our Courts PDF Print E-mail


Tuesday, October 15
6:30 p.m. - Sign in, Light Supper, and Social         7 p.m. Program

Brooklyn Park City Hall
5200 85th Avenue North

Kate McBride - Appellate Attorney


mcbridekate 150Kate McBride is committed to informing MN voters on the threat to the impartiality of our courts.  The legislature is likely to consider placing an Amendment to the MN Constitution on the 2014 ballot that would aim to keep MN courts impartial by changing the way we elect judges in MN so their election would not be influenced by big money.  You can help by becoming informed on this timely topic and discussing the importance of judicial elections with your friends and legislators.

Corporations have been gaining more and more influence over our elections.  Special interest groups have been pouring millions of dollars into judicial campaigns in at least a dozen states to get judges elected who agree with their politics or issues.  At least one special interest group has said that it intends to unseat a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice. Other groups are making generalized attacks on Minnesota's well-qualified judiciary.

So what is the solution to keeping our courts untainted by party politics, special interests, and money?  A commission led by former Governor Al Quie was formed to look at judicial-selection methods.  We will discuss the trend toward politicizing judicial elections, examine the Commission's recommendations, and explore what we can do.

We will also discuss the Citizens United decision giving corporations the right to spend as much as they like in favor of or against candidates.  Kate McBride will discuss the options we have to limit the effects of this decision.

Kate is currently listed as one of Minnesota's top 25 appellate attorneys and one of the state's top 50 women lawyers.  She has received the highest Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating for ethical standards and legal ability excellence.  A past chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association's appellate practice section, she has taught appellate advocacy as an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School and is also a board member of the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society.


think again brooklyns logo wnameFor questions or future topic suggestions, please contact Carol Woehrer, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Gail Hanson, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Thank you to our cosponsors for the October Think Again Brooklyns forum:

 

lwv ais bp diversity cij

 

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The Bottineau Light Rail Line - Think Again Brooklyns PDF Print E-mail

 
 
Faster Transportation
A Link to Jobs and Education
A Catalyst for Housing and Commercial Development 

 

bottineau light rail train

Tuesday, September 17

      6:30 p.m. Refreshments & Social 
        7 p.m. Program


Brooklyn Park City Council Chambers
      5200 85th Avenue North



Brent Rusco - Senior Engineer
Hennepin County Division of Engineering and Transit Planning

 

Nelima Sitati-Munene - Community Organizer
Harrison Neighborhood Association


Wynfred Russell - Executive Director
African Career, Education, and Resource Center


The proposed Bottineau Light Rail Line could bring big benefits to Brooklyn Park and other communities along the line.  Brent Rusco, the Bottineau Transitway Study Manager, will bring you up to date by explaining the planning process for the Bottineau Line, its route, the location of stations, and what's coming next. Nelima Sitati-Munene, who has been helping residents in North Minneapolis contribute to the design of the stations, will tell us how Brooklyn Park residents can become involved in the process too.  Wynfred Russell will discuss the many potential benefits light rail could bring to our city from greater accessibility for the disabled, elderly, and families with toddlers to greater opportunities for education and jobs. 

wynfred russellBecause light rail requires infrastructure, it has a stable route and attracts residential and commercial development along its path.  Who will this development benefit?  Brooklyn Park's population is nearly half minority with 21% of its residents new immigrants.  What kinds of housing, services, sources for jobs, and retail development would be most helpful for this community?  How can we assure that development along the Bottineau corridor will serve their needs?  Mr. Russell will address these questions and let us know how our involvement can assure the coming development will serve all Brooklyn Park residents equitably.

 

Speakers

Wynfred Russell was formerly an  infectious disease researcher at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Prior to that, he served as director of the Center for Multicultural Services at Normandale Community College. He is a former instructor of the Department of African American & African Studies at the U of M and has also taught at North Hennepin Community College and Century College.  In 2009, Russell received the Human Rights Award from the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions for his service to numerous organizations and the community at large. 

Under his leadership, ACER received a Metropolitan Council Corridors of Opportunity Community Engagement Team grant to implement “Making Transit Meaningful,” a program to involve  communities of color in the Bottineau Transitway development.  Watch ACER'S four minute video describing their recent Mobile Tour of Light Rail Transit.

 

Brent Rusco worked with the many communities along the Bottineau Transitway to help them achieve agreement on the route light rail would follow in the northwest corridor.
  
Nelima Sitati-Munene works on housing-related issues, safety and crime prevention, and increasing community participation
at the Harrison Neighborhood Association and worked previously as an advocate for abused women for Hennepin County.

 

RSVP:  Let us know you're coming on Facebook, and use the "Share" in the left column to let your friends and groups know about the forum.

Think Again Brooklyns is a monthly forum on third Tuesdays at the Brooklyn Park City Hall covering issues that promote justice, fairness, shared prosperity, and sustainability. For questions or future topic suggestions, please contact Linda Freemon, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Gail Hanson, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  

 

Thank you to our September Sponsors 
 

League of Women Voters - Brooklyn Park, Osseo, Maple Grove, Brooklyn Center; African Career, Education, and Resources Center; Think Again MN; Brooklyn Park Diversiy Team

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Jump Start and Maintain Your Child's Education Progress PDF Print E-mail

 

Building Family/School Partnerships


Tuesday, July 16
6:30 p.m. Social and Refreshments             7 p.m. Program

Brooklyn Park City Council Chambers, 5200 85th Avenue N

 

Radious GuessRadious Guess - President and Owner
EPU Consultants LLC


Don't tell the kids, but school starts in just six short weeks after this forum. Find out how to jump start and maintain your child's education progress with this forum on Family-School Partnerships.

 

Radious Guess will introduce the National Standards for parent-school and community partnerships.  Research shows that linking schools with parents and community organizations is an essential component of district leadership and school and classroom organization.

Radious Guess has an extensive professional and academic background in urban family engagement, volunteer mobilization, and community organizing to promote students' academic achievement and build capacity for parents as partners in their children's education.  She has managed membership growth and implemented programs to achieve goals in nine states comprising the Southwestern Territory of the National PTA.  At a recent dinner for African American parents at Anoka Middle School, Guess stated, "Let your children know if they are disciplined and dedicated and have family support, they can do anything."

Food and drinks for the social hour are provided by your host team. Donations in any amount are appreciated to cover some of their cost.


Think Again MN Hosts:  Linda Freemon, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and Reva Chamblis, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Sponsors:

 

Think Again MN and Forum Partners

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MN Sure, MN's Health Care Insurance Marketplace PDF Print E-mail

 

 

COMPREHENSIVE AFFORDABLE INSURANCE

FOR MORE MINNESOTANS

 


Tuesday, June 25
6:30 p.m. Social and Refreshments
7 p.m. Program

Brooklyn Park City Council Chambers, 5200 85th Avenue N

manny munson-regalaManny Munson-Regala

Assistant to the MN Commissioner of Health for Health Care Reform

"Manny was excellent in explaining the health insurance exchange."

 

 

Minnesota is designing its own Health Insurance Exchange called MNsure. MNsure will be a one-stop market place where Minnesotans can find and compare health plans and choose the one that fits their needs. The first years, individuals who are not covered under an employer’s plan and small businesses with up to 50 employees can use MNsure. Large employers may be allowed to participate in 2017. Tax credits on a sliding scale based on income are available to individuals making $43,320 or less and a family of four making $88,200 or less. Small employers with fewer than 25 employees who provide health insurance may also qualify for a federal tax credit of up to 50%. Find out how MNsure will work and the important considerations in its design. MNsure will open October 1.



Manny Munson-Regala has extensive experience in public service with state agencies as well as in the private sector.  He served as Deputy Exchange Director and as Deputy Commissioner at the MN Department of Commerce. He was Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships at Ceridian, and Director of Legal, Regulatory and Government Affairs at United Healthcare.  Mr. Munson-Regala earned his BA degree from the U of WI-Madison and his Juris Doctor from the U of WI Law School.

Our host team members are volunteers, who arrange food for our gatherings.  We would appreciate your donation of any amount so they can cover some of their costs.  Thank you.

Hosts:  Gail Hanson, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and Radious Guess, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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Solar Energy - An Important Step Forward for MN PDF Print E-mail

 

New Clean Energy and Jobs for MN

Report on the May 2013 Brooklyn Park Solar Energy Forum

 

j. drake hamiltonAt the recent Brooklyn Park forum on jobs and energy, J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director at Fresh Energy, assured the attendees that scientists agree that climate change is real and that our increasing use of fossil fuels has been the major contributor.  She noted that 98% of scientists are in agreement on this, including the top scientists in the nation nominated by their peers to be members of the National Academy of Science.  Nobody in the audience objected to this assessment of climate change.  Hamilton quickly moved on to what Minnesota is doing about it.

 

40% Clean Energy:  An Easy Goal for MN

Among the top states to set standards for increasing the use of clean energy, Hamilton noted that Minnesota is fourth in the amount of its electricity produced with wind turbines.  Ahead of Minnesota are our neighboring states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa, all states, which like Minnesota have high wind resources.   J. Hamilton saw MN's goal of reaching 40% of its electricity produced by wind and solar by 2030 as a goal that will be easy for the electric utilities to reach. 

A Step in the Right Direction

chris eatonSenator Chris Eaton commented on the fast paced final days of the legislative session as legislators hurried to pass legislation.  Senator Eaton explained that part of the 2013 Solar Energy Jobs Act was passed.  She was disappointed that the full bill which would have required MN electric utilities to produce 10% of electricity from solar energy by 2030 was not passed.  Instead the legislature passed a bill requiring 1.5% of electricity produced only by investor owned utilities be produced by solar energy by 2020.  Senator Eaton invited Lynn Hinkle, Public Policy Director for the MN Solar Industries Association, to comment on the bill that was passed.

 

A 30 to 40 Fold Increase in Solar Energy for Electricity Users

 

lynn hinkle mn energy future 92711Lynn Hinkle commented that though the full bill was not passed, the part that did pass was landmark legislation for MN.  The most important part of the bill, getting the state started on increasing solar energy was passed.  The original bill had included a gradual ramp up of solar energy in MN with large increases in solar occurring in the final years the bill covered.  This bill covers the early years of solar development in MN and will result in a 30 to 40 fold increase in solar energy by 2020, from the current 13 megawatts of solar energy produced to 450 megawatts.  It is expected to create 1,500 new jobs in Minnesota.


cleanenergyjobsResidential Solar and Community Solar Gardens

The bill requires at least a tenth of the new solar energy to come from solar installations of up to 20 kilowatts, a residential size installation, and it allows for community solar projects in which individuals could invest and then have their utility bills reduced.  A MN first is the requirement that there be a true value of solar energy study done for MN.  The time of day that solar energy is available and its distributed nature gives solar energy added value to utility companies.  Because much of the energy is used at or close to the location where it is produced, it reduces the need for additional transmission lines.  Because solar energy peaks at in the late afternoon and evening hours about the same time as demand peaks , it reduces utilities need to build generators for peak energy or to buy peak electricity which costs two to three times the cost of electricity purchased through long term contracts. 

People and organizations installing solar panels will receive a standard payment for the electricity they produce for 20 years.  This is called a "clean contract."  A provision specific to MN is that the producers of solar energy can receive annual credit on their utility bills only up to the cost of the electricity they use.  Minnesotans planning to have solar panels installed need to calculate the amount of electricity they use annually to determine the number of panels that will cover their electricity use.

 

Further Information

 

For further details on the bill see:

Minnesota's new solar law:  Looking beyond percentages by Dan Haugen at Midwestern Energy news.

 

A Great Leap Forward on Solar Energy:  Solar Bill Will Expand Solar Access by More than 30 Fold Increase by 2020 by Rob Sargent and Samantha Chadwick

 

Big Gains in Clean Energy and Efficiency this Year by Ross Abbey at Fresh Energy

 

Minnesota's New Solar Energy Standard by John Farrell at  Energy Self Reliant States

 

Thank you to our forum sponsors:

 

energy web logos banner

 

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PDF Print E-mail

21st Century Jobs in MN

 

Looking Forward to Clean Energy



Tuesday, May 21 cleanenergyjobs

6:30 p.m. Social and Refreshments
    7 p.m. - Program

Brooklyn Park City Hall
City Council Chambers

5200 85th Avenue North



Climate change is causing melting arctic ice, drought leading to higher food prices in the Midwest, more catastrophic storms, food and water shortages in Africa, and rising sea levels flooding low lying Asian Cities and villages.  We can do something about it right here in Minnesota.  We have an abundance of wind and as much solar as Jacksonville, Florida. Increasing clean energy goals in Minnesota will not only be kinder to the earth, its people, and its animals, it will also create many good paying jobs, and put Minnesota on the path to economic prosperity.  Join us to find out how.
 

j. drake hamiltonJ. Drake Hamilton
Science Policy
 Director, Fresh Energy


 

J. Hamilton is in demand throughout MN to
speak on climate change and the enormous benefits of clean renewable energy for MN.  Find out how MN is moving ahead on clean energy jobs that generate renewable energy, protect our health,  reduce climate change, and keep energy dollars in MN.
 



 

 

chris eatonSenator Chris Eaton

The 2013 Solar Energy Jobs Act


Senator Eaton co-sponsored the bill that would make MN a leading state for clean energy and create good paying jobs requiring many different skills.  Find out how her bill did in the House and Senate during the legislative session and what the next step will be.

We would like our forums to reflect your interests and concerns.  Please feel free to make requests and suggestions for topics and speakers.  Contact Gail Hanson,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Carol Woehrer, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Sponsors

 

energy web logos banner

 

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MN's Leading Election System

With Secretary of State Steve Simon

 

steve simon

 

Listen to Secretary of State Steve Simon's excellent presentation on MN's outstanding election system emulated by many other states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum January 19, 2016.  Secretary Simon includes ways in which it can be improved, and he explains why it is important to vote.  He concludes with a quote from a tee shirt:  "Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion.  It is an act of surrender."

Get details on how to vote at http://mnvotes.org

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How Oregon Became the Easiest Place to Vote in the US

By Lornet Turnbull
YES! Magazine
October 8, 2016

 


In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. 

Read the Article

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