The Minnesota State Bar Association’s northern lawyers gathered in Bemidji last week and one of the events was “The State of the Ninth Judicial District” by Chief Judge Jon Maturi. The judge greeted the bench and bar by calling them the American aristocracy, as described by Alexis de Tocqueville.
“Of course, he didn’t know you like I do,” Maturi said, adding that he’s thinking of applying to the bench in North Dakota where the court budget is better.
The court, like everything else governmental, is facing a “new normal” of chronic deficits and cuts in service, Maturi said. He is not projecting any layoffs this biennium but the district has already been reduced from 17 to six court administrators, he said. A short-run economic cycle of recession has merged with a long-run demographic trend of an aging populace to create the new normal, he said.
The situation calls for a “creative destruction” of the way the court provides services, as for example, the music industry had to reinvent itself, he said. The answer may lie in preventing people from being in court in the first place, he said, for instance by reducing recidivism and offering mediation and early neutral evaluation in family law. “Making things better may offer the greatest potential,” Maturi said.