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Chief Justice Gildea warns of ‘breakdown’ in justice system

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea

During Minnesota CLE’s Criminal Justice Institute in St. Paul today, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea warned that “our already overburdened justice system” will “begin to break down” if it is stretched any further by funding reductions.

Yet, with the state facing a $5.8 billion deficit, the courts again stand to be targeted for cuts, she told the hundreds of criminal law practitioners assembled at the RiverCentre.

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.

Stuart said the criminal justice system needs to “do something big” to deal with the crisis situation in public defense. He proposed several resource-saving measures, including decriminalizing low-level property offenses that do not involve public safety.

Stuart also made the unusual move of proposing raising the state’s tax on alcohol and dedicating the resulting revenue to funding public defense. He pointed out that alcohol use is involved in many of the cases that defenders are called upon to handle.


  1. Increasing funding for criminal defense is not going to lessen the burden on the Justice system. It will only benefit the overpaid judge, attorneys and the clerks. What is the average work hour for a judge in the state of MN? How many cases are usually settled before a jury trial? How much money we waste on prosecuting stupid cases, I.E Susan Gaertner prosecuting Mr. Lee?
    The problem is collateral consequence and re-reentry for the offenders. We need to reform the offenders and ensure that they can find employment and create capital in their personal and professional life. The collateral consequences for a convicted criminal are too high in the state. A convicted criminal cannot find any employment regardless of the conviction is felony, misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. The judges have made a mockery of the expungment law which could have lessened some of the collateral consequences for a convicted criminal who has paid his debt to the society. But then again, obviously, the court system does not want reformed criminals because they are the customer and you want your customer coming back as often as possible.

  2. The obvious problem is that the courts in the US cater to the wealthy and influential, and it’s only real concern is making money for the ridiculous number of people involved in the system. The average person has no business in a court of law, there is nothing to be gained by going to civil court to settle a case against a member of the ruling class. They will win, every time. Corporations, city governments, and politicians do what they want in this country because there is no law they can’t change to suit their needs, no judge who can’t be influenced. Money wins, it’s the American way.

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