Attorneys of the Year: Thomas H. Boyd and William Z. Pentelovitch
Posted: 2:45 pm Mon, February 25, 2013
By Jane F. Pribek
Winthrop & Weinstine (Boyd) and Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand (Pentelovitch)
In some ways, everybody won League of Women Voters Minnesota v. Ritchie.
In the high-profile case, the Minnesota Supreme Court allowed a question on a proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to show a photo ID to be placed on the ballot because it wasn’t unreasonable or misleading.
Tom Boyd, who represented the Legislature, said, “Our top priority was to make sure the voters of Minnesota would be allowed to vote on this proposed amendment — whether they voted in favor or against.
“The entire court — all members — rejected the petition insofar as it was seeking to strike the matter from the ballot. The point of disagreement was whether there was some flaw in the manner in which the Legislature had crafted the proposed ballot question that made it constitutionally misleading — and we were able to convince four of the six justices on the case that the legislature had acted within its authority.”
The case, an original action, spanned a very short time frame, about three months. The 120-page opinion came down on Aug. 27, just in time to give the secretary of state sufficient time to prepare the ballots before the November election.
In Boyd’s estimation, it was a separation-of-powers case that was mischaracterized in the popular press as a case about the merits of requiring a photo ID to vote.
But to Bill Pentelovitch, who argued for the petitioners before the justices, the case was about what the Minnesota Constitution requires in terms of disclosures to the public when putting a proposed amendment on the ballot.
He agrees with Justice Paul Anderson’s dissent that the language of the entire amendment should be placed on the ballot.
The atmosphere at oral arguments was “electric,” Boyd recalled, noting that the questioning started before he’d even reached the lectern.
“The bench was very active and challenging on both sides. They weren’t easy on either one of us,” Pentelovitch agreed. “I thought it was a barrel of fun.”
Voters ultimately rejected the proposed amendment — a victory for the petitioners, even though they lost before the high court.
Pentelovitch said that since the election, several leaders in the legal community have told him to consider the loss a victory, because the case and court’s opinion heightened awareness of the proposed amendment’s shortcomings and brought it to the forefront, positioning it for defeat.