Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Unamiable amicus: Republicans slam House court filing as political maneuver

Charley Shaw//November 16, 2009

Unamiable amicus: Republicans slam House court filing as political maneuver

Charley Shaw//November 16, 2009

Over Republicans’ charges of political gamesmanship, the state House Rules Committee this morning agreed to issue a friend-of-the-court brief crossing Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget cutting unallotments earlier this summer.

The resolution passed on a 14-8 party-line vote.

The move won’t make the House a plaintiff in the complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court by six disabled and low-income Minnesotans. But it puts the DFL-controlled House on record as supporting the plaintiffs’ charge that Pawlenty misused his statutory authority when he cut $2.7 billion out of the 2010-2011 budget after the 2009 legislative session adjourned.

The Senate, which is also controlled by DFLers, hasn’t taken a public stance on the case.

Across downtown St. Paul from the Capitol this morning, Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin heard arguments from attorneys on both sides of the case. Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance is representing the plaintiffs. The Minnesota Attorney General’s office, which is run by DFLer Lori Swanson, is representing the Republican Pawlenty administration.

Much of the discussion in the Rules Committee focused on the implications of having the nonpartisan House Research Office draw up the brief, which is known as a brief of amicus curiae.

Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, chastised DFLers for using House Research rather than hiring DFL-leaning private attorneys.

“To me, with things like this, you’re putting a big cloud over the whole nonpartisan staff,” Gunther said.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, who is the Rules Committee chairman, said the House is addressing constitutional issues that arose from Pawlenty’s unallotment.

“We’re not asking the staff to do anything partisan, we’re asking for an opinion about the law as it pertains to 16A.152 in our statutes. We’re asking for their aid in an opinion on separation of powers in Article 3 of the Constitution. There’s nothing partisan about this,” Sertich said.

Still, House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said the resolution runs over Republicans who don’t want to take the plaintiffs’ side in the amicus brief. He asked House Research Director Patrick McCormack if Republican members’ views can be taken into account.

“Unfortunately, this is what we’ve come down to. Cut away the legal talk and the pretty language: The minority members ask you to write it one way, the majority members ask you to write it the other way, which way will the brief be written?” Zellers said.

McCormack said House Research attorneys will write a brief that supports the plaintiffs and addresses issues related to separation of powers between Pawlenty and the Legislature.

“They would take input from any member, but they will make their own professional judgment as to what a plaintiff’s amicus brief would entail. And at a certain point, when they decide that is the best that they would put forth on this side of the case they will go forward and file. …They would discount those arguments which are not helpful for filing a case for the plaintiffs,” McCormack said.

In a letter last Friday to Sertich, Zellers asked for House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis to attend the hearing. Kelliher didn’t attend today’s hearing. The DFL Caucus Director of Public Affairs Andrew Wittenborg sat in the audience, as did Pawlenty’s Director of Legislative Affairs Chris DeLaForest.

Top News

See All Top News

Legal calendar

Click here to see upcoming Minnesota events

Expert Testimony

See All Expert Testimony