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GOP senators file petition challenging courts authority to spend money

Paul Demko//June 20, 2011

GOP senators file petition challenging courts authority to spend money

Paul Demko//June 20, 2011

Erick Kaardal (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

Four GOP senators will file a petition this afternoon in Ramsey County District Court seeking to prohibit the judicial branch from spending state dollars if a government shutdown occurs. The legal brief argues that only the legislative branch has the constitutional authority to appropriate funds.

The is being filed by Sens. Warren Limmer, chair of the Judiciary Committee, Scott Newman, Sean Nienow and Roger Chamberlain. The legal filing also argues that the courts have no right to impose a mediator to settle the budget impasse between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP-controlled Legislature.

Last week Dayton and attorney general Lori Swanson each filed briefs with the court laying out what governmental functions they believe should continue in the event of a shutdown. Dayton also called on the court to appoint a mediator to help settle the dispute.

The stance of the four GOP senators on what expenditures should continue after June 30 is simple: none. The brief cites the state Constitution to support its position, pointing out that it prohibits money from being disbursed unless authorized by law.

“The court actions would disrupt the checks and balances inherent within the Constitution,” the brief reads. “The compromises of legislative debate between the legislators themselves or between the legislators and the executive — his powers to veto including line-item vetoes — the Legislature’s right to override vetoes if in session — is lost because the judiciary would usurp powers of both branches that it did not posses under the circumstances presented.”

The petition is being filed by attorney Erick Kaardal, a conservative activist and founder of (For more background on Kaardal, see Briana Bierschbach’s profile of him in today’s edition of Capitol Report.) In 2005 he filed a similar  brief on behalf of GOP legislators, but the case was dismissed on the grounds that it came too late and had been mooted by the Legislature’s subsequent appropriation of the money already spent during the shutdown.

Read the petition here.

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