Act two of the government shutdown case got underway at the Ramsey County courthouse this morning and for now observers are left in the same position as with the first: Wait and see.
Retired Judge Bruce Christopherson heard arguments in Attorney General Lori Swanson’s petition to continue funding for the judicial branch in the event of a government shutdown at the end of this week. Christopherson said he would issue his finding in a written ruling. “I understand promptness is important, but correctness is essential,” he said.
The Minnesota Judicial Council is also part of Swanson’s petition, and it has the backing of Gov. Mark Dayton.
Christopherson, who was appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea to oversee the matter after Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin recused herself given her current position on the bench, did issue a ruling against the four Republican senators who have been seeking the block any state funds from being spent in a shutdown without proper approval from the Legislature.
In this case, the lawmakers — Sens. Warren Limmer, Sean Nienow, Scott Newman and Roger Chamberlain — were rebuffed, as they were last week in the main shutdown case, in their effort to join as separate parties. They were allowed to join as friends of a court, though, and make their case that way, an offer they accepted.
“That gave us the opportunity to make the case we were going to make anyway,” Nienow said after the decision. In the Gearin case, the judge found their position was adequately represented by the Minnesota Senate itself, which has not joined the Christopherson case over judicial funding.
They also are asking that Dayton be ordered to call a special session to avoid a government shutdown, a result even Nienow said was unlikely in this case. The lawmakers’ attorney Fritz Knaak said outside the courthouse after the decision that he and his clients were going to discuss whether to pursue a separate petition seeking that end in a different court “in moments.”
Attorneys for Dayton and Swanson both made extensive arguments in favor of judicial funding in the event a shutdown — citing precedent along with state and federal constitutional protections — which would begin if the current budget impasse at the Capitol is not resolved this week.