Pawlenty appoints Gildea, Stras to MN Supreme Court


Occasional Minnesota Governor and full-time 2012 Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty had to take care of some state business today.  He appointed two people to the MN Supreme Court including a new Chief Justice.  He appointed Lorie Gildea as Chief Justice and added David Stras to the court as well.

Gildea is a far right, ideological conservative just like Pawlenty.  In fact, her husband, Andy, is on the Republican House Caucus staff.  U of M professor Stras is also a far right idealogue.  He wrote a friend of the court brief in support of Pawlenty’s unallotment.

As an aside, it’s going to be interesting to have Gildea going to the legislature to beg for money for our state’s judicial system.  Especially ironic considering ideological conservatives believe that government is the problem and are looking at ways to slash the size of it.  Gildea gets the job because the outgoing Chief Justice, Eric Magnuson, was probably sick of how underfunded our state’s system is.  At least, Magnuson complained about it incessantly and I surmise it really made him frustrated that he couldn’t do anything about it.

Possible Pawlenty unallotment gambit?

These two appointments mean that the justices are now for unallotment by a 4-3 margin. Pawlenty’s unallotment was ruled unconstitutional by a 4-3 margin. Is there a chance that Pawlenty will unallot? Is he banking that a new court will side with him?

Relax.  The chances are slim, the precedent has been set.

Our legal system is based upon the concept of legal precedent.  The law of the land is that unallotment, Pawlenty-style, is illegal.  The attorney’s I’ve spoken to think that there is a very slim chance Pawlenty would try to unallot and push the court to rule in his favor.  

The question is … would Pawlenty have the gall to try a gambit such as this

And then there’s Stras

Governors always leave a legacy.  Occasional MN Governor Tim Pawlenty may be leaving more of an odor or maybe a uncouth hand gesture than a legacy.  The appointment of U of M Professor David Stras exemplifies this legacy.

First, Stras has nearly zero court experience.  This guy is going to be sitting on the MN Supreme Court and the most court experience he’s had is a helper on a federal case.  As an attorney I know explained to me, he assisted on a federal case and did background work.  Furthermore, he knows little about Minnesota legal precedent as he’s only been a professor at the U of M for five years.  And seriously, how much experience has he gained as a prof at the U?

Second, a member of the Federalist Society is going to be sitting on our Supreme Court for the next 40 or so years.  Stras is 35.  In other words, we have someone who believes in judicial activism ala Scalia who wants to make sure that the federal government doesn’t encroach on state’s rights and the rest of the libertarian mumbo-jumbo that passes for philosophical thought on the right these days.  Here’s a detailed expose from The Nation on the Federalist Society for some heavy weekend reading.

The two things Stras has done is clerk for Clarence Thomas and write a friend of the court brief supporting Pawlenty’s unallotment.  I’ve been unable to find anything else … the guy is literally a blank slate or maybe an empty suit depending upon how you look at it.

But what does this say about the guy who appointed him?  Let’s review.


Not only has a bridge fallen on Pawlenty’s watch, he’s overseen the gutting of our educational system.  His tax cuts and borrow-n-spend fiscal policy combined with accounting shifts have left our state with a mind-bogglingly large structural deficit.  Rather than negotiate a solution to the mess he created, he tried unallotment as a means to shrink our state government to the size where he could drown it in the bathtub.  And now these two judicial appointments.  

What I think Pawlenty is doing is giving MN the finger as he exits stage right or maybe the equivalent of passing some seriously noxious gas and locking us all in the room as he leaves.  

His mindset has to be pretty sour at this point.  His buddy and fellow conservative Eric Magnuson wouldn’t side with him on unallotment.  I’m betting this really pissed him off.  If he’d have been able to get away with unallotment, he could have played up what a wise and tough executive he is on the presidential campaign trail.  I can imagine Pawlenty ranting about Magnuson stabbing him in the back on unallotment.  So as a parting shot we get two conservative-to-their-core Justices who Pawlenty has the utmost confidence will be activists from the bench.

Fortunately, our Supreme Court doesn’t have the same power as the SCOTUS, but nonetheless, given the opportunity I’m sure Stras will try to impose his far right ideals on our state as much as he can.