BURTON RANDALL HANSON FOR CHIEF JUSTICE MINNESOTA SUPREME COURT
"Running for Justice" - A Candidate's Daily Campaign Journal
Copyright (c) 2000 Burton Randall Hanson
(These are earlier journal entries. They are in reverse chronological order -- 10.03.2000 back to 09.21.2000.)
10.03.2000 - A first-class postage stamp is being issued today to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth in Asheville, North Carolina of Thomas Wolfe, author of Look Homeward, Angel, who died in 1938. I first was introduced to his writing by a wonderful and beautiful English teacher, Elizabeth Breeland Rogers, who recognized potential in me when I was a freshman at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, in 1961. She assigned Wolfe's posthumously-published short story, "The Lost Boy," which resonated with me and prompted me to read Look Homeward, Angel, a coming-of-age novel which absolutely captivated me, as it has captivated many young people, particularly men, during their late adolescence. Wolfe's father, a stonecutter who loved to quote Shakespeare, wanted him to become a lawyer. Instead, he went to Harvard for graduate school and became a fiction writer who created a number of memorable fictional characters, including "Judge Bland," around whose mouth "there hovered constantly the ghost of a smile" that was "lewd, evil, mocking, horribly corrupt...." Reading Wolfe made me briefly want to become a fiction writer. Instead, I went to Harvard and became a lawyer. So it goes. Anyhow, Happy Birthday, Tom. "You were not absent in my Youth," and you're still with me.
10.01.2000 - I received a monthly "report" from my web site "host," saying that the site had received 9,000+ "hits" in September. Whether that is good or bad, high or low, should interest me more than it does. One simply does what one feels is right, whether one has the support of many or few. I'm comfortable with this kind of "campaigning." It feels right for me. I'd probably go about it entirely differently if I were running for some other type of elective office, but I'm not. :-) I have added a few quotes to Quotations on Law & Justice, including one by one of my longtime "pals," Thoreau, and a surprisingly good one by Neil L. Rudenstine, retiring President of Harvard University. Also, I've added a wonderful one to Emerson for Judges from his Journal for 05.13.1838, written as he was working on two of his greatest addresses, the "Divinity School Address" and the "Dartmouth College Oration."
09.30.2000 - The 9.25.2000 issue of Minnesota Lawyer contains a long, detailed article summarizing plans to implement the Minnesota Court Information System (MNCIS) project, a massive project that will provide a redesigned, new computerized court information system. With the same kind of budgetary precision that left court administrators with red faces earlier this year, the director of the Minnesota Supreme Court's Information Technology Division (ITD), who is a good man running a big budget operation, is reported as estimating the cost of the project at somewhere "between $20 million and $60 million." Thus far the legislature has "set aside" a total of $6.5 million for the project. According to the report, "[The director] does not anticipate any major obstacles to receiving the rest of the funds needed for the project, at least not any more so than other projects." (The director apparently does not anticipate that the voters might elect me chief justice, because as chief I would be an "obstacle" to requesting any more funds without first a) receiving a detailed item-by-item economic cost-benefit analysis that satisfied me and b) personally consulting with independent outside experts not affiliated or acquainted with "ITD" personnel.)
The earlier budgetary "incident" I referred to occurred this last legislative session, when the court administrators went back to the legislature less than a year after the legislature made its biennial appropriation for the period of July 1, 1999 through June 30, 2001 and asked for a supplemental appropriation of $3 million. It appears generally that the legislature in 1999 did not fund totally 13 new judgeships and law clerk positions, increases in insurance costs and 3% increases in salaries on July 1, 1999, and January 1, 2000. The $3 million apparently was the amount the administrators said was needed to cover the shortfall. The legislature responded and appropriated approximately $2.9 million in supplemental funding. Astoundingly, if my information is correct, it appears that immediately after the legislature adjourned, a court administrator advised the District Court Judges Association that even with the new appropriation the court still would be around $1.4 million short in funding for the biennium. One has to sympathize with those district court judges who expressed exasperation with the budget planners.
The court has a number of advisory committees, including ones on civil rules, civil appellate rules, and criminal rules. Frankly, I've been thinking lately that a new voluntary advisory committee on judicial administration is needed, consisting of outsiders, preferably nonlawyers who have no relationship whatever with the administrators or the judges or the system, citizens with special expertise in administering large organizations, maybe some retired executives, men and women who are willing to provide a fresh perspective and a critical look at all aspects of state court administration, including budgeting. If I am elected chief justice, I intend to do my best to create such a committee to help me and the other coequal members of the court -- with solicited creative input from all other judges and all employees of the entire court system -- maintain better supervisory control of the administrative branch of the state judicial system. Our system of government is a brilliant system of interlocking checks and balances. Without intending any personal criticism of anyone involved in state court administration, I think the time has come for just the sort of check on administration that I have described. I hope to say more on this matter as the campaign progresses.
09.25.2000 - Among the interesting e-mail received over the weekend, this, from a Twin Cities attorney whom I do not know: "I have just read the entries in your website. I have also received the letter of endorsement of your opponent by Rick Solum. I find both your views and your approach to this election refreshing and I am totally in agreement with the positions expressed by you. I will vote for you and wish you the very best of luck; we truly need more candidates of your stripe."
09.21.2000 - I received in the mail today a "Dear Colleagues" first-class letter from Rick "Something Bad Is Happening" Solum, of the Dorsey firm, the state's largest law firm, my opponent's campaign committee chairperson. Letters like this are sent every time a supreme court judge faces opposition in the election. I have a collection of them. They typically are mailed to all attorneys just before the state bar association mails its ballots to attorneys for the so-called judicial plebiscite. The letter I received today is typical of the genre, with the letterhead (and sides and back) jammed with the names of what I refer to as "bar association types," along with "politicos" (it's apparently o.k. to get endorsements from politicians but not from political parties, something not even St. Thomas Aquinas might be able to explain), "poohbahs" and others who huddle together and depend on each other for warmth and support (I'm thinking of a metaphor a Presidential candidate used in 1968 but I won't use it). Many of these names are collected, on a just-in-case basis, before the opening of the filing period.
The letters typically extol the virtues of the candidate in question, which is what one would expect, and always point to the candidate's judicial experience, even if minimal (as in this time around: "Our Chief Justice also has rich judicial experience," followed by reference to her brief tenures as district court judge, associate justice and, now, two+ years as chief justice).
The letters also typically try to get in some sort of dig at the opponent. In this case, the letter suggests that I am trying to capitalize on my Scandinavian surname. The letter refers to this twice: First, the letter says, "Now Kathleen faces a contest from an opponent who has a familiar surname," and follows this, as if logically, by a request for the recipient's vote in the plebiscite, a contribution and permission to use the recipient's name in advertisements, etc. (return envelope provided). Second, I guess as a peroration, the letter says, "We know that the selection of judges should never depend on a candidate's namesake." I could respond to this in other ways (e.g., as by saying that I'm darn proud of my heritage, which I am and which includes being grandson of the fellow on the right, a farmer-citizen-politician who won some and lost some, or by inquiring into whether my opponent ever made good use of her surname in her earlier political career), but for now I'll simply say as I've said before: this sort of argument by a surrogate, for which my opponent is responsible, is an insult to the intelligence of the voters of Minnesota. (I should add, Rick, "Hanson" is not just a common Scandinavian surname but British, so you'd better be doubly worried.)
I neither advertise it or conceal it: I have never been a "bar association type." While other lawyers were busy advancing their careers, I was devoting my time to earning my paycheck and trying my darndest to be a good dad. The only state bar convention event I ever attended was a luncheon in June of 1973, when Oscar R. Knutson was the chief justice (and he was as good as they come). I attended the luncheon in the downtown Radisson Hotel because the bar was presenting its annual "Service to Freedom Award" to the administration, faculty and students of Benson Northside Elementary School for an innovative program for 4th, 5th and 6th grade students that my late mother coordinated. (Bench and Bar, vol. 30, #1, July 1973.) I explain in my position paper on "Endorsements & Contributions" why I decided not to solicit or accept endorsements or contributions from lawyers or groups of lawyers, or from anyone else or any other group, for that matter. I also have explained, in this journal, why I believe that my opponent's surrogate's solicitation and use of endorsements and contributions from lawyers and political leaders, while permitted by "the rules," are arguably every bit as inconsistent with the idea of an independent elected judiciary as the solicitation and use of endorsements by political parties, which Canon 5 precludes.
As for "the plebiscite": it means nothing to me and should mean nothing to the voters. I received a letter dated August 25 from the co-chairs of the bar's plebiscite committee. The letter invited me to provide a statement limited to 175 words and said that "the committee will review the statements" before including them with the plebiscite ballot materials. The votes of the members of the bar, thus well-informed by the 175-word statements and by letters like Rick Solum's letter, will determine which candidate, if any, will receive the bar's endorsement. My responsive "statement" was the response I consistently have given and will give to letters from groups asking me if I want to compete for their endorsement: I am not seeking and will not accept endorsements or contributions.
I could say I find myself somewhat in the role of "Little David" taking on the bar. I can't say I would be uncomfortable being in that position. I've never been afraid to stand alone on anything, and nothing my opponent's surrogates in the bar say about my surname or anything else will bother me. But really I'm not taking on the bar. I'm really basically just ignoring it, as I think most voters should and wisely do. The courts in Minnesota don't belong to lawyers or to the bar association. They belong to the people. I guess my message to the people is: don't vote for me just because the bar supports my opponent.
The problem is: how do I get my message to the people? Contrary to what my opponent's surrogate says in his solicitation letter, I am not basing my campaign on my surname. I am basing it on ideas, which in turn are based on my "rich" nearly 30 years' of experience in the court system. I created, entirely by myself, my own web site at no expense and I am running it, entirely by myself, at a cost of less than $20 a month, speaking as directly as I can to potential voters, in my own words. On this web site I am posting, every week or so, a new detailed position paper, researched and written entirely by myself, explaining my ideas on the issues as I see them. (Similarly, if I am elected, I won't need law clerks to research the law and write drafts of opinions for me; I'll do my own research and writing, as Judge Henry Friendly did, using time saved by not giving so many speeches and making so many public appearances.) How many people will actually visit my web site and read these papers? Probably very few, although I believe my web site will be a model one that other campaigns will benefit from in the future. All I can do, all I will do, is continue speaking straight ahead and in good faith. Whether newspapers like the Star Tribune will publicize my views, as I am expressing them on the web site, is up to them. Given the press' demonstrated predisposition to focus on the irrelevant, the extraneous, the personal and the frivolous, I am doubtful. But that is their problem.
I can say I'm not going to spend a penny on advertising in any of the papers or in other ways, although I could. I earlier announced a voluntary, self-imposed limit on my personal campaign expenditures at $5,000. I picked the $5,000 figure because that was the amount of a bequest left to me by the late Justice Mary Jeanne Coyne, who died in 1998. (I was a big admirer of Justice Coyne, clearly one of the best of the judges with whom I worked at the court and I was honored to be one of a number of court employees who were remembered by Justice Coyne in her will. But, as I have said elsewhere with regard to other justices I have mentioned, I do not imply or suggest she would be supporting me if she were alive.) However, tempted as I was to use that money in the campaign, since then I have decided that I'm going to run an even "tighter-fisted" campaign, possibly expending less than one or two hundred dollars. (See, my mini-essay on "Thoreauvian Campaign Economics.") I intend to be similarly "tightfisted" in matters of judicial budgeting if the voters elect me, a matter I will be exploring in detail in one of my in-depth position papers.
Do I have a chance? Well, as Chuck Bosacker, the manager of the Benson Chief's Class A "town baseball team" said back in 1954 at the start of the season in which the Chiefs eventually "took state," we'll just have to "wait and see."
Copyright (c) 2000 by Burton Randall Hanson - Prepared & published by candidate on his own behalf and at his own expense. Candidate may be reached by e-mail at BRH@CampaignWebSiteURL or by mail at address listed on Secretary of State's website.