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 even earlier journal entries. They are in reverse chronological order -- 09.20.2000 back to 08.27.2000.)
09.20.2000 - I just posted the second in a series of campaign position papers, this one on the issue of mandatory retirement of judges. Click to read. The first one, which I posted a couple weeks ago, explains why I am not seeking or accepting endorsements or contributions from lawyers or anyone else. Click to read.
09.16.2000 - And this, just received by e-mail: "Re your candidacy, in England candidates are said to 'stand' for office rather than 'run.' The distinction seems significant to me. It seems honorable to me to present yourself as a candidate, disclosing who you are, what is important to you, and why you would like to serve. It seems somewhat demeaning to me to do much more than that to gain the office. I see you as 'standing' for office, rather than 'running' and I am glad you're doing it." I like that and, yes, that is really all I'm doing. However, I am an old sprinter -- as anchor on the 4x220 yard relay team, I was one of four speedsters who combined to break an 18-year-old district record my senior year in high school -- so, just for fun, I think I'll keep calling this journal "Running for Justice."
09.13.2000 - A former law clerk at the court e-mailed me yesterday, offering his support. I much appreciated his offer. I replied that we should get together for coffee and talk about "anything but" judicial elections. Some people seem surprised -- I hope not offended -- when I explain the kind of campaign I'm running -- no endorsements, no coffee parties or fundraisers, no contributions, low (almost no) budget, low key, high content, independent of lawyers and judges and politicians, etc. -- but he knew all that from visiting this site.
09.11.2000 - My answers, and those of my opponent, to questions posed by the editor of Minnesota Lawyer were published in the weekly issue appearing today. Mine are also posted elsewhere on this site. See, Q&A.
09.09.2000 - I've been asked where I got the pics of the state capitol appearing elsewhere on this web site (click here and here to view). I took them. Why pics of the capitol and not pics of the judicial center? Well, I worked for 20 years in the court's offices in the capitol before the court moved its offices to the judicial center in August of 1990. I love the building. It is not without reason that most visitors to the capitol area take pics of the capitol, whereas few take pics of the judicial center. Cass Gilbert knew a thing or two about designing a beautiful public building that inspires people. I once took a visitor from the Rhode Island court system on a tour of the capitol. I recall telling her I felt that much of the credit for the tradition of good, clean government in Minnesota should be given to Cass Gilbert because the building inspires, on a daily basis, all who work in it. Perhaps one of the reasons some of the newer members of the court are so big on getting out of the judicial center and giving speeches and meeting with people is that the judicial center, unlike the capitol, is an example of fortress-style architecture that seems designed to keep judges apart from each other and from the public. Judges were much less isolated when the court's offices were in the capitol.
09.04.2000 - I've observed on walks around the neighborhood and around my favorite Minneapolis lakes that some people, planting relatively few flowers, but in the right spots, achieve a good result -- a balance of grass and trees and shrubs and flowers -- whereas others, spending far more money on flowers and obsessively putting in many more hours working in their gardens, don't always achieve a good result. There's a handsome, expensive house near one of the lakes that is marred by an extravagance of flowers and flags and what-nots, all designed by a professional landscaper and maintained by an expensive garden service. It doesn't "work" and doesn't look nearly as good as a little cottage I often pass which an older retired couple keep up by themselves. Everything about the modest little cottage and surrounding yard is in balance. One wouldn't be surprised to see Ann Hathaway emerge through the front door.
What's true of home landscaping and gardening is true also of legal services. Many of the larger firms, and smaller ones, too, have made the billable hour the main, often the only, determinant of the cost of legal services. The premise apparently is that value given by the lawyers to the clients correlates positively with hours billed. Perhaps it's true on a broad statistical basis. But from the individual client's perspective, at least, the value of services received often doesn't correlate with the number of hours worked and billed by the lawyer. Some lawyers are more efficient than others. Some are better than others. Some are more likely than others to bill for unproductive hours that don't deserve to be called "billable." The supreme court currently has the primary ultimate responsibility of regulating the profession. However, it's not clear to me that the court is "up to the task." One of the main things that may lead to external- rather than self-regulation of lawyers is the court's and the profession's failure to come to grips with the greater problem of which this problem is a part -- namely, the unreasonably high cost of legal services. As someone else has said, "Not even lawyers can afford lawyers." It is largely for this reason that more and more people, many with average or even above-average incomes, wisely or unwisely decide to try tend their own legal gardens, that is, to try represent themselves in divorces and other legal matters.
08.29.2000 - While browsing at Half-Price Books in Highland Park recently, I came across an old copy of the October 1999 issue of MplsStPaul magazine, with the cover story about former Miss America, Dorothy Benham, whom I don't know but have admired. The profile dealt in part with the long, painful dissolution proceeding in Hennepin County District Court of her second marriage, a proceeding her husband initiated in 1997 but that was not completed until 1999. The author of the profile, William Swanson, referred at one point to Ms. Benham's previously-expressed "anger at the legal system, which she said was destroying innocent lives and families." That resonated with me. Her anger is shared by others who have had similar experiences with the contested-case process in Hennepin County, a destructive process sometimes Dickensian in character that may last several years and is unnecessarily costly, in financial and emotional terms, to all the affected parties. As a result of reading the article, I decided that, later in the campaign, I am going to address the broader issues of a) why lawyers and judges in some of the other judicial districts regularly dispose of contested dissolution proceedings in far less time and at far less financial and emotional cost to the affected parties, b) what can be done to improve the process both in Hennepin County and in the other districts, and c) why I think the usual responses by the divorce bar and by technocratic judicial administrators and bureaucrats (e.g., that it's not their fault, that they need more money from the legislature to hire more judges and support staff, etc., ad infinitum) are unpersuasive and unacceptable.
08.27.2000 - Thoreauvian Campaign Economics. When I was in 7th grade my friend Danny & I always seemed to be in competition for the same books at the school library. One of these books was Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels, which Danny checked out and renewed (seemingly multiple times), thus denying me its riches. Another was Laugh With Leacock, a collection of funny pieces by Stephen Leacock. One piece I enjoyed rereading was "How My Wife and I Built Our Home for $4.90," a parody of the chapter titled "Economy" in Walden in which Thoreau, among other things, lists the expenses of building his cabin and living in it in Emerson's woods near Walden Pond. Thoreau spent $28.12 & 1/2 on supplies in building his cabin. Food for the period of July 4 to March 1 -- $8.74. "Yes," he apologizes, "I did eat $8.74, all told; but I should not thus unblushingly publish my guilt, if I did not know that most of my readers were equally guilty with myself, and that their deeds would look no better in print." Leacock: "Next morning we were able to begin our building in good earnest. On our way we stopped at the fifteen cent store for necessary supplies, and bought one hammer, fifteen cents; a saw, fifteen cents; half a gallon of nails, fifteen cents; a crane, fifteen cents; a derrick for hoisting, fifteen cents, and a needle and thread, for sewing on the roof, fifteen cents."
It marvels me to think of the sums people are willing to spend on campaigns, both in Minnesota and elsewhere, particularly on advertising. I'm doing my part to set an example by refusing all contributions, from lawyers or anyone else, and by running a judicial campaign on a "Thoreauvian budget." I have suggested that my opponent do the same. If someone told me he could raise a million dollars for me so I could run an advertising campaign that would substantially increase my chances of getting elected, I'd say, politely, "Get lost." And if I were rolling in millions in spare change, I wouldn't allow myself to pay for an expensive advertising campaign. Moreover, I'm not convinced that throwing money around works, either in mounting a campaign or in governing. Thoreau said he'd rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to himself than on a velvet cushion he had to share with someone else. Me? Given the hypothetical choice, I'd rather ride to victory on a pumpkin by myself than get carried in on a red velvet cushion paid for by a bunch of lawyers and other folks.
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.