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 earliest journal entries. They are in reverse chronological order -- 08.24.2000 back to 08.14.2000.)
08.24.2000 - Justice Holmes didn't read newspapers. A former judge told me once that the further removed a judge is from the immediate controversy, the clearer the judge's perspective, and that Holmes further purified his perspective by not reading newspapers. I agree with this. I subscribe to the Sunday Strib (for the coupons, basically) but not the daily Strib. It has never done a very good job covering the courts, judicial decisions, etc. For example, its coverage that led ultimately to the resignation of Justice Todd, who was one of the best judges I had the privilege of working with, was one-sided, leaving the reader with a distorted view of a good man. Its coverage of this year's judicial elections thus far is typical of its coverage of past judicial elections.
Anyhow, a friend alerted me to today's story, which I then read on the Strib's internet edition, that a legislator has announced he will propose a constitutional amendment adopting the so-called "Missouri Plan" for judicial selection of state judges. The announcement didn't surprise me. It seems every time some attorney is audacious enough to challenge a sitting appellate judge who is running for his or her first six-year term or for re-election to another six-year term, some people, usually lawyers, claim that "the sky is falling" and some legislator, often a lawyer, announces he'll introduce a proposed constitutional amendment adopting that "favorite" of college political science professors, the "Missouri Plan." I don't doubt that one of these days we'll see a somber editorial on the Strib editorial page urging we adopt "the plan." I oppose the plan. The best plan is the "Minnesota Plan." Unfortunately, our plan, favoring direct election of judges by Minnesota voters, for the most part has never been followed, for reasons I have suggested elsewhere. During the course of the campaign, I intend to address the issues of judicial selection and judicial campaigns in greater detail, pointing out what I think is wrong with the administration of the "Minnesota Plan" and suggesting ways to make the system work as envisioned by the drafters of our constitution.
08.20.2000 - "Bookend" in today's New York Times Book Review is "The Writer's Story, and the Lawyer's," by Thane Rosenbaum, lawyer-novelist. Rosenbaum suggests the reason most lawyers who write novels confine themselves to legal thrillers or courtroom dramas is that is all they know. "The lawyer comprehends the world in terms of formal complaints," whereas "[t]he novelist realizes that when human beings feel hurt and violated...[w]hat they want most is a chance to grieve." A client may visit a lawyer wanting merely to articulate a grievance. Using overstatement to make his point, Rosenbaum suggests that a lawyer's first thought will be to sue because "lawyers know only how to sue," whereas the novelist more likely will see the grievance as a therapeutic expression of grief and of the need for someone to listen, not as the occasion for commencing litigation. He concludes with this observation: "Is it any wonder that in legal thrillers in which lawyers are the protagonists, they are often presented as solo practitioners, misfits, loners and drunks, people in desperate need of a redemptive second chance? That's when lawyer's lives make for interesting fiction, when they are as emotionally open, vulnerable and disordered as the clients they serve."
08.18.2000 - A neighbor who is experienced at fundraising volunteered some time ago to serve on my campaign committee and assist the committee in fundraising. Since digesting the news that I had decided to run a low-budget campaign and forego soliciting or accepting any campaign endorsements or contributions, my neighbor has been referring to me good naturedly as a "quixotic campaigner." Frankly, I appreciate the comparison. Miguel de Cervantes was around my age, 57, when he wrote Don Quixote, about a similarly-seasoned "Knight of the Doleful Countenance" who, accompanied by his squire, Sancho Panza, traveled about medieval Spain trying to perform chivalrous deeds. Somewhat apropos of my "quixotic campaign," Brendan Gill wrote that "Cervantes knew that to be happy, [57-year-]old men must tilt their lances, even if their targets prove, by ill chance, only to be windmills."
08.14.2000 - Today's issue of Minnesota Lawyer -- which, I think, thus far has been doing an excellent job of covering the contested judicial elections -- contains a lead story by Barbara L. Jones titled "High court races are off to a running start -- Several campaign controversies have already flared up." According to the story, my opponent's campaign committee chair, Richard Solum, who is a partner at Minnesota's largest law firm, Dorsey & Whitney, says portentously that "something bad" is happening. What is that "something bad"? According to the story, he is "referring not simply to the high number of contested judicial elections this year..., but also to the decision by delegates of the Republican and Reform parties to endorse judicial candidates." The story then quotes a co-chair of one of the incumbent associate justice's campaigns as saying that " the first line of defense against political intrusion on judicial elections is the legal community," that "Every attorney needs to be proactive now," and that "There's never been a threat like this."
I share Mr. Solum's concern about the politicization, in the partisan sense, of judicial elections, something that is a very serious problem in some other states. But who is being political? As reported in Minnesota Lawyer on 07.24.2000, I made it clear immediately upon filing for office that I was not seeking, and did not want, "any group or political endorsements, including endorsements by groups of lawyers and/or organized political parties or elected officials." I began working as an aide to the courts in 1969 and continued to do so for nearly 30 years. From 1969 to now I have never even attended a precinct caucus. I followed this practice because I believed that, although I was an aide and not a judge, I had an obligation to comply with the rules that apply to judges. I used to instruct new law clerks that it was imperative that they not participate in partisan political activity during their year at the court. I even sometimes added that they might find, as I did, that they liked being apolitical.
I think we do have "Trouble" right here in this River City, but it's not just the trouble connected with judicial endorsements by political parties. It's trouble in the form of claiming to be apolitical and above the fray while in fact being anything but.... As the article today reports, my opponent's campaign already has obtained a number of high-profile endorsements, including those of former Republican Governor Arne Carlson and former Democratic Senator and Vice-President Walter Mondale, who, like Mr. Solum, has been a partner at Dorsey & Whitney. (The article further states that one of the sitting associate justices facing opposition has what that justice's co-chair calls a "tripartisan" (emphasis supplied) campaign committee, i.e., consisting of a leading Republican, a leading Democrat, and a leading member of the Independence Party.) There is politics and there is politics. If one looks beyond words and, following Justice Holmes' advice, "thinks things," one might ask if it is any less troubling that a candidate for nonpartisan judicial office enthusiastically relies on endorsements by current and former holders of partisan political office and partisan political leaders and also relies on endorsements and fund-raising by lawyers. I even posit the suggestion that relying on endorsements and contributions by lawyers may be even more troubling than relying on party endorsements and endorsements by politicians.
Because I tend to think it is at least as troubling, I made it clear immediately upon filing for office that, as reported in Minnesota Lawyer on 07.24.2000, I was not seeking, and did not want, "any group or political endorsements, including endorsements by groups of lawyers and/or organized political parties or elected officials." It is why I also stated then that I was not going to allow my campaign to accept "any contributions from law firms or, for that matter, individual lawyers (except perhaps friends who just happen to be lawyers)." Since then, for reasons I explain in my first formal "position paper" -- posted elsewhere on this site (click here) -- I have announced that "absent unanticipated developments, I will refuse to accept any campaign contributions, even from friends." I also have announced, id., that I am going to try limit my campaign expenditures to a maximum of $200 total, maybe less than $100.
The effect of my several decisions is that I don't need a campaign committee, don't need a third-person to act as treasurer, don't need to have a campaign committee to ask friends and lawyers for money, don't have to worry about creating the appearance of impropriety, don't have to worry about recusing when lawyer endorsers or donors appear before me if I'm elected, etc., etc. In short, I won't owe or even appear to owe anyone or any group or party anything, and I will be truly independent and nonpartisan.
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.