Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lorie and Andy take the carpool lane

Justice Gildea gets a twofer

This is the post I expected to write yesterday, but David Stras got in the way.

When Lorie Gildea was appointed the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court last week, I was put in mind of something about her husband being a Republican operative. Let’s see; well, here it is.

Erick Black writes at the link:

[  ] [Gildea’s] husband, Andy Gildea, is a Republican activist who has made his living mostly raising funds for and/or working directly for Republicans. At present, Andy Gildea is listed as a “research consultant” for the GOP caucus of the state House of Representatives, for which he receives a full-time salary of $77,036.88. [link from a heads up from Two Putt Tommy; thanks, Tommy]

Black also reports:

A group of members of the House GOP caucus, who are, in a sense, Andy Gildea’s employers, also sponsored an amicus brief in the unallotment case, unsurprisingly on behalf of the Pawlenty side of the case.

The only “sense” in which Andy Gildea is not an employee of the GOP caucus is that he’s paid with public funds.

I’m going to parse it all out, just so we have it straight:

Andy Gildea works for a group of people who, although not formally a party to the unallotment lawsuit, were certainly parties in interest (who undoubtedly would have been parties save for the decision in Rukavina v. Pawlenty, which held that legislators lacked standing to sue in cases like these).

Lorie Gildea, sits on the case, being aware — we may assume — of where her husband works, and Gildea knows one other thing: Chief Justice Magnuson has signaled his intention to resign, and that she has applied for the job. She didn’t recuse herself.

The governor loses Brayton v. Pawlenty, the unallotment suit, four to three. Guess who writes the vapid, result-oriented dissent? Gildea, of course, joined by the two other people who applied for the Chief Justice job: G. Barry Anderson and Dietzen, JJ.

The other rewardee for a job well done, even in defeat, is the aforementioned David Stras.

In the same article, Eric Black reports that he polled experts on the subject of recusal of Gildea at the time the case was argued, but didn’t report on it then because he concluded that the Gildea family “treasury” wasn’t directly affected.

In hindsight, that is pretty clearly not true. And it isn’t the standard, anyway.

Here is the Preamble to the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct:

An independent, fair, and impartial judiciary is indispensable to our system of justice. The United States legal system is based upon the principle that an independent, impartial, and competent judiciary, composed of men and women of integrity, will interpret and apply the law that governs our society.  Thus, the judiciary plays a central role in preserving the principles of justice and the rule of lawInherent in all the Rules contained in this Code are the precepts that judges, individually and collectively, must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and strive to maintain and enhance confidence in the legal system.

Judges should maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times, and avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives.  They should aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity, and competence.

The Code of Judicial Conduct establishes standards for the ethical conduct of judges and judicial candidates.  It is not intended as an exhaustive guide for the conduct of judges and judicial candidates, who are governed in their judicial and personal conduct by general ethical standards as well as by the Code.  The Code is intended, however, to provide guidance and assist judges in maintaining the highest standards of judicial and personal conduct, and to provide a basis for regulating their conduct through disciplinary agencies. [emphasis mine]

Here’s one of the situations in which a judge must disqualify him or herself:

[A situation in which the] judge knows that he or she, individually or as a fiduciary, or the judge's spouse, significant other, parent or child wherever residing, or any other member of the judge's family residing in the judge's household, has an economic interest in the subject matter in controversy or is a party to the proceeding, or has any other interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding[.] [emphasis mine]

Canon 3(D)(1)(c).

The prospect of 1) a spiffy new title (with a bump in pay) for herself and 2) extra security for her husband’s at will employment by House Republicans are considerations that should have impelled Gildea to recuse herself.

Both of Governor Pawlenty’s appointments to the Supreme Court are blots on his escuteneon.

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