Swanson asks Minn. SC to dismiss lawmakers' petition

Jessica M. Karmasek Jun. 21, 2011, 11:52am

Lori Swanson

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Legal Newsline) -- Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, in a memorandum Monday, says state spending amid a government shutdown is constitutional.

Swanson, in her six-page filing, asks the Minnesota Supreme Court to dismiss "in its entirety" the petition of four state lawmakers saying a judge can't OK spending if Minnesota's government ends up shutting down because of a deadlock over the state's budget.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, and the GOP-controlled Legislature have been unable to come to an agreement over the state's future two-year budget cycle.

Earlier Monday, Republican state Sens. Roger Chamberlain, Warren Limmer, Scott Newman and Sean Nienow filed a petition with the state's high court looking to block a lower court from authorizing any spending during a shutdown. The senators argue that the state can only spend money if the allocations are signed into law.

On June 13, Swanson filed a petition in Ramsey County District Court on behalf of the State, seeking an order that the "core functions" of the executive branch be performed if the budget impasse isn't resolved by July 1.

A hearing on the matter is set for 10 a.m. Thursday at the district courthouse.

Swanson, also a Democrat, argues that the district court not only has the authority but the obligation to preside over the civil action and to adjudicate the "respective powers and obligations of the different branches of state government."

"Thus, Petitioners do not seek to correct an ongoing usurpation of power by any of the above Respondents, but rather seek a declaration on the merits that the judiciary should not issue some of the requested relief," Swanson writes in her memorandum.

"Under these circumstances, the extraordinary writ of quo warranto is simply an inappropriate remedy."

Quo warranto, she explains, is "rarely invoked by the courts." The remedy does not apply, she says, to government conduct that is pending or has been completed.

Even if it was an appropriate action, Swanson says, the Court should "exercise its discretion" to decline original jurisdiction over the case.

The attorney general says the petitioners can "fully participate" in the proceeding by intervening.

The four lawmakers filed a motion to intervene on Monday.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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