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Monday, March 17, 2008

The new chief in brief

It's hard to complain about getting so eminent a lawyer as Eric Magnuson as the new chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. My lone beef -- which I also expressed at the last high court appointment -- is that we have lost yet another opportunity to add diversity to the court. The seven member court will continue to have just two women (Helen Meyer and Lorie Gildea) and one minority (Alan Page).

Magnuson has a reputation as a nice guy with a brilliant mind and a winning personality (a John Roberts-type difficult-to-assail appointment). True he is a friend of the governor, but I would venture to say that Magnuson would be an excellent candidate on anybody's short list.

The major question floating around the legal community has not been whether Magnuson was qualified -- or even whether he would be offered the chief's spot -- but whether he would be willing to take the massive pay cut that accepting the job entails. As a Briggs and Morgan partner, it's likely he makes three or more times the salary he'll pull down as chief. That sort of pay disparity is shameful, but an unfortunate fact of life for those who choose to dedicate themselves to public service.

On the other hand, Magnuson will get a really cool state-provided robe. No word yet whether he will pull a William Rehnquist and put stripes on the sleeves ...


Anonymous said...

I am not sure if this guy deserves the holier than thou persona everyone is proclaiming. I have seen him berate others in open court. It scares me to think he'll be sitting on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer: I am a white male.

But let me get this straight. You would like to see more diversity on the court. There are seven members. Four are white males. Two are females. One is African American. Sounds like a pretty diverse mix to me with 43% women and minority representation.

Mark Cohen, editor said...

Actually two out of seven is 28.5 percent, meaning the court is composed of 28.5 percent women. Had Gov. Pawlenty appointed a woman this time around, it would have been 3/7 (or 43 percent) women.

There is indeed one African American on the court who got his seat through the election process. (All six white justices got their seats through gubernatorial appointment.) There are no other minority groups represented on the high court.

I certainly don't think the balance on the court right now is terrible given the state's demographics, but it's something we need to think about with each of these appointments. It's important to have diverse perspectives represented on the court.

That said, as I mentioned in my original post, I think this is a very good appointment overall. We got a well-qualified chief justice to lead the court, which, in the end, is the most important thing.

Anonymous said...

Magnuson is an appellate lawyer, not a trial lawyer. So tell me, whom would he have "berated" in "open court"? The appellate court judges and justices whom he is trying to persuade? You sound like someone with an ax to grind.