Dayton Hires Former Supreme Court Justice For Fight With Legislature

Sam Hanson served on the Minnesota Supreme Court from 2002 to 2008.

Sam Hanson (photo from Briggs and Morgan)
Sam Hanson (photo from Briggs and Morgan)

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Gov. Mark Dayton selected former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Sam Hanson and the law firm Briggs and Morgan Wednesday to represent him in a legal battle with the state legislature.

The lawsuit was formally filed Tuesday by both chambers of the Minnesota legislature against Dayton.

“Governor Dayton violated the Separation of Powers Clause of the Minnesota Constitution when he line-item vetoed the Minnesota Legislature’s funding for the 2018-2019 fiscal biennium,” claimed the lawsuit. “The vetoes impermissibly control, coerce, and restrain the action of the Legislature in the exercise of its official and constitutional powers and duties.”

Dayton had line-item vetoed funding for the legislature, which may result in the biggest layoffs in Minnesota since 2015.

After reviewing the lawsuit and in consultation with the Attorney General, I have chosen to hire outside counsel to represent us,” Dayton said in a press release.

Hanson practiced law with Briggs and Morgan for 34 years prior to his appointment by former Gov. Jesse Ventura to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 2000. Ventura then appointed Hanson to the Supreme Court in 2002, where he served until his departure back to Briggs and Morgan in 2008.

The firm agreed to a 25 percent reduction in usual fees requested by Dayton’s office, according to the Pioneer Press. The total legal fees are also agreed to be capped at $150,000 for the entire process. Hanson’s standard hourly rate is $675 an hour, while other lawyers involved in the case on Dayton’s side have standard rates ranging from $290 to $580 per hour.

The legislature is represented by the law firm Kelly, Wolter, & Scott, which agreed to take half of its usual $650 per hour rate.

“It’s regrettable that Republican Legislative Leaders have chosen a legal battle to protect their excessive tax giveaways, which will cost the State of Minnesota over $5 Billion during the next decade,” Dayton said in the press release. “I will continue to urge the Republican Legislative Majorities to agree to remove these fiscally irresponsible tax cuts, and to repeal their un-Minnesotan attacks on our state’s immigrant communities and our teachers.”

Dayton line item vetoed the legislature’s funding in an attempt to force a second special session this year to repeal portions of laws he previously signed. These included tobacco tax breaks, estate tax exclusion increases, a corporate income tax freeze, passing into law rules banning illegal immigrants from receiving driver’s licenses, and teachers license provisions.

Anders Koskinen