If this article is accurate, then Gov. Dayton has just brought upon himself a constitutional crisis. Here’s what caught my attention:
Ramsey District Judge Kathleen Gearin will hear Dayton’s request on June 23 — just one week before state funds start to run out.
In her petition, Swanson asked the court to fund a broad expanse of state services and appoint a “special master” — essentially a shutdown referee, to sort the details.
Dayton offered a different solution in his petition.
“Order the parties to mediate,” Dayton asked the court. He suggested former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz or former Associate Justice James Gilbert to act as court-appointed mediators. Swanson had asked that Gilbert be appointed special master.
Only if mediation fails, Dayton’s brief said, should the court infringe “on the constitutional powers of the legislative and executive departments.”
In an official court document, Gov. Dayton tells a co-equal branch of government, in this instance the judicial branch, to ignore Minnesota’s constitution. Here’s the oath that Gov. Dayton took before officially becoming Minnesota’s governor:
The official Oath of Office to be taken by the Minnesota statewide officers to be sworn in Monday:
I, (legal name) do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Minnesota; and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of (name of office) to the best of my judgment and ability, so help me God.
There’s no disputing the fact that Gov.-Elect Dayton swore to “support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Minnesota.” Similarly, there can’t be a denial that Gov. Dayton’s court brief told the Judiciary to ignore Minnesota’s constitution.
It’s bad enough for Gov. Dayton to bargain in bad faith on the budget. That doesn’t come close to being an impeachable offense. It’s downright ugly thinking that Gov. Dayton apparently talked with DFL legislative leaders and the DFL’s special interest allies to blame the budget crisis he intentionally created on Republicans. Similarly, that’s disgusting but that doesn’t rise to the level of triggering a constitutional crisis.
Filing an official court document that a) admits that Gov. Dayton is ignoring his oath of office and b) tells a co-equal branch of government to ignore Minnesota’s Constitution does rise to the level of triggering a constitutional crisis. Based on this admendment to Minnesota’s Constitution, I’d say Gov. Dayton’s actions more than meet the legal requirements for recalling Gov. Dayton:
State officers can be recalled for “malfeasance,” “nonfeasance,” and “serious crime.”
- Malfeasance means intentionally doing something unlawful or wrong while performing duties of the office; the act must be substantially outside of the scope of the officer’s duties and substantially infringe upon another’s rights.
- Nonfeasance means intentionally and repeatedly not performing required duties of the office.
Serious crime means a crime that is a gross misdemeanor and involves assault, intentional injury, threat of injury, dishonesty, stalking, aggravated driving while intoxicated, coercion, obstruction of justice, or the sale or possession of controlled substances. Serious crime also means a misdemeanor crime that involves assault, intentional injury or threat of injury, dishonesty, coercion, obstruction of justice, or the sale or possession of controlled substances. An individual who is convicted of a felony is automatically removed from office, so a felony conviction is not specified as grounds for recall.
I’d argue that Gov. Dayton’s telling the judiciary that they should ignore Minnesota’s Constituion is worthy of “doing something unlawful or wrong while performing duties of the office.” I’d further argue that telling Judge Gearin to ignore Minnesota’s Constitution is “substantially outside of the scope of the [Gov. Dayton]’s duties and substantially infringe upon another’s rights.”
Gov. Dayton is the head of Minnesota’s executive branch. The legislative branch is another co-equal branch of Minnesota’s government just like the Judiciary is the third co-equal branch of government. Gov. Dayton can no more tell the judiciary to spend money any more than the legislative branch can tell the executive branch that they can’t veto bills they’ve passed.
Minnesota’s Constitution mandates certain actions and prohibits other actions. The judiciary can tell the legislative and executive branches what they can’t do but the judiciary can’t tell them what they must do.
I couldn’t argue that this isn’t Gov. Dayton’s comeuppance for negotiating in bad faith and for attempting to orchestrate a government shutdown for pure political gain.
I wouldn’t have a difficult time arguing that Gov. Dayton triggered a constitutional crisis by filing a brief with the courts telling them they should ignore Minnesota’s Constitution.