Judge Kevin Burke’s Commentary About Senator Ortmann’s Letter


I posted a couple of days ago about a letter sent to Chief Justice Gildae and State Court Administrator Dosal.

Senator Ortmann’s letter requested a review of First Judicial District family court issues.

Here is Minnesota Judge Kevin Burke’s commentary about that letter (see box on left-hand side of this link).

Although I think Judge Burke makes a good point that perhaps this is not the appropriate vehicle to request this review (why doesn’t the Legislature do its own review, issue subpoena’s, take testimony and come to its own conclusions?) it appears the letter from Senator Ortmann was more than just constructive commentary about what we can do better state-wide.  When people living in her district are affected by what they characterize as judicial misconduct, what is the remedy?  Surely it is not more committee meetings.  And, unfortunately, for many people, it has not been the Judicial Standards Board.  So if Senator Ortmann’s missive was not following a well-worn groove, I think the more important question is – what can be done?

I think a lot of the noise around the issue of judicial conduct comes from litigants in family court cases, because many ‘average’ Minnesotans go through some type of family court case, who do not otherwise have contact with the court system.
People are frustrated.  And yes, there are many considerations (what parents think is wrong with the judge’s conduct might not be the same as what a judge think is best for a child).  But we do need to hear all sides of this story including the litigant’s concerns that a judge is biased or otherwise behaving badly.  Too often, it seems, Minnesotans are shut down around this issue.

I think the discussion of the issue (which Senator Ortmann started with her letter) is as important as whatever comes of it (that is, that specific letter).  I think its fine and fair to ask if not this – what?