G. Barry Anderson has a seasoned view of Minnesota's judicial system.
Anderson, currently an associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court, worked for 20 years in a private law practice before being appointed as a judge for the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 1998. He was appointed to the supreme court in 2004. Tuesday Anderson spoke at Central Lakes College.
Anderson served on the five-member canvassing board that oversaw the statewide recount in the Coleman-Franken U.S. Senate Race. Because of the conflict, he has recused himself from Supreme Court actions involving Coleman's appeal.
Anderson, however, didn't discuss the historic Senate race and lawsuit Tuesday. Instead he took about 50 law enforcement and political science students through the inner workings of Minnesota's judicial system and what students will face as they begin their careers.
G. Barry Anderson
Most important, he said, was that students never enter a career with a closed mind.
"When I talk to students I tell them the important thing to keep in mind is any conversation about the future that includes the words "never" and "always" is something you've got to be careful about," Anderson said.
Anderson said the role of a supreme court judge is to determine whether the state and U.S. laws are applied correctly in cases, not to legislate from the bench.
"My personal views are irrelevant," he said. "The public did not elect us to decide public policy issues."
However, one area he held a strong personal opinion in was on the question of whether judges should be elected by the people or appointed by the governor.
Anderson said he favored appointment because it would maintain the impartiality of the judges.
"We have elections that are very expensive and very partisan ... and with that impartiality becomes very much at risk," he said, noting elections are often funded by special interest groups.
Anderson also spent time talking about the budget deficit facing Minnesota.
While the state judicial system only accounts for 1.8 percent of a $35 billion budget, Anderson said cuts still are made and the judicial system has been working on ways to be creative on cutting spending. One way is a central processing center for speeding tickets rather than 87 counties handling their own. Another, though not popular, is making some misdemeanor crimes, which require a court appearance, petty misdemeanors that could be handled by just paying the citation.
Anderson closed by telling students that though it may be difficult to find a job after graduation they should keep their resolve.
"I'm an optimist about innovation and the American experiment," Anderson said. " I think the long range picture is quite bright."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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