Editorial: ‘Ensure the rule of law’

Published 9:41 am Monday, March 22, 2010

“The basic object of government is to provide for public safety and ensure the rule of law.”

Those sage words come from Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson. He is concerned about declining funding for the state’s courts. State budget woes are affecting the courts, even though they represent less than 3 percent of state onexpenses.

Magnuson continues: “Adequately funding Minnesota’s justice system is not an option, it’s an obligation.”

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We couldn’t agree more. If the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty fail to provide the court system with the funding it deserves, they will be undermining not only justice, but the separation of powers inherent in the state constitution.

Unfortunately, even given an improved state budget forecast that came out last week, Pawlenty has no plans to revise his budget proposal, which envisions about $15 million in cuts to the judicial system this year. This is tragic. The Legislature needs to step up and meet this challenge.

A recent examination shows that Minnesota’s public defenders are doing twice the work they should be. This imperils defendants’ rights to speedy and fair trials, and jeopardizes the efficiency of the court system as a whole.

We can only imagine that Gov. Pawlenty views across-the-board cuts as fair, yet he himself has prioritized funding for schools and veterans programs. We cannot see why he won’t open his eyes to the problems in the courts.

— The Sentinel of Fairmont. March 11