Call to Order
The meeting was called to order at 9:15 a.m. on Friday, June 26, 2009, at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. President Michael Ford presided, with Secretary Aaron Biber recording. The Roll Call is attached.
Mr. Ford read the names of members who passed away during the past year.
II. Minnesota State Bar Foundation Annual Meeting
Foundation president JP Barone provided a report on the activities and grants given by the Foundation during the year and he encouraged members to voluntarily contribute to the Foundation. In closing, Mr. Barone thanked outgoing Board members for their service. Aaron Biber, chair of the Elections/Appointments Committee reported on the Committee’s deliberations during which nine candidates were interviewed for the six positions on the Foundation Board. Based on these interviews, the Committee is recommending the following candidates: Brenda Denton, Jacqueline Dorsey, Nancy Kleeman (to complete Pat Waggoner’s term), Bethany Fountain Lindberg, Warren Ortland, and Gary Voegele. The Assembly voted to elect these candidates.
III. Awards & Special Recognitions
Mr. Ford announced the recipients of the President’s Award and Professional Excellence Award which were presented previously. He also recognized the outgoing Assembly members.
IV. President’s Report
Mr. Ford provided a short summary of his efforts over the year including trying to rely on the expertise of members and give them credit whenever possible, as well as trying to spread information out as widely as possible, contrary to attorneys’ natural inclination to keep information close to the vest. He recognized the work of the Civic Education Committee, coordinating 400 presentations being made across state to over 800 students and development of a peer mediation program.
V. Treasurer’s Report
Mr. Votel summarized the current financial status of the Association, highlighting staff efforts to reduce spending to limit the current year deficit. A net increase of more than 400 members over 2008-09 is very compelling; this is the highest increase in over 10 years. The Assembly has a reserve goal of 25-30% of operating expenses; this goal level will be accomplished.
VI. Consent Calendar
A motion was made and seconded to approve the items on the Consent Calendar. The motion carried.
VII. Additional agenda Items
A motion was made to add action to approve amendments to the LawPAC Constitution to the Agenda. The motion was seconded and carried.
VIII. Elections/Appointments Committee
Mr. Biber summarized the work of the Committee during the year and highlighted positions that will be on the September Assembly agenda.
IX. General Policy Committee
Mary Ward reviewed the report of the Rights of Unmarried Couples Task Force and noted that the Committee recommended approval of the executive summary. The motion carried, with Justices Dietzen and Gildea recusing themselves.
X. Governance Committee
Fred Finch reported on the meetings and work of the Governance Committee during the year. The Committee recommended approval of the NLS Bylaw Amendments which were part of the Consent Calendar; and he advised that the Section will take on an overall review of their Bylaws in the coming year. In addition, The Committee continues to work on review and development of policies and procedures for handling amicus briefs. Mr. Finch noted that he is on the Assembly representing MSBA delegates to the ABA; those delegates are looking for input from MSBA members.
XI. Legislative Committee
Susan Holden discussed the work of the Committee over the year; highlighting the Committee’s work to develop legislative positions of the Association. At the Committee’s most recent meeting members discussed ways to improve processes to be more efficient and work for the Association and the member groups of the Association. Those efforts will include improvements to the website; Bill Summary Form, and enhancements of the Legislative Position Form. A Subcommittee is nearing completion of work on the revised Uniform Arbitration Act; and the Committee anticipates requesting a change in the Association’s legislative position.
The Legislative Committee is recommending approval of proposed amendments to the LawPAC Constitution. Mr. Brisbois summarized the changes, including a change in number of trustees, shortening term lengths, attempting to make it more nimble and responsive; and expanding the PAC’s scope – which had been limited to legislative elections. The revisions include judicial positions and any constitutional elections. The motion carried.
Report of Legislative Representative Lloyd Grooms
The Association’s legislation agenda was very focused this year; largely centering around adequate funding for the judicial system. Major, significant cuts to the judicial budget were anticipated. Work at the capital and creation of 1000 supporters spread the word of how those cuts would affect average Minnesotans. Cuts were not a dramatic has feared, but there were several trade-offs, including increased fees. While opposing those cuts, the Association also worked to avoid a sales tax on legal services. It is anticipated that these could become annual issues. Judicial Selection was also a legislative issue. Proposed legislation moved forward in the Senate, but did not move forward in House. At this time it looks like it will move forward in the House next year. Section bills were limited this year, but some technical amendments passed and the legislative agenda for the year was achieved.
Mr. Grooms expressed his appreciation to the leadership and the members for their support at the Capitol.
XII. Military Law Committee Report
Mr. Ford discussed the work of the Committee, noting that it was recently recognized at a Yellow Ribbon Ceremony.
Lt. Col. John Brossar appeared on video highlighting the work of MSBA members currently serving in the JAG Corps in Iraq. He discussed the areas and types of work they are currently doing; primarily, at this time, working on the transition to full Iraqi control.
XIII. Operations Committee
Mr. Votel thanked the members of the Committee for their work throughout the year, particularly the Subcommittee chairs.
Mr. Votel provided a summary of a new Investment Policy. The proposal is an expanded policy to provide guidelines under the new relationship with the Association’s investment advisor which is now serving in a fiduciary role. It was noted that the Policy has been reviewed by the Investment Subcommittee and Operations Committee and has been recommended for approval. A motion was made and carried to adopt the Policy as presented.
Mr. Votel summarized the request of the Civic Education Committee to rollover funding as it works to raise money to further support its efforts. The Operations Committee is recommending approval of this request. The motion carried.
XIV. Other Business
Mr. Ford reviewed events that lead to petitions which are currently before the Supreme Court from the Board of Public Defense and the Legal Services Planning Committee. The Council is recommending the Assembly adopt the following resolution in support of the petitions:
A) believes that it is appropriate, given the unique current economic circumstances, for the Minnesota Supreme Court to increase the attorney registration fee by up to $75 to fund, in part, the Board of Public Defense, and that this increase should sunset after a period of two years; and
B) supports an increase in the attorney registration fee of $25 to fund, in part, civil legal services.
A motion was made and seconded to adopt the resolution. Members discussed various issues regarding the petitions and the resolution including a concern that the $75 increase for public defense funding would not sunset after two years as proposed in the MSBA resolution; noting that this is a societal obligation and it should not be paid by lawyers; what happens to the system if public defenders are not funded; the resolution sends a message that it is a necessary stopgap measure and puts the court in a position to enter a discussion with the legislature in advance of the next budget session; and the Association needs to work more to include the prosecutors in discussions regarding maintaining the court system. Following discussion the motion carried with Justices Dietzen and Gildea recusing themselves.
Mr. Ford asked members to review the written announcements.
Mr. Biber noted that Judge Neville is seeking the position of ABA Secretary and that the MSBA wishes her the best.
Mr. Brisbois thanked Mike Ford for his efforts and service as an officer of the Association.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:15 a.m.
Aaron F. Biber