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The Carletonian

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anderson discusses Constitutional law

<ta Supreme Court Justice and convocation speaker Paul Anderson believes that each of the three branches of government are just like basketball players fighting to rebound the ball, does that make the Executive Branch like 2007-08 NBA Rebound leader Dwight Howard?

During last week’s convocation, Anderson not only used that analogy to describe the separation of powers that the Constitution provides to keep each of the three branches in check but also took some border-line fouls from Carleton students in the process. The Justice and the two students he invited to come up on stage pushed back and forth at each other to act out the scene he detailed.

Paul Anderson has been on the Minnesota Supreme Court since 1994. His opinions in the cases State v. Flowers and State v. Jackson have expanded civil liberty protections for criminal defendants. In his speech, “Freedom is NOT Just Another Word For Nothing Less To Lose,” Anderson outlined what he considered to be the important aspects of the freedom that the U.S. provides. One topic that he largely focused on was the U.S. Constitution.

Anderson spoke about the ideas the Constitution contained during a time when most European countries had monarchies. He mentioned that the Constitution is a limited contract between citizens and the government, because it places limits on government’s powers, but it is also explicit on topics such as separation of powers.

Anderson also related the role that the Constitution plays in his job. “It doesn’t tell me about wiretapping, Internet, or the suspension of habeas corpus… It sets guidelines.” he said. In terms of the basketball metaphor of separation of powers, Anderson believed that the judiciary system plays the role of the referee by calling the fouls. The Justice also emphasized the importance of knowing who the judges are because they are the ones who “call the fouls.”

Anderson connected the freedom that the American government provided to the doctrine of separation of powers and also commented on the state of separation of powers during the Bush presidency. According to Anderson, it is not an accident that there is a currently a very strong executive branch. He explained that the transformation has mainly been caused by Dick Cheney’s ideology that the Executive’s powers have been too limited since the 1970’s. “In recent years, I have never been more concerned about the future of the country then the (current state of) the balance of powers,” he said,and added that irreparable damage has not yet been done to American society.

While describing the freedom that exists in America, Anderson also stressed the ability to expose Bush’s leader’s folly. He cited Mark Twain’s quote, “A discriminating irreverence is the creator and protector of human liberty,” as well as mentioning that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert play a major role in our democracy.

Paul Anderson graduated from another Minnesota liberal arts college, Macalester, in 1965. “I’m a big fan of the small liberal arts education. I’m grateful for the different experiences Macalester gave me,” Anderson said. He received his law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1968 and began his career by working with VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America), a government program created to fight poverty. He then served as a Special Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General. In 1971, he joined the LeVander, Gillen, and Miller Law Offices in South St. Paul. Paul Anderson served as a counsel for Arne Carlson’s 1990 winning campaign to be governor of Minnesota. In 1992, after twenty years in private practice, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Two years later, he was appointed Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Anderson spoke about the importance of elections, including the upcoming one in November: “We have potential for rebellion and revolution in our country every two years. The last one was in 2006 (when the Democrats re-took control of the Congress).”

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