A Bill that is still bad for County Law Libraries – an update

In a recent issue of the Minnesota Lawyer Kevin Featherly wrote an article about Legislative Intent – what did legislators really mean when they enacted some new legislation.  And as part of his article, he wrote about S.F. 1113.

After talking with Ellen Jaquette, reference librarian with the Minnesota Historical Society, she mentioned that the “juiciest” historical resource that researchers can use are the audio recordings of committee hearings.

Mr. Featherly then wrote:

Pauline Afuso, Washington County’s law librarian, went directly to the audiotapes when trying to determine the purpose of a bill that she fears might impact her library and others across the state.

Her issue is over Senate File 1113 and its identical companion, House File 1390. The bill passed the Senate on March 20 by a unanimous 64-0 vote. It received its second reading on the House floor March 23.

The legislation says that if a law library has reserves big enough to sustain operations for five years, it can transfer half of that money, up to $200,000, to county government. The cash then can be used in “constructing a new building to house the law library and courts,” the bill says.

Those last two words — “and courts” — were a flashing red warning sign for Afuso. “Why is that in there?” she said. “Why would we want to spend money to go and build a court?” She went to legislative committee-meeting audio tapes to find out if that is what the law intended. She thinks she found it in March 2 testimony from the House bill’s author, Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River.

Zerwas told House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee members that his was “a local bill having only to do with Sherburne County.” The county, he explained, is remodeling and expanding its government operations center and the bill would allow the library to dedicate funds toward that project.

But its impact could span far beyond Sherburne County, Afuso insists. Whether intended or not, she thinks it might allow any county to divert money raised to support law libraries toward court-related capital projects, she said. That is not what the money is for, she said.

“Why not just say that a law library can donate money if it wants to and then leave it up to the discretion of the board of trustees?” she said. “Why is it saying all these weird things?”

***

As of April 25, this bill is still on the General Register.  There is still time for you to contact your representatives and ask that they reject this bill.

Thanks to the Minnesota Lawyer for allowing us to publish this excerpt of the article, “Legislative intent remains go-to research resource,” by Kevin Featherly, printed online on April 19, 2017 at http://minnlawyer.com/2017/04/19/legislative-intent-remains-go-to-research-resource/, and in the print edition of Minnesota Lawyer, published on April 20, 2017, p. 1, at pg. 24.

 

A Bill that is bad for county law libraries.

Recently, two bills, S.F. 1113 and H.F. 1390 have passed through their respective committees, have been reconciled, and are now on the General Register.  This bill (the text of the bill is the same for both the House and the Senate) is brief, but will likely cause big trouble for county law libraries if passed.  How?  By allowing counties to divert money collected to support the law library to pay for court construction.  This bill directly contradicts the current statute, where law library fees can only be used in support of the law library.

Below is the text of the letter sent to Minnesota Senator Dan Hall, the chair of the Senate Committee that heard the bill. Individual members of MCCLL have sent personal letters to the legislators.  I urge you to do the same and support your county law library!

Other links of interest:

 

Re: H.F. 1390 & S.F.1113
Dear Senator Dan D. Hall:

The Minnesota Coalition of County Law Libraries is a non-profit organization. Part of our mission is to assist and act as an advisory body concerning all issues affecting county law libraries in Minnesota. Our organization consists of law librarians who work in county law libraries throughout Minnesota.

We are writing to encourage you to oppose H.F.1390 which would unnecessarily change Minn.Stat. § 134A to allow a county to appropriate up to $200,000 to pay for construction of new law library and court facilities. The proposed language is duplicative of the powers already vested with the law library board of trustees. Minn.Stat. § 134A.05 states in part: “[The board of trustees] shall have powers necessary for the governance and maintenance of the library, including, but not limited to the power to: “…purchase or lease books or library facilities with money from the county law library fund…” (emphasis added). In fact, the Wright County Law Library Board of Trustees voluntarily donated money to the county to help pay for new library construction in 2002. See, “Law Library Board Minutes, December 18, 2002,” attached for your review. It is not necessary to add the new language in H.F. 1390 in order to empower the law library board of trustees to help new law library construction because that authority already exists in Minn.Stat. § 134A.05.

There is additional confusion in the language of the proposed bill, as it is possible to interpret the language to allow law library funds to be used to build new court facilities. To do so would be in violation of the current statute Minn.Stat. § 134A.12 which states, in part, that law library fees are “to be allotted for the support of the library.” In 2007, the Minnesota State Auditor investigated Olmsted County regarding misappropriation of law library funds used to fund the Olmsted County Attorney’s Westlaw subscription. The auditor found that the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office had misappropriated the funds, and such funds were repaid. The ambiguous language of the proposed bill makes counties more likely to make financial mistakes by inadvertently misappropriating county law library funds.

H.F. 1390 allows the law library to transfer money to the county “to defray costs of construction a new building to house the law library and courts” (emphasis added). The County Law Library Board of Trustees can already make contributions to fund law library construction under Minn. Stat. 134A.05. This bill makes only one material change to the statute – law library funds could now pay for court construction. This new bill could open the door to the use of law library funds for non-library purposes.

We urge you to reject this bill.

If you have any further questions regarding this bill, please feel free to contact any of us.
Respectfully,

The Minnesota Coalition of County Law Libraries

More Consumer Law Clinics in Dakota County

Dakota County Law Library has added, in addition to their Tuesday Consumer Clinics in Apple Valley, a Consumer law Clinic on the Third Wednesday of the month. Please make an appointment if you need assistance!

The Clinic is held in Apple Valley (14955 Galaxie Ave-in the library) on each Tuesday of the month (1-4 pm) and now on the 3rd Wednesday in Hastings (1-4 pm). You must schedule an appointment. Please call 952-431-3200 to schedule an appointment and ask for Penny.

Continue reading “More Consumer Law Clinics in Dakota County”

Sexting: The dangers of social media and your children

Scott County Law Library invites the public to attend a discussion called, Apps You Want To Know: A Parent’s Guide to What You May OR May Not Want to Know About Your Child’s Social Media Life.  This session will be at New Prague High School on Wednesday March 29, located at 221 12th St. NE, New Prague, MN 56071 from 6:30pm –8:00pm.

Join Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar, Scott County Sheriff Luke Hennen, Jessica Harstad and Kathy Hotakainen (FBI) for a conversation about how parents can be educated and involved in their children’s use of technology and social media.

“Most kids do not understand the potential legal and life-long consequences of their social media and smart phone use. It is up to us as parents to learn, monitor, and assist our kids” (Ron Hocevar)

Jessica Harstad (FBI Citizens Academy Association) and Kathy Hotakainen (FBI) will be presenting the NetSmartz Workshop; a program of the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children.

IT ONLY TAKES ONE CLICK ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR THE INTERNET FOR A CHILD OR TEEN TO BECOME A VICTIM.

For more information about this session please contact the Scott County Law Library at 952-436-8713.

Anoka County Family Law Clinic

The Anoka County Law Library is hosting a monthly Family Law Clinic run by the University of Minnesota.  This clinic offers free services to  self-represented litigants with questions pertaining to family law.  The clinic serves clients on a first come, first served basis.

Some of the services that are provided by the clinic include

  • Review of legal paperwork
  • Help understanding court orders
  • Instructions on how to follow court procedures
  • Legal advice on matters including divorce, Orders for Protection, child support, custody, parenting time (visitation), and paternity action

How can you get help?

Walk-ins are welcome, or you can make an appointment by calling (763) 422-7469.

When is the clinic?  

The clinic is offered once on Fridays from 1:00-4:00.  The dates for the spring quarter of 2017 are:

February 17, 2017
March 31, 2017
April 7, 2017
April 21, 2017

The clinic is held at the

Anoka County Law Library
Anoka County Courthouse
325 East Main Street
Anoka, MN 55303
(763) 422-7469

For more information please contact the Anoka County Law Library.

Appeals Clinic now with Extended Hours

The Appeals Clinic sponsored by the Minnesota State Law Library has extended its clinic hours. and now will run from 1:30pm-4:30pm starting on January 19, 2017.  The clinic typically is held on the 3rd Thursday of the month at the State Law Library. In addition, a limited number of phone appointments are available for those who cannot travel to St. Paul.

The Appeals Clinic helps self-represented litigants with the rules and procedures required by the Court of Appeals.  Volunteer attorneys can help with questions relating to:

  • deadlines
  • what papers to file
  • fee waivers
  • motions
  • appellate briefs
  • service of process
  • what the court will review

To get help from the clinic, customers can sign up for a time to meet with an attorney starting at 1:00 the day of the clinic.  For self-represented litigants unable to travel to St. Paul, there is limited telephone service.  Please call the State Law Library for more information at 651-297-7651.

Continue reading “Appeals Clinic now with Extended Hours”

Legal Happenings: Radio for Wright County

On Sunday mornings, you are invited to listen to Legal Happenings on KRWC 1360 AM, Radio for Wright County, where you can listen and learn about our law libraries.  During this program you can listen to:

  • Important legal commentaries by 10th District Judge Steve Halsey
  • Judge Gregory Galler of Stillwater provide practical and useful knowledge
  • Commentary by Kurtis Beckman highlight cases on his segment “It’s the Law in Minnesota”

You can also learn about free law clinics and legal services for Veterans, Senior citizens, and parents.  Hear about helpful organizations that can help with Crisis Nurseries, Divorce Support Groups, Domestic Violence help, as well as consumer information  on grief counseling, and references to legal aid organizations, agencies, volunteer attorneys and more.

This program is hosted by Sherburne and Wright County (retired) law librarian John Cooley as a public service to inform and educate listeners on Self Help Court Forms, Court Rules, Procedures and various Legal Resources.

Civic Groups, Law Firms, Public Libraries etc. encouraged to send legal announcements to to KRWC radio at info@krwc 1360.com or lawlibrarian@frontier.com.

Knowledge is Power.  *  Francis Bacon