Conceal and Carry

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe controversial subject of personal handgun conceal and carry has been rather prominent this summer in Minnesota. Besides a recent local incident that put the matter in the news, Minnesota now has reciprocity with North Dakota in recognizing registered carriers. An article from last Sunday’s Star Tribune reports that 200,000 Minnesotans now have permits to carry handguns. Controversies remain, with both sides having plenty of data to back up their arguments.

Carrying a gun is not for everyone, and an untrained and unprepared person toting a gun is no benefit to anyone.  Perhaps you have given it careful thought, however, and decided that carrying a handgun is right for you. If so, familiarize yourself with MN Stat §624.714.  Know the protocol you will need to follow if you get your permit.  Be aware that you will have to pass a background check, and that certain prior charges or convictions make you ineligible. You will also be required to take four to six hours of training in handgun safety. A permit usually costs $100, and must be renewed every five years. More information regarding the application process and your eligibility is available through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.  To apply for your permit, simply file this application with your local sheriff’s department.  If the department denies your application, you may choose file a Petition for Reconsideration through District Court.

For more a more detailed and scholarly look at the history of Minnesota firearm carry laws, see this informative guide compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.


John W. Boerner

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John W. Boerner was born on August 16, 1874 at the Army post of Fort Hays, Kansas where his father was stationed. His family moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota when he was five years old.  His father initially worked as a bookkeeper, but later joined the St. Paul Police force, where he achieved the rank of captain.  Young John Boerner attended Cretin High School in Saint Paul.  Later he played amateur baseball, starting on both the Northern Pacific and Knights of Columbus teams.  After that he went to work for the Great Northern and Omaha railroads while he took evening classes at the St. Paul College of Law (Now William Mitchell).  He graduated in 1903 and went into private practice.  At some point Boerner married “Marguerite,” and they had two daughters.

Boerner also went into private practice, later becoming Assistant Ramsey County Attorney, first under Thomas D. O’Brien, and then under Richard D. O’Brien. Boerner was elected District Court Judge in 1923, defeating Judge Frederick M. Catlin (appointed the previous year). He was re-elected to four more terms, finally retiring in 1949. (He was 73 years old, which was the mandatory retirement age for judges back then.)  He died on November 9, 1955 at Miller Hospital due to complications of a heart condition. He was 81 years old.


MSOP – A Look Back

Image - barbed wire security fenceNow that Federal District Court Judge Frank has declared the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) unconstitutional, a commission of leaders is planning what steps to take to make the program constitutional. It was strange timing when news broke last week that Alfonzo Rodriguez, Jr. had filed for habeas corpus in federal court, on grounds alleging juror misconduct at his 2006 trial. The commission’s task now becomes more emotionally loaded, as Minnesotans are reminded once more of the tragic Dru Sjodin story. It is no wonder that Judge Frank has banned media from these emotionally sensitive meetings.

Minnesota’s draconian sex offender program didn’t emerge out of the blue. Its implementation and growth was a well-intended response by our leaders to their horror at what had happened to Dru and other victims, hoping that such strong measures would prevent similar incidents in the future. This article in MinnPost explains how judges and prosecutors came to have such a heavy hand in committing Minnesota sex offenders after the Rodriguez matter. The number of civil sex offender committments peaking at 88 in 2007, an almost six-fold increase from 2003.  (MSOP’s reputation is that no one gets out of the MSOP, but apparently one man is about to graduate this week after 20 years.) The William Mitchell Law Review recently published insightful perspectives from both a legislator and a county attorney on the evolution and application of the current MSOP.

The Sjodin/Rodriguez case is not only tragic. It has been miscast as representing the typical Minnesota sex offender. Most do not fit the extremely dangerous Alfonzo Rodriguez profile, and might benefit from individualized treatment in a less restrictive setting. But as long as Rodriguez remains the unofficial poster boy of sex offenders, changing the MSOP remains an emotionally-charged task.


DSC_0108While you were enjoying the previous weekend, several new Minnesota laws became effective on August 1. In addition, new updates to the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines quietly took effect as well, which apply to felony crimes committed on or after August 1, 2015. Recent additions to the 2015 Guidelines run the gamut from wrongful employment at a child care center under Minn. Stat. § 609.816, to the new gross misdemeanor reckless driving offense under Minn. Stat. §169.13, subd. 1(a). All the new changes to the Sentencing Guidelines are described here.

The purpose of the Guidelines “is to establish rational and consistent sentencing standards that reduce sentencing disparity and ensure that the sanctions imposed for felony convictions are proportional to the severity of the conviction offense and the offender’s criminal history.” In 1978 the Minnesota Legislature first established the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to bring about these standards to actual sentencing practices.  Three years later, Minnesota became the first state to implement a sentencing guidelines structure.

Despite the Guidelines’ primary goal of sentencing consistency, no two offenses are alike and sentences have to be customized for the situation. This is why the Guidelines allow judges to apply many different durational departure factors (and not others), both upward and downward. (A good analysis of these factors can be found in West’s Minnesota Practice: Criminal Law and Procedure.) At 137 pages, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines are rather long and cumbersome, and contain some potentially confusing components.  Instructions for calculating sentences is available at the website, but maybe your department could benefit from additional training for interpreting the Guidelines.  The Commission offers webinars and in-person trainings on subject areas including sentencing worksheets, sentence modifiers, or consecutive sentencing. Have you got a question about the Guidelines that you need a quick answer to?  Call or email the Commission and get the answer!


A Page-Turning Career

July 27 2015 001Following last Sunday’s front page feature in the Star Tribune, now is the time to recognize Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, who must  retire next month when he turns 70 years old.  (This is the mandatory retirement age for judges under Minnesota Statute §490.125.) From gridiron to gavel, the modest man in the grey beard and bow tie has truly had an inspiring career. On Minnesota’s highest court, he has been known to bring “a common sense and a common humanity” that is mindful of the real people behind the cases.  (Consider his dissent in the 2013 case of  Dykhoff v. Xcel Energy wherein the Court overturned a workers compensation award involving slip-and-fall facts. Page’s opinion speculated that the Court may be punishing the plaintiff for wearing 2-inch heels.)

Page dreamed of being a lawyer long before he ever seriously considered a football career. Growing up in Ohio’s Rust Belt, he saw relatives spend decades in steel mills, and decided that the “Perry Mason” show depicted a more appealing existence. So while still in the middle of his 15-season football career (including MVP in 1971), Page enrolled at William Mitchell College of Law but dropped out after only three weeks. In 1975 he tried again, at the University of Minnesota Law School.   Page graduated in 1978, shortly before he was cut by the Vikings. (According to, he didn’t pass the bar exam on his first try, and this disappointed him more than any of his Super Bowl losses.)  After spending his last three NFL years with the Chicago Bears, Page retired from football in 1981. Having finally passed the Minnesota bar, he logged legal experience in private practice and the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.   He won election to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1992, after a controversial failure to be appointed by either Governors Perpich or Carlson.

Besides his position on the Court, Page has remained visible in other public arenas. The Page Education Foundation has distributed more than 6,000 college scholarships to Minnesota students of color since 1988.  He also wrote a children’s book with his daughter, “Alan and His Perfectly Pointy, Impossibly Perpendicular Pinky.” He and his wife’s extensive collection of Jim Crow memorabilia harken a previous era, but his sobering talks with his four children about conducting themselves safely during unexpected police encounters have present-day relevance.  Page’s next life chapter might be as page-turning as the previous ones, with more philanthropy and teaching being likely possibilities.

Do you have any special memories of Justice Alan Page?  Feel free to share them!


July 22 2015 007Once upon a time a Minnesota prize fighter retired from the ring and went on to become a beloved public servant. Maybe Tommy Gibbons was not the first name that first came to your mind. Nonetheless, his story is that of a man who was probably Ramsey’s most colorful and charismatic sheriff. Born in St. Paul in 1891 to Irish immigrant parents, his heavyweight fighting career spanned from 1911 to 1925. Boxing became legal in Minnesota in 1915, and that change was heralded at the St. Paul Auditorium with a fight between local fighting boys Tommy Gibbons and Billy Miske. (Gibbons narrowly won.) One of the most visible moments of his career came in 1923, when he fought Jack Dempsey. He did much of his training for this event at his brother Mike’s Rose Room Gym located in downtown St. Paul’s Hamm Building.  He lost the decision after 15 rounds.  His final fight (a knockout loss) came two years later when he was 34 years old, against Gene Tunney. This event and concern for his health prompted him to retire in 1925.

Gibbons sold insurance for years before deciding to run for Ramsey County Sheriff in 1934.  By this time, many voters were feeling that the job required a heavyweight of sorts to clean up the local corruption and gangster activity. Gibbons was elected, and quickly developed a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense sheriff who wouldn’t take deals. He served as the county sheriff for 24 years. His retirement in 1959 captured much attention, and even Jack Dempsey flew in from New York to attend the dinner. Gibbons died in 1960 at the age of 69.

This local story makes a good lead-in to highlight the positive work of local law enforcement, and specifically the services of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department.  Their Warrants Unit processes all warrants issued by the Ramsey County District Court.  (Check out their warrants search page.)   Similarly, their Gun Permit Unit handles all new and renewal permits to carry firearm applications for the county.  They can also carry out a writ of execution from court if you are trying to collect on a judgment.  For residents of certain Ramsey County cities, the Sheriff’s Department will provide a premise survey to evaluate the security of your property. (This service, which is available at no cost to residents and businesses of select Ramsey County cities, involves examination of window and door locks, patio and glass doors, lighting, shrubbery, and safety habits for possible security risks.)  Similarly, the Department is also happy to offer crime prevention presentations for your local group.



Sheriff Tommy Gibbons Retiring; Recalls Ring Days, Chicago Tribune, January 4, 1959.

Tice, D.J., Ringside Seat / Virginia Schweitz, Growing up in the Famous Gibbons Boxing Family and Working in Law Enforcement for Years, had a Unique Perspective on St. Paul’s Raucous, Romantic Past, St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 27, 1999.

Tommy Gibbons, Boxer, 69, Dead, The New York Times, November 20, 1960.

Tommy Gibbons by George D. Blair,  Tom & Mike Gibbons Preservation Society Page,


Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

file0001223708026Last week the Second Judicial District’s Veterans Treatment Court was spotlighted in both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. Ramsey County’s newest problem-solving court was started in December of 2013 to respond to the unique challenges faced by returning veterans. Fitting back into society can be difficult, and veterans can easily find themselves pulled into the criminal justice system. (Specifically, the instincts which serve and protect a soldier in wartime are not the ones that foster skills needed in peacetime.)

The Court is part of the Ramsey County Veterans Justice Initiative, whose purpose is to “assist and support veterans by creating a coordinated response through collaboration with the VA, community-based services, and the criminal justice system.” This evolving project is meant to identify and address lapses within the criminal justice system and related systems veterans may come into contact with once they have returned from service. It is a joint effort among city, county, state, federal and community resources.

Also committed to the well-being and successful re-integration of Minnesota veterans is the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV).  Their Vetlaw program helps veterans address civil legal issues related to housing, employment, child support, back taxes, or defaulted student loans.  In addition to legal assistance, MACV’s outreach extends to assistance in procuring employment and preventing homelessness.  Their Stand Down events and legal clinics are held in different Minnesota locations throughout the year.  Other services for the special legal needs of returning veterans returning home can be found through LawHelpMN on their resources for veterans page.  In addition, their legal needs check-up interface drafts customized marching orders for getting to the right legal resources for a veteran’s own unique situation.  If you are in the Law Library, you can also grab the free Veterans and Service Members brochure, published by the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.


Sebastian Taheri UomoIts elegant first impression in navy blue seems as timeless as your favorite suit. For faithful users of a classic legal tool, this is your last summer. I speak of Westlaw Classic, which will be discontinued as of August 31. Classic has remained surprisingly popular among regular users of the Law Library. It’s no surprise that some folks are pretty unhappy with its discontinuation.

The Law Library has long offered users free access to both Westlaw Classic and Westlaw Next, and we are happy to offer assistance to users unfamiliar with the latter. West also offers this special transition page to assist those making the switch.  This comparison chart of the two might also make the process easier.  (Hint: Select “Advanced Search” on the homepage of Westlaw Next to get to the terms and connectors interface.)

AALL Spectrum did an interesting feature on Westlaw Classic and its history last December. Read it and file the memory of old Westlaw alongside that of other old technologies like rotary phones, pagers, and mimeographs. (Note: You can still use the fax machine at the Law Library.)


S.O.S. for Sexual Violence

file1801281015946Sexual violence awareness was never just for college campuses. The school’s-out days of summer, in fact, are when sexual assault numbers peak. Now is the time to become aware of Ramsey County’s own resource against sexual violence. A service of Ramsey County Public Health, S.O.S. Sexual Violence Services provides “free and confidential services for victims of sexual violence, their partners, families, friends and other concerned persons.” Their phone ( 651.266.1000) is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Services include support groups, counseling, assistance with medical and legal issues, plus medical and legal advocacy for victims. Could your organization benefit from some education in this important area? They also provide informational workshops for both children and adults. (See brochure.)

Working closely with S.O.S. is the Ramsey County Sexual Assault Protocol Team (RCSAPT) This team provides trainings for member agencies, including Ramsey County’s first county-wide sexual assault investigator training and sexual assault nurse examiner training. They also develop written professional protocols for the handling of sexual assault cases, including that for police officers.

For more resources pertaining to sexual violence, see the Minnesota Department of Health Sexual Violence Prevention Program.  For more specific information plus statistics on sexual violence in Minnesota, see also their legislative report released earlier this year.


Royden S. Dane

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Royden Smith Dane was born on December 24, 1893 in the Minnesota Iron Range town of Biwabik.  He spent his youth working in logging and mining camps.    Here he learned to operate steam shovels and fire locomotives, and even held a boiler operator license for years.   Through his life he remained proud of his humble beginnings.

He entered the University of Minnesota, but left to join the Army when World War I began. After serving in this capacity for 18 months, he returned and entered the St. Paul College of Law.  He graduated in 1926 and was admitted to the bar that same year.  He spent 17 years in private practice before he was appointed as Municipal Court Judge in 1943.  He was elected to the Ramsey District bench in 1946 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Hugo Hanft.  In 1956 he married Roseville teacher Fern Nelson.  Judge Dane suffered a heart attack in his chambers on February 4, 1959 and died four days later at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  He was 64 years old.

Judge Dane was a colorful storyteller, plus an avid horse trainer and conservationist.  He kept a duck farm between Lexington and Victoria Avenues, between County roads E and F (present day Shoreview).  He was also active in the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  Shown in the painting wearing a fresh flower and a friendly smile, Judge Dane just might be the most handsome image in the judge portrait collection.  Having died in office, Judge Dane wouldn’t have posed for a traditional portrait as part of a judicial retirement. The Law Librarian speculates that his portrait might have been based on a snapshot taken at his wedding three years earlier.



Bar Indorses Dane for Judge, St. Paul Dispatch, Oct. 1943

District Judge R.S. Dies, St. Paul Dispatch, Feb. 7. 1959.

Just How Does a Judge Relax?  St. Paul Pioneer Press, May 17, 1953