Judge Kathleen Gearin supports Dayton in government shutdown

With the Minnesota government shutdown less than 36 hours away, a critical ruling from Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin has finally given people an idea of what a shutdown means: Gov. Mark Dayton's minimalist view of the core functions of government that would keep running during a shutdown.

Gearin wrote that the court would use its power to force government spending "in a very narrow sense."

In siding with Dayton, Gearin ruled against Attorney General Lori Swanson, who had argued for a broader list of core functions, many of which will have the tap turned off one minute after midnight on Friday.


Gearin's ruling is good news for some parties, like cities, prison guards, and the elderly. It's bad news for others, like zoo goers, horse racing fans, and state aid programs that operate outside of federal welfare control. Nonprofit agencies that had appealed for continued state support were politely rebuked in the ruling.

"Neither the good services nor the fact that they may cease to exist without state funding is sufficient cause to deem their funding to be a critical core function of government and to overcome the constitutional mandate in Article XI," Gearin wrote.

Gearin's decision protects a number of state-run facilities, including prisons and nursing homes, surprising only the people who thought prisoners might be set free and old folks left to fend for themselves. Gearin also ruled that cities, which are due Local Government Aid payments of $265 million on July 20, would receive that money should the government still be in gridlock.

Animals at the Minnesota Zoo will be cared for and fed, but the zoo's doors would close to visitors in a shutdown. Gearin also signed off on closing the state's two horse racing tracks, writing, "regulation of horse racing is not a core function of government."

Dayton and legislators were set to continue negotiations to prevent a shutdown Wednesday afternoon.

Read Gearin's full decision below.

Executive Findings of Fact (2)