Attorney General Lori Swanson did not violate any laws when her office publicly disseminated information last week about a former aide’s criminal record in alleged retaliation, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann made the finding in denying a former aide, D’Andre Norman, a temporary restraining order against Swanson. Norman had accused Swanson of sharing expunged records that were nonpublic data, but the judge disagreed.
“All these court records are public records easily obtainable,” Guthmann said in issuing his decision about 11 a.m. “I’m bothered by the rush to file this case when the major aspects … could easily be verifiable as baseless.”
Guthmann pushed Norman’s attorney, Martin Carlson, on his initial claims that Norman’s criminal record had been expunged and therefore, was not shareable by Swanson’s office.
Carlson ultimately acknowledged that the records had not been expunged. The confusion, Carlson said, was due to his client’s belief that his attorney in 2014, former Attorney General Mike Hatch, had completed the expungement process.
Norman said afterward that he believed Swanson’s office shared information about his record last Friday in retaliation for his cooperation with an article published online at the Intercept accusing her of pressuring staffers to do political work to advance her career ambitions.
Swanson lost Tuesday’s primary to U.S. Rep. Tim Walz to run as the DFL candidate in November’s race for governor.
Norman said Hatch, a Swanson ally, was acting as his attorney in 2014 and informed him that his criminal record was expunged as part of an effort to sanitize Norman’s association with Swanson. Norman was hired after Swanson’s election as attorney general in 2006 for a job in the consumer services division, but he has said he served as a political handler who recruited volunteers and reported potentially disloyal employees to Swanson.
“Right now, I’m just heartbroken,” Norman said.
Norman filed a complaint in court last week and requested a restraining order to stop Swanson from sharing his criminal record, to compel her to instruct all media outlets she had shared the data with to suspend publication of the information, and to order her to produce documents about the matter, among other demands.
Norman and Carlson said Swanson’s spokesman, Ben Wogsland, disseminated criminal case numbers to multiple reporters Friday.
Carlson said he acted in haste in filing the complaint because Swanson was impugning Norman’s character and there was “great urgency” to address the matter.
“That’s really wrong,” Carlson said of Swanson’s actions. “I find it disturbing.”
Guthmann urged Carlson to withdraw Norman’s complaint and to no longer “waste any time and resources” in court.
“That’s simply some friendly advice from a judge,” Guthmann said.
Carlson said he had “no issue” with Guthmann’s handling of Wednesday’s hearing and later voluntarily dismissed his client’s case.