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Eric Magnuson

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Ex-Judge Magnuson joins Robins firm, seeks more appellate work

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY
  • Star Tribune
  • September 7, 2013 - 6:02 PM

Eric Magnuson, the former Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice and veteran appellate court attorney, has joined Minneapolis-based Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, the latest undertaking for a guy who has been praised by Democrats and Republicans for his smarts and integrity as advocate and jurist in a variety of high-profile cases and public commissions.

Asked if he was leaving smaller Briggs & Morgan for love or money, Magnuson said: “I see this as a great opportunity to expand my practice to a national scale. Robins has litigation pretty much all over the country, and the volume of litigation at Robins is substantial. I’m 62 and I plan to work for another 10 years, at least. I’ve written books, done a lot of teaching and I just want to do more appellate work.”

Magnuson has represented Robins in cases and competed against Robins lawyers.

“I decided I needed an additional challenge, and Robins was the natural place,” he said. “Briggs is a tremendous firm … but a different platform.”

Magnuson left the Supreme Court in 2010, after two eventful years at the $160,000-a-year job, for what he said were family reasons; it was widely viewed in the legal community as a need to return to the more lucrative pay of private practice for a successful litigator.

Magnuson, a methodical, analytical guy, was a self-proclaimed unhappy trial lawyer early in his career.

“It’s lawyers doing things at the last minute, judges not holding people to the rules, surprise witnesses and a high degree of unpredictability,” Magnuson said. “For a good trial lawyer, that’s what makes it fun. In an appellate case … the record is set. … You don’t argue the facts; you argue the law.’’

ENERGIzed community

The first community solar generator in Minnesota is making electricity. Wright-Hennepin Electric Cooperative, which serves 46,000 customers northwest of the Twin Cities, built the solar array in partnership with the Clean Energy Collective, a Boulder, Colo., company that develops and manages such projects.

The utility said it was energized on Sept. 1, and the output will be credited to the October electric bills of 25 customers who purchased one or more panels on the 216-panel system. Customers who invested in the project share its output, lowering their electric bills. The purchase price covers operating expenses for the life of the array.

Wright-Hennepin plans a public dedication at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the array next to the co-op’s headquarters in Rockford, Minn.

david shaffer

Bashing Xcel Energy to raise money

Advocates of a municipal power company in Boulder, Colo., have gotten a viral surge in online fundraising. And Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy isn’t happy about the fundraising tactics.

New Era Colorado Foundation, which launched a monthlong campaign on Aug. 19 at Indiegogo.com, surged past its initial goal of $40,000 on Tuesday after social media and Upworthy.com took up the cause. Organizers raised the goal to $75,000, then to $150,000, which seemed likely to be exceeded with 12 days to go. The money will fund a campaign against a debt-limit ballot measure in November backed by opponents of municipalization. Boulder officials say it would halt the takeover of electric service from Xcel.

“At first, a lot of it was local, then it just spread and is taking on a life of its own,” said Steve Fenberg, New Era executive director.

Xcel, which wants to keep serving Boulder residents, is the punching bag in the crowdfunding campaign. Upworthy called Xcel “a corrupt corporation,” and the New Era/Indiegogo solicitation said Xcel is “prepared to spend possibly millions to win.”

“When they say that, they are lying to the public,” said Michelle Aguayo, an Xcel spokeswoman.

She said the company hasn’t decided how much it will spend to support the ballot measure. It spent just under $1 million to oppose a 2011 municipalization ballot measure, which passed.

Fenberg defended the nonprofit’s campaign. “If they don’t spend that much money, great,” he said. “But I expect them to.”

DAVID SHAFFER

SHORT TAKES

Kelly Doran, featured in a Sept. 2 column about his plans to build a six-level apartment complex and shops on the site of what is now two small buildings and parking lots at 1315-1325 SE. 4th St. in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota, said he agrees with preservationists that nearby buildings such as the Varsity Theater, and those that house the Loring Pasta Bar, Al’s Breakfast and other well-known structures in the neighborhood should be protected. Doran, who survived a City Council Dinkytown development-moratorium, is beginning the city-approval process that will incorporate neighborhood concerns.

Dennis B. McGrath, a dean of the Twin Cities public relations trade, has signed on with downtown-based Himle Rapp & Co. McGrath, a founder 30 years ago of what is now the regional office of global communications firm Weber Shandwick, has run McGrath-Buckley Communications with his wife, Betsy Buckley.

• The Star Tribune’s July 28 report on executive compensation at Minnesota’s largest public companies didn’t include all top wage earners. According to filings with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Allianz Life Insurance North America CEO Walter White earned $1.4 million in salary, bonus and other compensation in 2012. Brad Hewitt, CEO of Thrivent Financial, earned $2.5 million last year. CEO Bob Senkler at Securian Financial earned $3.8 million total compensation. They rank among the top-paid 50 public company CEOs.

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