I was disappointed to read the Star Tribune Editorial Board's editorial "Emergency powers strengthened state," published April 5. First, Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison have not yet won every case related to the emergency orders. Just on March 30, in Northland Baptist Church v. Walz, U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright denied the government's motion to dismiss First Amendment challenges to the executive orders by two churches. Importantly, Wright followed the Supreme Court and applied normal constitutional scrutiny to Walz's executive orders, a clear defeat for Ellison's claims that there is a pandemic exception to the Constitution under the Jacobson v. Massachusetts case from 1905. This means that the churches' claim that these restrictions are unconstitutional can continue like any other lawsuit.
Second, the Editorial Board's chosen examples of "legitimate" uses of emergency power show glimpses of what Walz could arguably do with his emergency powers, but they don't begin to address what the court cases are about. Nobody is suing over setting up pop-up testing sites or coordinating grants from the federal government. These uncontroversial actions do not justify extending emergency powers to put small businesses out of business while allowing behemoths like Target to remain open. They are not an excuse to shut down houses of worship and their worshipers from exercising their religion in person.
Walz's and Ellison's unfair and extreme actions are what the court cases are about — not getting grants from the federal government or setting up COVID-19 testing sites. If Gov. Walz and Attorney General Ellison had truly "stayed close to the law and common sense" along the lines of the examples chosen by the board, then perhaps they wouldn't have had to face lawsuits in the first place.
Robin Kelleher, Burnsville
The writer is a former Minnesota attorney and member of the board of the Upper Midwest Law Center, which represents the plaintiffs in the Northland Baptist Church case.
The crowd was not the killer
Derek Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that "hostile bystanders distracted the officer, preventing him from realizing Floyd's distress and saving him," according to "Trainers fault Chauvin tactics" (front page, April 7). He would have us ask: Why, God, didn't that hostile crowd relent and allow Chauvin to save Floyd's life that day? He would have us conclude: If only there weren't so many people urging him to stop his restraint, Chauvin could have properly diagnosed the situation and delivered aid.
As if people pleading for you to stop doing what you are doing means you are correct to double down. That is the logic of the defense: A crowd reacting to a deadly restraint is responsible for that restraint. This is called gaslighting in an interpersonal context. I don't know what to call it here, but if this is truly the best tactic the defense can employ, we see Nelson on shaky, insecure ground.
Roman Morris, Marine on St. Croix
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Public defenders are an important part of the justice system. During the proceedings in the Chauvin trial, I was very happy to see public defender Adrienne Cousins effectively stand up for her client Morries Hall. According to arguments to the court on Tuesday, Mr. Hall appears to have supplied George Floyd with drugs and been a passenger in the vehicle with Floyd when Floyd was arrested.
Every prospective defendant deserves to have legal counsel zealously represent his or her interests, even when that defendant and his interests are wildly unpopular. Our adversary system requires someone to accept this role in order to function. Here, Cousins did not give in to the intense pressure of international media coverage or pressure from the judge to force her client to give up his constitutional rights. She stood her ground and effectively argued that Mr. Hall cannot be forced to provide testimony that could be used to prosecute him. So often, movies and television programs portray public defenders as weak, incompetent and even questioning whether they are "real" lawyers. Not here. Attorney Cousins showed us that in Hennepin County, public defenders have backbone, skill and a tenacity to stand up to public pressure and force the justice system to be just as fair to those hated and unpopular members of our community as it is to everyone else. Great job, Ms. Cousins!
Patrick Noaker, St. Louis Park
The writer is an attorney.
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As an impartial observer of the Chauvin trial, I am left wondering why the prosecution and its experts have failed to emphasize that George Floyd himself requested several times to be put on the ground or to lay down. In my view, this undercuts a need to restrain him in the first place — let alone debating the reasonable length of time for such restraint. I'm no expert, but my lay interpretation is that people generally do not need to be forced to comply with their own wishes.
Unfortunately nobody listened to Floyd's pleas when he was alive, and they are continuing to ignore his pleas even now. When is someone going to listen to George Floyd himself?
Mark Pilate, Minnetonka
Musings on a night downtown
I have 10 observations, in chronological order, from our first night going to downtown Minneapolis on April 5 for dinner and a sporting event since the pandemic started and last summer's riots:
1) Getting dinner reservations was more difficult than expected. Our usual restaurants from 13 months ago were either permanently closed or closed on Mondays. We made reservations at the News Room on Nicollet Mall. Dinner was at 5 p.m. because the game started at 6 p.m.
2) The top floors of our favorite parking garage, the LaSalle, were closed. Just a few cars in the lower ramp floor.
3) On the walk from the parking garage to the restaurant, at least four people begged us for money. They were mainly outside of the downtown Target store. That did not happen 13 months ago.
4) The restaurant was not crowded. The waitress said they are hoping that the Twins games will start bringing people back to downtown.
5) After a long Minneapolis winter and with the temperature above 80 degrees, we were the only people eating outside on the four blocks we could see on Nicollet Mall.
6) Although it was the end of the business day with springtime weather, we saw few people walking around downtown. No crowds leaving work. No one dressed for the theater, the orchestra or a night on the town.
7) The number of storefronts on Nicollet Mall with plywood is still alarming.
8) On the walk past the Target store on the way to see a Timberwolves game at the Target Center, there were fewer people standing around because there were three police cars parked in the area.
9) Not a lot of people in the Target Center for the Wolves' first game with fans in attendance. No one in the upper-level seats. No expensive seats next to the floor for the beautiful people. The most shocking thing that happened is that the Timberwolves won and looked good doing it.
10) Our most surprising observation: It felt strange to be driving home in the dark after 9 p.m. We thought about all the sporting events, dinners, happy hours, plays and concerts we've missed in the past 13 months. But we had actually spent a night out on the town and had enjoyed ourselves!
Jerry Gale, Brooklyn Park
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