Judge Kevin Burke on improving Minnesota's judicial system

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Gary Eichten's studio guest is Hennepin County Chief Judge Kevin Burke, the 2003 winner of the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence. He was honored in Washington last week.

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(00:00:00) All right. Thank you Perry. It is 6 minutes now past 11. And good morning. Welcome to midday on (00:00:11) Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Gary eichten. (00:00:13) Well, it didn't get a lot of attention but it was really a big deal last week and up in County District Court to chief judge. Kevin Burke was honored as one of the best judges in the nation judge Burke is this year's winner of the William H rehnquist award for judicial Excellence the award given annually by the national Center for state courts was formally presented in a ceremony last week at the US Supreme Court president of the national Center says quote. I don't know of a more Innovative trial judge in America one who has had a greater National impact and Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice Kathleen Blatz and State Court administrator's Su de sal de Sol rather in nominating judge Burke said quote no judge has made a bigger single impact on a state judicial system or has work more tirelessly in other states and the national level for the betterment of the administration of justice. Hedy words to be sure. But then Judge Kevin Burke does have an impressive list of accomplishments on his resume among other things. He's credited with developing Minnesota's public defender system. He set up the nation's first felony level drug court. He's introduced new ways to make the courts more efficient, and he's working on ways to give people who go to court the feeling that they're actually getting a fair shake when they're in court judge. Kevin Burke is come by today to take a bow talk about the judicial system and field your questions as well. So if you have a question or a comment for Hennepin County chief judge Kevin Burke, give us a call or Twin City area number is 6512276 thousand 6512276 thousand toll free number is 1-800-218-4243 out or 1-800 to for 2282. It judge birth. Thanks for coming over and congratulations. Thank you very much. Joe Walk On Water don't walk and what I've got a lot of friends. That really has quite an honor. It was a really it was very flattering. It was a nice ceremony. In fact even what I was told I was going to be nominated just getting nominated I think was a neat thing for me. I didn't really expect to win. I want to can you give me an idea of what it is that distinguishes a good or a great judge from your run-of-the-mill mediocre judge well present company aside. I think that the skill of a judge is the ability to listen. I think it's not necessarily act, right or rationally. I mean, I think there's a chance that you can get involved in situations in which your emotions going to take charge of the situation. So, I think that's the second thing and I think the third thing is that the Judiciary of today needs to be more willing to innovate given the problems that we have. I mean, we're a different Society than we were when I got to law school 25 years ago. And so I think that the judges in state courts of today really need to be More open to different ways of resolving people's problems the public criticism of the Judiciary being too expensive I think is a good example of a can't afford to go to court. Well, look, the justice system has to respond to that. We are problem solvers for society and we need to have solutions that are economical and fair for them. What does a judge actually do now. There is a perception that you know, you sit there and you listen to the facts of a case go look it up look up the law plug in the information and out comes the decision. Is that what you basically do is I think that's a pretty simplistic view of what we do for the most part. We listened to disputed facts situations. So there's not as much going up and looking up the law is trying to figure out well, he said she went through the red light and she said she didn't and how you UND up deciding. Well, did she or didn't she or There I think that there are areas of the law where we're increasingly problem solvers. So in the area of Family Court when parents decide to get divorced it's trying to figure out a way to reorganize their relationship so they can continue to be good parents for kids whose parents are going to be divorced. I think of the juvenile court area in the chips thing. For example, it's about trying to figure out what the future is for a child who has parents who really aren't meeting their that child's needs. So the things that we see really are less here contemplative. Listen to this go read a book write an opinion or something like that. I think at the Appellate Court level that's different certainly at the Appellate Court level. The description you gave is probably a little bit more accurate. We hear a lot about judicial activism. Does that apply at the trial court level? I don't really think so. Although I suspect that. There are people in society who don't agree with that we have over 2 million cases a year. Even on the hot-button issues. I've been a judge since 1984 and I've rarely dealt with the issues that I've never seen the Ten Commandments in a courthouse. I've only had a couple instances in which I've even been close to the issue about abortion. I've never dealt with guns in any kind of thing. So the kinds of things that might generate this claim that there's judicial activism is most of what I see are dysfunctional families mentally ill people and then on the Civil side, I think it's business relationships that have gone sour I wasn't wasn't going to bring this up. But since you did I have to ask you about the Ten Commandments business is our law. Our laws plural are laws based on judeo Christian religion. Oh, I think at some level they are but even in the broadest sense about you shouldn't lie. You shouldn't steal. You shouldn't steal. Your neighbor's wife. Those kinds of Concepts really are probably judeo Christian, but they're in all kinds of cultures. I think it's about what our laws based about about is being rational and fair with your neighbor and it's not always perfect. I mean laws sometimes get out of whack. If you go back to the most important decisions we've seen in our society Brown versus Board of Education. It was the legal system coming forward and saying schools shouldn't discriminate and yet the century before that Dred Scott said sure you could go ahead and do that. Most of what we see though is really about how you get along with your neighbor. You are I'm sure have your own personal opinions beliefs about this that and the other thing you have to set those aside when you when you put the robes on or well they mean there are instances in like that. But as I said is most of what you see, I mean, I don't have any particular thing about well, what should you do with somebody who has stolen or somebody who's tried drug addict who was mentally ill somebody who commits acts of domestic violence and things like that. I think almost all people in a Humane Society have the same general view of what to deal with that and then there are probably some areas on the periphery that their differences but not as much as you might think I was fascinated by this one of your latest initiatives and that is to try to make sure that people are in fact treated fairly and perceive themselves as being treated fairly when they go to court do most people feel like they're getting a fair shake. Well, I'm not sure and that's why we went out to measure it as I Is that what you measure is what you care about and for the most part I think courts have measured what was easy. Did we get the case done? Did we get it done timely, but I think that there are others another element which is two people feel like they were treated fairly. I don't think that when you come to a court you have a right to expect that you're going to win but you do have a right to expect that the judge is going to listen to you and that when you leave the courthouse you understand why that ruling was made and so what we're trying to do in Hennepin County is to address that issue heads up. So we've gone into the air for example of domestic abuse and we went and interviewed victims to make sure that they believed that the judge listened to them. And actually we did quite well, they're the victims by and large thought the judges in Hennepin County. Listen to them in the area of domestic abuse and actually was an interesting thing is the victims who didn't come to court thought worse of us than the ones that actually We did so if they got it filtered through somebody else we didn't do very well very well. But there is this other issue about making sure that people understand why we issued the order that we did and I think people have a right to expect that and that's the direction that I believe courts need to go doink minorities feel like they get a fair shake and in a predominantly white quartz is that they don't I think that that is nationally one of the biggest issues that we have to face that on our watch meaning on our generation minorities increasingly feel like the justice system is not fair to them and I think again it goes back to my concept that well maybe we haven't been saying what you measure is what you care about it and putting that issue at more at the Forefront. I think that people have a right third right to expect that you respect them and too often I think because the calendars are really big and we're hustling and we think we got the right decision that we can convey unintentionally that we didn't. Cynthia we didn't treat you with respect because we have all these cases and stuff and and that's not an excuse. I mean, I think that's a commentary about where we add but it's not an excuse for our Behavior. We're talking this hour with Hennepin County chief. Judge, Kevin Burke who has been honored as this year's winner of the rehnquist award for judicial Excellence. If you would like to join our conversation, if you got a question about the judicial system, give us a call here at 6512276 Thousand outside the Twin Cities 1-800 to for 22828 Kim your first go ahead, please. (00:10:25) Hi. Judge Burke. I'm wondering what you think about Judges who consider their religious philosophies when deciding a case and the reason I asked that I recently read a quote from Mary pawlenty who said that she consults the Bible or consults God. I don't recall the exact quote. Sometimes when deciding a case and I'm wondering if judges like Miz Auntie do they believe that the law books are ambiguous or inadequate or you know, when they feel that they have to call upon their religious training and do you think that's fair or the right thing for a judge to do is that appropriate for a judge? (00:11:06) Well, I I suspect what she was referring to was a think that I mentioned earlier and that is to consult with wherever you find that need how to deal with compassion how to make sure that your own emotions don't get overwhelmed with the situation. And so I don't think it's a technical thing about looking up in the Bible and seeing okay. How do you apply unauthorized motor vehicle coverage to litigants? I think it's really much more a concept of trying to make sure that in a very stressful occupation that you can be fair and just and respect people and then you can convey to them that you care. About them different people find different ways of dealing with that. You know, I'm personally not overwhelmingly religious, but I swim a lot in the morning to make sure that when I come to court they don't bite somebody's head off and I think that the occupation that we have is is unique in society. We were elected some of us were appointed but none of us were anointed and we've got a situation which we can do damage to people and I saw I think that what Mary plenty who is a friend of mine and I know her pretty well, I don't think she's, you know running around trying to figure out in the Bible how to rule on a dish different case. It's about for her an important thing about how to remain grounded mmm. How much do you worry about making a wrong decision especially in a case of somebody who is been you know violent and so on so forth and maybe the the person says well, you know, I'm going to turn over a new Leaf here judge. I've seen the error of my ways. How much do you worry about whether you make the right decision believing that I do and when I tell other judges is that when you feel like you're not then you need to quit if you're not nervous about making these decisions about this community safety about an individual's Liberty and it becomes kind of easy for you. I've heard it all before then. It's really important that you quit the job and I think to be honest with you there people nationally and court systems who have not I think we've got a very good addition Minnesota. So that would be on the outlier that would be that way but I think anybody who's really honest who's I a judge? Needs to recognize that the decisions that we have are not necessarily easy. It's very easy in one sense to get into. Well, I've heard that before except the person before you wasn't the person who'd said that and so if you got to worry about it the hard part I think is at what point do you let go so that you've already made a decision and then you know, I can stay awake and day or two afterwards but at some point I need to basically let go and say okay get up get on with the decision. The metaphor that I have used with a lot of judges and talking with them is that I'm something like an emergency room physician. I've got to make quick decisions. I've got to decide at what point though when to let go and say I can't save the patient. I can't save whatever it is and I make the decision to get on with it and then try to learn from those mistakes that you're going to make we're going to say have you ever made a mistake? I'll show you just all Lord that I messed that one up. Hey, I think that the two ways. You can make a mistake our that one you can correct which is you made a technical mistake. And for the most part you can usually go back and deal with that but I think the mistake that is more Troublesome is I conveyed something to somebody that I can't undo. I conveyed that I'm I didn't care. I conveyed to them that what they said was an important. I can I mean I was I'm a human being I was just plain tired and I was grumpy that day and I can't undo that stuff Jim your question, (00:15:02) please. Thanks, Gary. Congratulations Judge on the rehnquist award given to you two questions are interrelated these sensationalistic shows like Judge Judy and Wapner and all of those obviously. I think they're an embarrassment. I just wanted to get your opinion on them and also judge your opinion on cameras in the courtroom. That's another thing that I am personally against. Thank you and happy holidays to both of you. (00:15:27) Well, I guess you 50% of the time. I think that that the Judy kind of thing really is it's not even good entertainment but it really does to degrade the whole thing that happens in courthouses. It's if the judge in Minnesota act like Judge Judy or one of those other people, they'd probably be kicked off by Tuesday afternoon on a weekday. And so I think that that stuff's really kind of it's not good entertainment and its really clearly not reflective of what happens in a courthouse personally. I think that camera should be allowed in the courtroom. I think that journalists have a right to cover what's happening in the courthouses and I don't believe that it will sensationalize courthouses or Court proceedings. I think it gives the public a better insight into what really happens in courthouses, you know, if you look at the most Sensational one, which is the OJ Simpson trial. I think that the American public generally understood why that verdict occurred because it was on television. I'm not sure if it had not been. Television if you'd not seen Darden trying to put the glove on it and it not fitting if you hadn't seen a trial judge who seemed to be intimidated by the lawyers who seem to let things get out of hand who some prosecutors who just seem to put everybody to sleep that people wouldn't have understood why that verdict occurred and so I think Jefferson thought it was important and when he set up the country and the Constitution to let the journalists in with quill pens today's quill pen is a camera and a tape recorder for the people who are in radio. So I personally think it ought to happen. Is it in your mind in terms of providing good Justice in terms of getting to the truth of the matter. Is it better to have a judge make a decision in a case or have a jury or case? Oh, I think it depends on the the situation. I think that the facts situation disputes. The juries do a really good job. I think the other thing that juries do is they keep the system honest and they keep the community involved in the in the system, you know, even today there is not the kind of public trust and confidence in the justice system that I would hope there is the fact that we in Hennepin County of 8,000 people who come in at year and hear cases. I think get keeps us connected to the community in the community sees. Hey, look these are tough decisions. That judges are making do you have trouble finding a what's called a jury of peers? No, actually it Hennepin County and in Minnesota where at we're very good on that issue. The way you get on a jury is it's a combined list of your driver's license and voter registration or Minnesota ID and voter registration. Our list is very good. We send out a summons is in the return is quite good. We are we are very good on that issue where one of the few states that pays for daycare. So if Stay at home. Mom or stay-at-home dad will pay for the daycare so that you can come we're nowhere near where some other states are for example in Philadelphia. They've got a criminal court to deal with imprisoning or finding or doing something to people who don't show up in jury duty and we don't have that problem at all. So on that issue were pretty clean in Minnesota and you get a good racial balance and ethnic factually, it's not bad. It's not bad. It's not it's not always perfect in any individual case, but on balance that's not a serious issue in Minnesota. There are issues about race in the justice system. But it just this is the one that were doing pretty good at it Matt your question, please (00:19:12) hi. Thanks for taking my call. Could you just inform us briefly which judges get you elected in which one's get appointed? And then also maybe comment on the idea of electing judges. It's always seemed kind of strange to me during the election that you're going to be voting on. These judges lot of times. There's no Many names and you don't know hardly anything about them (00:19:35) under the Minnesota Constitution. Minnesota state judges are elected for a six-year term federal judges are appointed for life. And so you'll never see them on the ballot. So I'm a state judge all a state judges are elected. It's a six-year term. If there is a vacancy death or retirement during the term the governor appoints in in part the good part of the reason for that is if you didn't do it that way you presumably have to have a special election and the turnout for a special election in a in the cost for a special election of Judges. The turnout would be so small that you know, nobody would show up. I realistically and it would be very expensive. So by and large I would guess about 90% of the Minnesota judges are appointed sometime during the term and then they have to run at the next general election after their appointment. I don't know if there's a good system for In or appointing judges. I think there are criticisms about what's happening in Washington now with the appointment process in the federal system that are legitimate criticisms on both sides. It's very partisan in Minnesota by and large. The public seems to have confidence in the Minnesota Judiciary, and so my argument is there's a risk to making any changes and I would basically suggests that we have just keep what we got now now there are forces in the country that want to change this. I mean, there are states that have huge campaigns that are going on in elections. I spoke in Ohio a couple years ago shortly after they went through a contested election in which they spent twelve million dollars for an associate Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. I think that's probably as much as Coleman wellstone and Mondale spent for the United States Senate. So if you get that kind of big money influence in there, then maybe you'd have to re-evaluate. The system in terms of the rules have been loosened now in Minnesota in terms of campaigning. Is that good? If from your Viewpoint it can pick it up in Part B. I asked the question because it's tough. If you go to go to vote you have no idea as the caller indicated who these people are what they stand for. Well I but I think that some there was a United States Supreme Court decision that liberalized what you could say on the other hand. I'm sitting here with you and your audience and saying I'll answer all your questions or least I'll answer them as best I can so I think at least in this case, I'm here sitting just like any other elected official trying to say what I stand for and what my vision for the justice system are. I think the difficulty is at such a low visibility race. It's not any different than what we like the mosquito control district. We elect a lot of local elected officials who let's be honest. The public doesn't really know much about what they're dealing with and so the Judiciary is not much different. My suspicion is that if you look at the Hennepin County benches an example because I'm its leader. We're kind of viewed as a as a team and that's probably all right. It's true that you elect individual judges, but for the most part the public has a sense is is the Hennepin County bench delivering what we want and generally the incumbents will do well then and if you look around the country when all of a sudden the incumbent judges have some serious problems. It's a sense that your justice system is corrupt unethical non-responsive things like that Stephen your question, please (00:23:07) yes, I am a lawyer who regularly practice in front of the Hennepin County bench as a criminal defense lawyer. I can say first of all congratulate the judge from his award. I know for a fact that judge Burke is about as intolerant of any kind of mistreatment of a racial minority or a reporter that he has him only judge ever met any person I know but I have to strongly disagree. His remark about the composition of juries. I think if there was one universal complaint by people who regularly represent racial minorities and these courts in Hennepin County or anywhere else in the state is the fact that juries are not in any way representative of the sensibilities of the people that we represent in court. (00:23:57) Judge, it's not honest difference of opinion at least up from a statistical standpoint. We do track this. I don't know how to get it up much more. We do know for example, we've gone down to census tracts to see for example, if people in North Minneapolis are Jordan are responding to jury duty the same percentage and things like that as people who are in Edina and the answer is they generally are we're pretty good on that issue and the difficulty I think is that the justice system has a disproportionate number of people of color in it as in the criminal side as defendants then the population as a whole and so you're not going to have 70% of the jurors who are made up of people of color. It's something though that and you know, at least I hope that the system will continually monitor. I mean, I I think this is an honest difference of opinion, but the statistics that I've seen is that were more Very good on this we've got other problems about race. I'm not I'm not here to say that know. What's the biggest one? I think the biggest problem is we have a disproportionate number of people of color in prison way out of whack and we've got to we got to figure out a solution to this we have issues that have been more recently in the news about racial profiling of stops with the police. We have a long history of looking at the court systems somehow we ended up putting a vastly disproportionate number of people of color in prison, then the population would generate and that in my mind is is our Achilles heel much more so than the jury composition or talking to shower with Hennepin County chief. Judge, Kevin Burke. He is the recipient of this year's rehnquist award for judicial Excellence. This is a national award given basically to the well the best judge in the nation. Let's let's shorten it up and leave it at that. He's joined us this hour. Talk about the state of the judicial system here in Minnesota. Take your questions as well. So give us a call six five. One two, two seven six thousand 6512276 thousand toll free number is 1-800-218-4243. (00:26:17) Who would look into the physics behind dragging a sheep across various surfaces or peer into the chemistry of a statue that for some reason doesn't attract pigeons two winners of this year's ignoble prizes. Of course, I'm Ira Flatow join me on the next Science Friday for a tribute to Scientific silliness next Talk of the Nation from NPR news (00:26:37) one o'clock this afternoon here on Minnesota Public Radio, by the way over the noon hour right before Talk of the Nation. We have two voices of Minnesota interviews coming up over the noon hour today both from the North shore of Lake Superior. We'll hear from Howard sivertson who is a painter and an author and we'll also hear from Walters valet who is one of the few people who still working as a commercial fisherman on Lake Superior. So we'll get to those interviews over the noon hour this hour we're talking with the chief judge. Kevin Burke will continue that conversation just a moment. But let me bring you up on the up-to-date on the weather forecast sunny to partly sunny across the state this afternoon pretty Breezy. Gee, if you've been outside, you know that with a high in the 20s tonight partly cloudy with a low 10 to 20 degrees. Basically then tomorrow maybe some flurries maybe even some rain in Southern Minnesota with highs mid 20s to near 40 on Sunday. Looks like a some snow as possible in northern Minnesota partly cloudy sky in southern Minnesota on Sunday again 20s to near 40 degrees the Twin City forecast for this afternoon partly cloudy with a high in the upper 20s right now. It's in the mid-20s 24 degrees tonight partly cloudy with a low in the mid teens tomorrow, maybe some light snow with a high in the middle 30s and on Sunday partly cloudy again a temperature high in the middle 30s. If you have a question for Judge Kevin Burke the number to call six five one two, two seven six thousand or 1-800 to for 22828 judge. You were cited in the nomination for the award for your work in establishing. The nation's first felony level drug court and getting a lot of kudos for the drug court, but we pick up the paper again this morning and find out now there's another Turf War over drugs in North Minneapolis is all the attention. You've paid to this issue doing any good. Well, I think at some level it is if you go back to when we got involved in looking at the drug court and what it is is our drug court takes all felony drug cases, and that's what I think distinguished. It it I got thinking about this in the early 90s when there was this thing that there was murder apples. The homicide rate was twice what it is. Now, a lot of progress has been made in the justice system in Hennepin County in Minneapolis since the drug court. We're not completely responsible for it. But we got to be part of the solution. The homicide rate is at its lowest rate in 35 years. The number of misdemeanors is down 43 percent in the last five years. So generally speaking Minneapolis and Hennepin County is infinitely safer and the drug court was part of the strategy to deal with that but we're not there yet. If you're a victim of crime, it doesn't do any good to say. Well things are pretty good for everybody else. I think that we're at the precipice if the story this morning actually if you if people look at that and I hope that they do was very much focused on juveniles involved in gang and drug activity it and it's pointed out that was mostly very few adults. We're looking at Hennepin County to try to deal with the strategy to improve our response to dealing with juveniles involved in gangs and drugs that I think is the is one of the faults that we have in the system. We wait too late till somebody commits a felony and their adult we need to go back and say we're going to be more aggressive in dealing with juveniles who get involved. Leon and not wait for them to become an adult and I think the second thing that we need to improve is there are people who are charged with misdemeanor drug offenses loitering and things like that and which we are abysmal and dealing with them and we need to improve that. If you do those things then you add it on to what we have in the drug court then I think we've got an effective overall strategy. It won't work every time much. Like I said it earlier with my metaphor of where Emergency Room Physicians, we're human beings and they're going to be failures. I think people have to recognize that so he comes City councilmember down Samuels is on the program a few months ago and was decrying what he called a revolving door in terms of crime in North Minneapolis. And he said part of the problem is that the judges too many judges see themselves as kind of social do-gooders rather than cracking down on these kids early on and just bring them in and Pat them on the head and send him back on the street. Is that a fair criticism? As I don't think that is number one what you're essentially saying than in a state that already has a disparate vastly disproportionate number of black people in prison to put more black people in prison because if you look in the drug could area for example as you really talking about some huge numbers of people number two, I think there are more and more people across the Spectrum who are recognizing that you can't simply build your way with prisons out of the crime problem today in the st. Paul paper Cal Thomas not a noted liberal is in with a column saying that Society needs to have a balanced approach to dealing with Public Safety and not just figure that. You can lock people up. I think that on balance that the strategy that we're using is in the right direction, it's not perfect. I mean, I think one of the biggest problems that we have is there's too much volume and the caseloads are too much for the people who are on probation. So for example in drug court, when I started it, the caseloads was about one probation officer per 100 defendants that was still too high today. It's over one probation officer for 200 defendants. It's impossible to supervise people at that level people have made budget cuts to cut back the amount of drug testing. So holding people accountable for that becomes difficult in the third thing I would say is that people have to recognize that it's not just the judges who are part of this problem. So when councilmember Samuels points this revolving door out half the people charged with arrested for felony drug offenses are never even charged almost two-thirds of the people sixty or seventy percent of the people who are charged with misdemeanors have their case dismissed before a judge even sees them. So the idea that somehow we are singularly responsible for this I think is a little simplistic. Overall is the system on the one hand you say well, you know, they we've already got a problem with prison overcrowding in the rest, but on the other hand the system as a whole is it dealing to lightly with these people who are essentially preying on neighborhoods? Well and some I'm sure that that's true. I mean, I'm not sitting here and saying that every decision because as we talked earlier, you know, look I make mistakes all judges make mistakes, but I don't think on balance that it's a question of just being tough being is I think it's being smarter. We have a significant number of defendants who are seriously mentally ill and yet we have had until recently no strategy to deal with them. If you're schizophrenic and bipolar and you're horribly in need of medication putting in a jail cell for 10 or 15 days is not going to cure your mental illness. So we need to deal with anything. I think that there are some things where the social service network with prostitution and the women who've got kids. We have not been aggressive enough in how to Deal with that problem. The prisons are full Hennepin County just built on brand new jail. Now if we the judges were not locking anybody up, why did Hennepin County build a brand new jail at we all filled up. So I think at some level there are very few beds left in the workhouse. Minnesota was one of three states that had the fastest growing prison population. So I think on balance the judges have understood the get tough part, what we need to get is a little Smarter on how to deal with certain parts of these populations and your question, please (00:34:55) coach Burke. What is being done to correct the fact that very few dad's like 10% that wants 50/50 physical custody of their children actually get it. I know terrible stories of men that pay lots of money, but hardly ever get to see their kids one guy. I know hasn't seen his kids in four years because his ex-wife who had me. Already custody moved to New York every time he calls and or goes there they're not available. But he's still paying 1,800 bucks a month. (00:35:27) I'm glad we got a question family court stuff because I think that too often people view the justice system is just about crime and families really are infinitely more important than some of the the crime stuff that we have dealt with in Hennepin County. We're trying a number of strategies to deal with the caller's question. Number one. We're trying to make sure that there's early evaluation in a tried to get mediated settlements to figure out how we can help couples reorganize their relationship. Our goal is to reduce the acrimony and cost of divorce. If you keep the fight going on it will be way too expensive for both low sides. Essentially. What happens is you're going to take your kids college education and spend it on your lawyers kids college education and it's not going to make things any better we have emergency. Unit so we can deal with we can literally get some of these cases done in a day if we had to and so we've moved more judges into Family Court. I think that on balance while we're not there yet. We're moving in the direction to recognize that our strategies for dealing with family court were Antiquated and we really do need to recognize that more and more families are going to come into Family Court. They're going to need an immediate resolution and we really do need to have the maintain emotional and financial involvement with their kids. You think men get a fair Shake in these custody hearings. Oh, I think that in the past it was a legitimate concern that they didn't I don't think that's as true today. I think that there was this thing in society that well if the kid was little and you got to give it to the Mom I'd least just statistically in the and we do keep statistics on stuff like this. I don't think that that's true in the in Hennepin. I don't think it's actually probably true in the metropolitan area at all. But there was this historical grain of truth to it. So I think that the the solution it seems to me is to try to be much more aggressive in how you get people to to agree on working on a plan for the raising of their kids with active judicial involvement. You asked me earlier about judicial activism. And in this area the judges need to be more active Erica your question, (00:37:43) please yes, thank you. I judge Burke. I'm just wondering what you think about I need to steer things back a little bit to the crime area, but we seem to have a philosophy or a mindset that if someone commits a crime the only thing we can do to them in terms of punishment is sentiments, you know given jail time. And you're just spoke about you know, the the the the Jail's becoming full. I'm wondering to what extent is realistic that we could have something else at least for nonviolent offenders such as you know, very stiff fines where they're said look you've got to go to work or you continue working whatever the case may be and you have you know, a large fine that you have to literally pay back your debt to society. Whereas I don't think that sitting in a jail cell one really pays back their debt. In fact increase the (00:38:37) debt. I think that's a decent strategy. I think the difficulty with just focusing on finds exclusively. Is that a large number of the people that come into the court system are poor and really don't have any money. So I tend to think that we would be better off going with things like we do a thing in Hennepin County which is sentenced to service and we order you to spend certain numbers of days and hours working on volunteer work that improves the community. It's cheap. It works. It holds people accountable and it least deals with the fact that a lot of these people don't have a lot of money so that just saying well, I'm going to find you a thousand dollars if you don't have it it it becomes a more meaningless sanction. So I think that there's some other ways that we can deal with this some part of it is the speed with which you impose the sanction. Is as important as what you do to the person and so I think a large part of the strategy to cut down recidivism is to make sure that people are held accountable very quickly and put another way is that there are people who are listening here who have kids if you've decided as a parent, I'm not going to let my kid watch television till I do their homework and you come home and you find your kid watching television obviously not doing their homework. Do you sit and discuss over the next three weeks with your spouse what to do to the kid or did you just yell at them? And I think that an element of that is if you do that with your kid, that's essentially a lesson that the justice system can learn from is the speed with which the sanction is imposed is critical to recidivism. Now, there are folks especially in Minneapolis who say that because of that need for Swift Justice. It's time that you set up a night court in Hennepin County so that people who are picked up on our Relatively minor but very irritating crimes get immediately taken care of. They just hauled in the night court and punished right away for public urination. Whatever. It is not understand you're opposed to that. Right? Well, I am for a couple of reasons. Number one. We don't have the money to do it. And so if you want to run the Night Court, that's fine. But we're going to have to close the day Court the justice system in Hennepin County is severely over text or underfunded or however you want to deal with that but the bottom line is if you're a businessman you understand running a second shift costs money and it's so it's not about just well, where does the money come to run a second shift? Secondly? I don't know when you look objectively whether or not the bang for the buck is going to be is much as you might think we actually get the Done pretty quick most of them are done in less than 10 days. So what would you really get out of that given the fact that you're going to have to put some additional resources in it? And then it becomes a question of if I had some additional money. Where would I put it? I personally would put it in the thing that you asked me before I would put it much more in dealing with juveniles and getting rapid disposition even faster disposition of juvenile cases, then dealing with some adults who may be urinating down in the warehouse district. And so it's just a matter of okay if I got some money where am I going to put it? I don't think it's quite as simple lowest just saying. Well we can just do this and who's going to pay for it? Hmm Chris so your question, please. (00:42:27) Yeah. Just wondering there's a lot that can be done with the legislature and let the judicial system. But what about the other aspects of culture and family? Kind of acceptance of criminal behavior and even the glorification of criminal behavior and like music videos things like that can anything be done about those influences (00:42:53) to really make this a safer Society? I think the justice system does need to reach out to different partners than we may be historically have so for example in August. We did a restorative justice day in North Minneapolis in which we brought together the clergy who worked on kind of restorative justice for that day and had 800 defendants case is resolved. They did community service in their sites that were staged off of the local churches and things there are some things that you can do it within that area. I personally haven't spent a lot of time thinking about videos and and stuff like that. So, I don't know if I'm the best person to answer how to move those things I think. Some respects. I'm nervous about Judges getting involved in telling Society what you should or shouldn't watch or things like that. If I think there's some people in society who ought to do that. It's just not me Brett Kyle your question, please (00:43:53) so I think it's been answered judge Burke. Congratulations on your award. Thank you. It was about restorative justice and you pretty much just answer the problem. Okay? All right. Thanks for your call (00:44:02) Brett. Let's move on to Deb who has a question for judge Burke ahead Deb. (00:44:07) Hi Josh. Thanks for taking my call Save actually two questions if I might throw them out and I'll get off the phone. We answer if you're willing. The first is I'm curious about your feelings on judges deciding sentencing a Minnesota FIFA. Minnesota should switch to maybe a jury based sentencing or at least offering it up to the defendant if they like and also I'm also wondering about gay marriage and you're feeling legally on that. (00:44:30) Okay, I don't think that it would make an awful lot of sense in Minnesota to introduce sentencing leaving it up to the jury because for the most part most of the defendants plead guilty. There are there is no jury trial. And so I think just the mechanics of investing a huge amount of time on that are debatable. I think there's only a few States Texas being principle that use juries for sentencing. So I don't think that would work. I'll try to answer those gay marriage as best. I can I have a lot of gay friends. They're my friends and they ought to be able to be treated with dignity and respect in society. And that's about as close as I want to come to something that might come before me in terms of a legal issue. I was going to say setting aside how you might rule or deal with such a do you expect that? We're going to see a rat. shove legal suits of one sort or another involving gay marriages in Minnesota. I don't know about a rash Minnesota actually had that lawsuit almost 30 years ago Jack Baker and I can't remember the other fellows name brought that lawsuit and lost. I think that what and I said this at the rehnquist in I think the difficulty in our country is that we are one nation and we have two cultures one's very traditional patriotic and the other is a little bit more secular and more tolerant and more diverse in its very difficult in a society that has two cultures to have one common vision of what your justice system ought to be and and that's a difficult thing for us in the Judiciary is because there are these competing cultures that are going on in our nation. What is Justice well in my mind, it is very much about somebody who is listen to who's treated with respect. And who understands why the decision was made when they left I think there's another part of it, which is I think it's important that judges be neutral. And that was the question. I think you asked me about activism. So our judges need to be neutral but I don't think that that's the same as saying that you can't be a caring person and I think that sometimes the judges who haven't been is as good as I would hope they would be have confused the idea being neutral with I can't care about you and so they come across kind of as stone cold when you can at you can actually hold somebody accountable and still not do it in a manner which indicates that you don't care about them as a human being if you ever found yourself in a situation judge Burke where you had to sentence someone to some significant amount of time or find them significant amounts of money who you were friends with personal friends or something close to that. No, but it in a pretty Have to disqualify yourself if you're actually personal friends, but I've known people who I've sentenced because I've they've appeared before me or something like that in some way. But if it was really a personal friend you'd step stand aside because you can't win there. I mean if you even if you are fair somebody will say, well you bent over backwards and you bent over too far and he held them to accountable or you gave him a break so it I mean I've seen and dealt with people who I've known but then I wouldn't say personal friends. I think it's the same thing. If you're a judge in Greater Minnesota, I mean if you have a friend of mine who was a judge in Worthington and Jeff Flynn grew up in Worthington. He knows like everybody in Worthington. And so, of course you're going to see people who you might know and stuff like that. But if it's a it's a real friend, then you just get off the case. What about attorneys? Let's say you have two attorneys in front of you one of whom you you kind of like or at least your your neutral towards and the other one. You just really don't like it all. Does that in get it makes it difficult. I mean and that we see a lot of the same attorneys and truth be known we talked about them. And so it is a thing. In fact, we actually did some training of the judges in Hennepin to deal with that issue of if you really going to listen to somebody you got to make sure that your judgment or your listening skills aren't clouded by. Oh, it's that attorney again because even that attorney might be right that day. Do you get the sense judge Burke that you get to a semblance of Truth during the course of a trial or does it become a matter of dueling attorneys who ever makes their presentation better? That is a problem. The dueling attorneys are the sporting theory of justice is a problem because I think that judges should be in the position of trying to get to the truth and we're not simply a referee between two Gladiators one of which Maybe better armed or better trained or have more support staff dealing with it that the justice system should be about truth and fairness and stuff. But there is this element in the legal profession, which is very much rooted in the idea that the sporting theory of justice is part of the American legal for Club folklore. And I don't think we can afford it. You know, we talked to earlier about family law family law can't be predicated on getting the highest paid Kick-Butt lawyer to do your soon-to-be spouse in if you think that you're going to raise your kid in any decent caring environment and so I think the Judiciary needs to take that issue on and say the Judiciary in the legal profession of the future is have to be more problem solvers than Gladiators what's going to happen with the Hennepin County security situation. The government center security system is understand at a report is due from a committee on Monday. I believe that there will be recommendations to improve the security. I'm quite confident that the leadership in Hennepin County. Realizes that we're going to have to make some changes significant enough to actually make the building safe. Well, I don't want it to be and I don't think anybody wants it to be a bunker. I think that's that but that the we've got balance and I think what happened is that we tried to do this as cheaply and is least expensively as we could and we and we've overdone that and we've got to have some greater commitment to the security of the public. I mean, I'm quite safe. I'm not really about me the fact of the matter is in the shooting. It was not Court staff that were hurt on the other hand even right after that incident. We had a referee who was attacked in the courtroom pinned up against the wall by a mentally ill person. So there are elements where we got to make sure that there is adequate security and I'm quite confident that they'll be recommendation and Leadership from the County Board. To do something responsible to upgrade the security. It won't deal with the people who are completely crazed about they want every single person searched or something like that, but that but we're going to do something constructive and security finally judge Burke not a lot of time left, but I always wanted to ask this question. Why is it the judges wear robes? I don't know. I mean, I just I think that it was it is people have this idea that it's not that you're appearing before Kevin Burke you're appearing before the institution. And so the robe or the robe and the wig in England and some of those places was to kind of demystify or to depersonalize the decision-making. Well, congratulations again on the rehnquist award. Thanks very much for having me our guests this our Hennepin County chief. Judge Kevin Burke joining us to talk about the judicial system here in Minnesota. Thanks to all of you who've been with us, especially those of you who called inner tried to call in with your questions and comments. This is the Time of year for giving and for being thankful for gifts. I'm Bill cling president of Minnesota Public Radio and I want to thank each of the one hundred and seven thousand people who made a contribution to us this year to make this service possible. Minnesota Public Radio is the strongest Public Radio Service in the country. And that's because we have such broad support from you this year. We struggled through an October membership drive with beautiful warm weather. We fell short of our goal by a hundred and fifty three thousand dollars that's bound to happen occasionally and it is possible to make it up at your end from gifts to Minnesota public radio's annual fund. Many of you asked about the wonderful gift that Joan Kroc gave to National Public Radio. It'll get national public radio something it has long needed permanent endowment to help provide Financial stability and improve their programming quality. Unfortunately, it doesn't lessen the annual 1 million dollar cost to us of NPR's programs nor does it support Minnesota Public Radio where the programming we produce but it will make what we hear from National Public Radio better and provide needed flexibility to them. The fact that the institution of public radio has begun to attract significant gifts and bequests is a very positive sign the value of the programming we bring to you will be much greater. If some of you recognize the opportunity to support Minnesota Public Radio in a way that you might not have done before we could even make up the membership shortfall and perhaps significantly more. Thanks to all of you for your support.


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