Minnesota Judge Grants Restraining Order Against Winter, Snow & Meteorologists
HENNEPIN COUNTY, Minn. (FOX 9) – A Minnesota judge has “granted” a temporary restraining order against winter ahead of another possible snowstorm. The parody temporary restraining order was filed Thursday by “Citizens of Minnesota” against “Minnesota Meteorologists, Old Man Winter and Mr. Snow.”
Hennepin County Judge Kevin S. Burke, who appears to be just as fed up with the snow as the rest of us, signed the restraining order Thursday, ordering the defendants not to allow any more snowfalls this winter in Minnesota.
“Minnesotans are hardy people,” Burke wrote in his decision. “They enjoy their winters and have a good relationship with the defendants. But there comes a point when the trust between the parties is ruptured.”
The Twin Cities just wrapped up its snowiest February on record with 39.0 inches of snow falling over the course of the month. Another snowstorm hit on the first day of March and it’s looking like another is in the forecast this weekend.
The restraining order was directed at local meteorologists as well because “there is compelling evidence in the record that Minnesota meteorologists have conspired with the other defendants to increase television and radio ratings.”
The restraining order only affects Minnesota. The neighboring states of Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota are still fair game to get more snow.
Here’s Judge Burke’s full decision:
The National Weather Service says a “major winter storm” is likely to hit the Twin Cities this weekend. While the exact track of the storm remains to be seen, there is a high risk for the Twin Cities to see heavy snow. Some areas could see blowing snow Saturday night into Sunday and there could be significant travel impacts, the weather service warns.
This order tests the limits of judicial authority. But it is not a reflexive or petulant act by a frustrated judge. That would be entirely inappropriate. This order is issued because of Article I Section 8 of the Minnesota Constitution, states in relevant part, “Every person is entitled to a certain remedy in the laws for all injuries or wrongs which he may receive…..”
Frankly, this Court was skeptical when this request for a temporary injunction was filed. There was the significant issue of lack of service pursuant to Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 65.01. However, the attorneys for the Plaintiffs have established that notice to the Defendants will cause immediate and irreparable injury, loss and damage to the Plaintiffs. Simply put, notice of the request for a temporary restraining order would likely result in yet another blizzard, more frigid cold weather, and enhanced ice dams throughout Minnesota.
In deciding whether a temporary injunction should issue, Minnesota law provides that courts consider the five Dahlberg factors. These factors consider: (1) the nature and relationship of the parties; (2) the balance of relative harm between the parties; (3) the likelihood of success on the merits; (4) public policy considerations; and (5) any administrative burden involving judicial supervision and enforcement. See Dahlberg Bros., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 137 N.W.2d 314, 321-22 (Minn. 1965). Fairly applying 3 the factors in Dahlberg leads to the indubitable conclusion that temporary relief should be granted.
Factors 1 in the Dahlberg analysis is established. Minnesotans are hardy people. They enjoy their winters and have a good relationship with the Defendants. But their comes a point when the trust between the parties is ruptured. The Defendants have a fiduciary duty to the Plaintiffs not to overdo it. Nothing illustrates this better that the statement from Defendant Paul Douglas in today’s Star Tribune: “There are times I look out the nearest window and wonder (out loud) if all this snow will ever melt. I have 15 foot snow piles next to my driveway. I’ve run out of places to push the snow.”
Similarly, factor 2 – the balance of harm between the parties – is heavily weighted in favor of the plaintiffs. Mr. Snow can dump all the snow it wants on the neighboring states of Wisconsin (particularly the City of Green Bay), Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota. And the Minnesota Meteorologists’ First Amendment rights are fully protected. They can report just how miserable the citizens of the neighboring states (and particularly the citizens of Green Bay, Wisconsin) are likely to be for the rest of this winter, spring and summer if there is any more snow.
Factor 3 is also established. Simply put, no jury is going to find in favor of the defendants absent a change of venue of this case to Arizona or Florida. And that is not going to happen.
Factor 4 – “public policy considerations” – is the most troubling aspect of this decision. There will be those who question the authority of this Court. It is plausible that this Court will be seen as an out of control judicial activist. Judge Learned Hand once said, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.” This Order is 4 issued because there is compelling evidence in the record that Minnesota Meteorologists have conspired with the other Defendants to increase television and radio ratings. Who, for example, would watch the weather in Hawaii where it is always nice?