Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1999

Abstract

Minnesota has an enduring reputation as a progressive, even liberal state hospitable to the underdog and concerned for fairness. This is hardly a surprise for the home state of prominent liberal politicians such as Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Eugene McCarthy and Paul Wellstone. The perception of Minnesota liberalism, populism, or pro-plaintiff sympathies extends to the technical legal realm as well. Lawyers know about prominent Minnesota cases favoring claimants. Many are reprinted in casebooks or otherwise disproportionately well-known. Most recently, Minnesota was again in the news as the state unwilling to join in a proposed national settlement of claims against the tobacco industry and the state pushing furthest down the path to trial (fifteen weeks' worth of it) rather than early settlement of such claims. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the titular leader to the state's onslaught against big tobacco was Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III, the son of the famous liberal senator.

The perception of the state as politically progressive and friendly toward underdogs is probably further fueled by the noteworthy gender equality of the Minnesota Supreme Court, which has during the 1990s been majority female and remains more gender balanced than any state supreme court of which I am aware. Minnesota's reputation as more legally progressive perhaps also flows in part from the perception that women are more progressive politically, socially, and legally than men. Although this view has more than a few aspects of a stereotype (which is perhaps per se non-progressive), significant empirical evidence appears to support this generalization.

Publication Citation

25 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 769 (1999).