1. Do you have any personal or professional experience in family court?
I have been a judge since 1984. During that time I have at one time or another presided over virtually every type of case in the District. I have been assigned to Family Court full time since 2008.
2. What procedures are you following for emergency and/or ex parte motions (by phone or in person, representations as to efforts to notify the other side, go to the signing judge or a blocked judge)?
Although I am flexible in how the presentation is made, I strongly believe that it is dangerous for a judge to sign orders in Family Court when both parties are not given an opportunity to comment. I am therefore quite insistent that the rules that limit ex parte motions be followed.
3. How are you dividing the workload between judges and referees, in terms of types of cases and issues?
Judges and Referees essentially handle the same calendars in Family Court at this time. Cases are assigned directly to a judge or referee at filing. Referees do not act in a role similar to a Federal Magistrate Judge.
4. Are you using case management conferences, and if so, when in the process are they scheduled, who is present, who is conducting them (judge or referee), and are motions allowed to be considered?
Initial case management conferences are scheduled within three weeks of filing. The parties must be present and motions are rarely if ever heard.
5. Are you using and mandating any ADR, specifically including the settlement/arbitration program, judicial case management, early neutral evaluations, mediation, arbitration, or trials by private magistrates? What are the consequences of failing to do some type of ADR?
My experience is that it is fairly rare for family law practitioners to resist ADR.
6. Are you imposing any timelines on Family Court Services for completion of their studies?
The budget pressures that Family Court Services faces require an “understanding judiciary.” Not every request for an Family Court Services evaluation can be granted simply due to the budget. Regrettable, I expect that timeliness of reports will be an issue in the next few years. For litigants the “choice” then becomes whether or not a prolonged delay in resolution of child custody disputes is worth waiting for a Family Court evaluation.
7. What criterion are you using for the appointment of guardian ad litem, and is it any different for private guardians ad litem or guardians ad litem from the panel?
The guardians ad litem are terrific. They frequently enable parties to find solutions. The guardians have terrific insight into the needs of children. For those reasons, much to the chagrin of the guardians ad litem, I am fairly liberal in appointing guardians ad litem.
8. Are you continuing to schedule trials on a day certain basis, or are you scheduling several trials at the same time for week certain consideration?
9. Are you enforcing the timelines for motion paper filings, and if a violation occurs, what is your typical sanction?
I have instilled enough fear that late motions are rarely a problem. I am reasonably accommodating to joint requests to amend scheduling order deadlines and quite resistant to changing trial dates.
10. What are your expectations of pro se litigants?
I expect that pro se litigants be more effective than the lawyers they oppose, and they frequently meet or exceed my expectations.
11. Do you have any policies or practices for controlling parties who continue to bring frivolous motions in the same case time and time again?
My experience is that there is more concern or media hype about frivolous motions than actually exists. However, there are instances when parties engage in conduct that courts find inappropriate. See Barbara A. Burns v. R. A. Ungerman Construction Co., Hennepin County Case No. 27-CV-03-011603, Minnesota Court of Appeals Case No. A-03-0947.
Kevin S. Burke
Originally published in the November/December 1984 issue.
Author: Dorothy Florence
Judge Kevin Burke’s credentials read like that of a lawyer with gray hair and decades of experience. Even though he’s only 34 years old, our new Hennepin County Municipal Court Jurist brings an admirable breadth of experience with him to the Municipal Bench.
Born and raised in Chicago, Kevin Burke attended the University of Minnesota, where he ultimately earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, in 1972. During undergraduate school in the sometimes turbulent era of the late 60’s and early 70’s, he determined to devote a major portion of his life to public service.
Following his graduation from the University of Minnesota, Burke attended the University of Minnesota Law School graduating with his Juris Doctor degree in 1975. He began an active trial practice upon his admission to the bar which was interrupted only by his appointment to the bench on July 26, 1984, by Governor Rudy Perpich. In that time, Burke served as an adjunct professor in the trial skills program at the William Mitchell College of Law, where he taught trial skills, basic lawyering skills and advanced trial advocacy. He was also appointed as a legal writing instructor at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Not content with a full-time trial practice and a position as a law faculty member, Judge Burke found time to serve the Court, the Bar and the public as a member of numerous public and private committees and agencies. He has also authored several publications dealing with subjects in the criminal law area. Two of Judge Burke’s special interests showed through during my interview with him. The two might seem inconsistent. The first was his volunteer representation of death row defendants as a part of the American Bar Association’s Death Row Project. The second was his representation of Police Officer David Mack whose service as a policeman resulted in injuries which left him in a "persistent vegetative state" and led to one of the most-publicized decisions about removal of a brain-damaged patient from a respirator.
The Death Row Project is an ABA-sponsored effort to provide legal representation to prisoners who have been sentenced to death. Interested lawyers throughout the country, including former Attorney General Griffin Bell, have agreed to represent death row defendants without charge. While Judge Burke readily admits he’s not an expert on capital punishment, he has actively pursued representation of a death row defendant in the South, even picking up the tab for his travel expenses. Judge Burke is pleased that Minnesota has renounced the death penalty as a punishment for crime. His only regret about becoming a judge is that he will not be able to continue his work on the Death Row Project. He hopes that other Minnesota lawyers will take up the slack.
Officer David Mack’s case, like those of death row prisoners, involved the practice of law in a real "life or death" situation. Mack, a Minneapolis police officer, was shot in December 1979 while executing a search warrant. He suffered a severe brain injury and was diagnosed by his physicians as being in a "persistent vegetative state." Doctors believed there was no hope of recovery of intellectual function and that if Mack’s respirator was disconnected, he would die. Retained to represent Mack, Burke conducted hours of independent investigation and interviews and finally concluded that Officer Mack’s family was correct in asking that he not be resuscitated. Burke came to believe that Mack would have made the same decision.
To the great surprise of his doctors, Officer Mack did not expire, but instead began a remarkable recovery which has left him impaired but able to communicate and function as a human being. Burke feels that his relationship with David Mack as a result of his representation is very special. He says that even after everything that happened, he still would defend an order not to resuscitate if that was David Mack’s wish. David Mack, for his part, showed his feelings toward Kevin Burke by presenting him after his appointment was announced with a gold money clip monogrammed "Here comes the Judge."
Since Governor Perpich’s judicial selection process has been subject to public criticism, I asked Burke for his comments. He responded, not surprisingly, that he felt that Governor Perpich appointed people with demonstrated legal skills and with views compatible with his own.
Besides practicing law and serving as a volunteer, Burke finds time to enjoy golf and reading. He reads avidly, including keeping up with four newspapers. He does this in spite of, or perhaps because of, his status as a single person. When asked if he felt being a judge would put a damper on his social life, Burke reminded me of former California Governor Jerry Brown and Governor Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, who have managed to make the gossip columns and the pages of People magazine while in office.
Burke’s single status is a sharp contrast to his childhood, when he was one of five children. Two brothers, Dennis and Thomas, have pursued legal careers, another brother, Terrence, just received a graduate degree in finance, and his sister, Sheila, is a bond broker in San Francisco. Judge Burke’s mother, Mrs. Rose Burke, was able to be present when he was sworn in on July 26, 1984, although his father could not attend because of poor health.
Kevin Burke brings to the bench a fine mind, an ability to devote himself single-mindedly to a task, a concern for other people and, not incidentally, a fine Irish sense of humor. In spite of the demands of a hectic Municipal Court schedule, Burke doesn’t think he will be affected. "After all," he notes, "I’ll remain Kevin Burke; only my employer has changed."
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