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Paul Magnuson

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Paul Magnuson
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Current Court Information:
United States District Court for the District of Minnesota
Title:   Senior Judge
Position:   Seat #1
Appointed by:   Ronald Reagan
Active:   10/29/1981 - 2/9/2002
Chief:   1994 - 2001
Senior:   2/9/2002 - Present
Preceded by:   Edward Devitt
Succeeded by:   Joan Ericksen
Personal History
Born:   1937
Hometown:   Carthage, SD
Undergraduate:   Gustavus Adolphus College, B.A., 1959
Law School:   William Mitchell College of Law, J.D., 1963

Paul Arthur Magnuson is an Article III Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. He joined the court in 1981 after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

Early life and education

Born in Carthage, South Dakota, Magnuson graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1959 and Willam Mitchell College of Law in 1963.[1]

Professional career

Magnuson was a private practice attorney in Minnesota from 1963 to 1981. Magnuson served as an Adjunct faculty member for William Mitchell College of Law and the Hamline University School of Law from 1982 to 1989.[1]

Judicial career

District of Minnesota

On the recommendation of Senators Rudy Boschowitz and David Durenberger, Magnuson was nominated to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota by President Ronald Reagan on September 28, 1981, to a seat vacated by Edward Devitt. Magnuson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 29, 1981 on a Senate vote and received commission on October 29, 1981. Magnuson served as the Chief Judge of the Court from 1994 to 2001. Magnuson assumed senior status on February 9, 2002.[1]

Notable cases

Citizens United decision in Minn. (2010)

     United States District Court for the District of Minnesota (Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, v. Susan Gaertner, 0:10-cv-10-426-PAM)

Judge Magnuson presided in a Minnesota case that brought that State's law in accord with the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision. On May 7, 2010, Judge Magnuson held that Minnesota's restrictions on campaign contributions by corporations was an unjustified and therefore unconstitutional restraint on free speech. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce filed the suit against Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner to keep her from enforcing the law during an upcoming campaigning season and November elections.[2]

Per the ruling, corporations are no longer restricted in the state from making independent expenditures on behalf of political candidates. Independent expenditures are defined as monies spent without coordination or approval by a candidate. The state statute that was challenged prohibited corporations from making independent expenditures to promote or defeat political candidates, or contributing directly or indirectly to political parties for the same purposes. The portions of the law restricting direct contributions were not challenged, and still stand.[3]

The county attorney did not dispute that the state's law did not conform to the constitutional holding in Citizens United, and Judge Magnuson ruled on the suit without a trial.[4]

MN state agency Early Retirement program illegal (2010)

     United States District Court for the District of Minnesota (EEOC, v. Minnesota Department of Corrections, et al., cv-09-5252-PAM)

Judge Magnuson presided in a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suit against the Minnesota Department of Corrections. The EEOC claimed that Department's early retirement incentive plan (ERIP) was illegal. The ERIP gave an employee retiring at age 55 contributions for health and dental insurance until age 65, but denied the same to employees who retired after after age 55; EEOC asserted that this was a violation of federal age discrimination laws. Magnuson granted summary judgment in favor of the EEOC, finding the collective bargaining plan between the unions and Minnesota DOC in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).[5]

The Minnesota Attorney General appealed the ruling to the St. Louis-based Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit agreed with Judge Magnuson's conclusion that the ERIP arbitrarily discriminated on the basis of age, in violation of the ADEA, and affirmed the decision.[6]

  • The Eighth Circuit's decision on appeal may be found here.

Player challenges to leagues' anti-doping policies (2009)

     United States District Court for the District of Minnesota (National Football League Players Association, v. National Football League, cv-08-6254-PAM)

Judge Magnuson presided over part of a trial involving Minnesota Vikings players Kevin Williams, and Pat Williams (unrelated). The players and the NFL Players Association sued the National Football League, challenging suspensions they faced for allegedly violating the league's anti-doping policy and testing positive for supplemental drugs. The plaintiffs and the union alleged NFL officials knew a weight-loss supplement the players were taking contained a banned substance even though it wasn't listed on the label, and had a burden to notify the players, which they failed to meet.[7]

Magnuson agreed with the League's assertion that players are solely responsible for what is in their bodies, and dismissed most of their claims. Parts of the players' claims were based on Minnesota laws; they asserted that Minnesota laws should control instead of NFL policy, as they were employees of a Minnesotan entity, and cited laws on when and how an employer can require employees to undergo drug testing, and another prohibiting employers from disciplining employees for using legal substances offsite. Judge Magnuson agreed with this part of the plaintiff's argument, and remanded the case back to state court for resolution of those claims. Due to this order, both Williamses were able to play that season until further review of the case.[7]

Kevin and Pat Williams did not get a favorable ruling in state court. Kevin Williams dropped the litigation in March of 2011, saying he was tired of the ordeal. In April of 2011, the Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the case, clearing the way for the National Football League to suspend Pat Williams.

The case was significant, and was followed by the other major American sports leagues, as it set precedent for whether a player would be allowed to challenge aspects of the league's drug-testing policies in state courts.[8]

In his earlier decision, while in favor of the NFL, Judge Magnuson chastised the football league for not being more forthcoming.

“There is no doubt that it would have been preferable for the NFL to communicate with players specifically about the presence of bumetanide in StarCaps,” Magnuson said, “The NFL’s failure to do so is baffling, but it is not a breach of the NFL’s duties to its players.”[9]

  • A link to the ruling of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit is available here.
  • The Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear the last appeal in a one page order without comment.

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
Edward Devitt
District of Minnesota
Seat #1
Succeeded by:
Joan Ericksen

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