Star Tribune – December 14, 2017

By Chao Xiong

A contempt finding against Ramsey County Chief Public Defender Jim Fleming has been rescinded in light of ongoing talks and modifications to the county’s court practices.

Ramsey County District Judge Thomas Gilligan Jr. originally found Fleming in contempt on Nov. 6 when Fleming instructed one his employees, public defender Baylea Kannmacher, to skip her jury trial because of her caseload and the county’s practice of summoning attorneys to start trial at a moment’s notice.

The showdown in Gilligan’s courtroom was the culmination of years of frustration between attorneys and the bench over the court’s practice of scheduling several felony trials to start in the same four-week period.

Fleming said the practice made it impossible for attorneys to plan for trial and also represent other clients, since they couldn’t predict when a trial would begin. A 2015 study commissioned by the courts showed that judges were also frustrated by the system and struggled to cope with backlogs of cases.

Gilligan ordered Fleming to continue talks with Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann and other partners.

“That was done to my satisfaction,” Gilligan said Thursday.

The court agreed to compromises in late November that included changing felony trial blocks from four weeks to two, judges backing one another up more regularly and scheduling court and trial dates for complicated cases sooner and with more certainty.

Fleming was originally scheduled to appear in Gilligan’s courtroom Friday on the contempt finding, which the judge rescinded earlier this week. Gilligan originally also found Kannmacher in contempt but rescinded that ruling at a Nov. 7 hearing.