Governor Dayton forced to Pay Attorneys’ Fees to the Family Child Care Providers he Called ‘Right Wing Extremists’

Governor Dayton and the Bureau of Mediation Services yesterday settled to reimburse $60,000 in attorneys’ fees to the home-based child care providers who sued to halt Governor Dayton’s unlawful executive order establishing a unionization procedure for the providers. In Swanson, et al. v. Dayton, et al, the court found that the governor’s executive order exceeded his constitutional authority, struck down the order and awarded attorneys’ fees to the prevailing plaintiffs. The Administration paid these fees in compliance with a Minnesota Court of Appeals’ order earlier this year which said the fees were owed because the Governor was not merely wrong in issuing this unionization order, but had no substantial legal justification to do so at all under Minnesota’s Constitution and laws.


The Minnesota Equal Access to Justice Act requires an attorneys’ fee award to small business prevailing parties if they are forced to legally contest governmental action taken without substantial legal justification.  The Appeals Court said that this was such a case and sent the matter back to the Ramsey County District Court for determination of the fees due.  Plaintiffs’ Attorney, Douglas P. Seaton, of Seaton Peters & Revnew, who handled the appeal with Attorney Tara Craft Adams of the firm, commented that: “The Minnesota Court of Appeals’ order forcing the attorneys’ fee reimbursement received today means that these small business plaintiffs won’t be forced to shoulder the cost of challenging illegitimate government actions.  Other small businesses faced with overzealous political and administrative agency actions should take heart from this decision.”

Plaintiff home-based child care provider Hollee Saville said: “This is a great day for the small-business child care providers who resisted the schemes to force unionization, dues and fees on our entire industry, and we plan to continue to resist the new unionization legislation, which is also unlawful.”

Attorneys Seaton and Adams are also representing many of the same family child care providers in a new case, Saville, et al. v. Dayton, et al., challenging the new unionization legislation that Governor Dayton signed this year. They believe the statute contradicts federal labor laws and is unconstitutional.  “Federal labor law preempts the state’s ability to pass an unorthodox law like this,” said Seaton.  “Simply put, business owners and employers cannot be unionized.  It isn’t allowed and it doesn’t make sense.”

Although the federal district court said this spring that the Saville case and the parallel Parrish, et al. v. Dayton, et al. case were not “ripe” for decision, an appeal decision has halted the unionization process for both family child care providers and personal care attendants, while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a related Illinois case, Harris v. Quinn.  Once that case is decided, the Saville and Parrish plaintiffs will proceed with their cases.

Plaintiff Becky Swanson commented further on the fee payment made yesterday. “This fee payment illustrates that the real ‘extremist’ in the child care unionization scheme is the Governor, who ignored the constitutional limitations on his own authority to do political favors for his union friends, not us self-employed child care providers who resisted this overreach, and whom he arrogantly derided as ‘right wing extremists.’”

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