A few good reasons why Alan Page is his kind of hero

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 17, 2000

I’ve always liked Alan Page: morally decent pro football player, accomplished attorney, distinguished state Supreme Court justice.

Monday, April 17, 2000

I’ve always liked Alan Page: morally decent pro football player, accomplished attorney, distinguished state Supreme Court justice. Now I am pleased to praise him for going to court as a defendant on behalf of all Minnesota drivers. Justice Alan C. Page demonstrates dramatically what a pro athlete can do to serve society in a constructive manner as well as serving cool justice with a warm heart for human beings entangled by law.

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When Page received the standard notice of vehicle license renewal, he promptly mailed a check to Driver and Vehicle Services. He logically presumed he would receive renewed tabs prior to expiration. He did not.

As I should think all but the most paranoid of us would, he continued driving with an eye on the mail to receive the errant tabs for his plates before he would need to explain their absence to a police officer. One saw the justice’s parked vehicle and ticketed it.

There’s no telling how many other law-abiding, dutiful, tax-paying citizens had the same thing happen to them. Most can be expected to have rolled over and paid the fine. The few who might have attempted to fight it may well have been brushed aside by courts.

They certainly would have been treated so if a court accepted the stupid argument MnDOT used in the Pace case. They argued any person who does not receive the renewed tabs prior to expiration must simply stop driving until they do arrive. Even if a year later, I suppose.

MnDOT can’t be held responsible for slow mail delivery, they argued further. While I am not always thrilled with the speed of Postal Service mail, state bureaucratic inefficiency is an infinitely more likely cause. Insensitivity and indifference to citizens seems to be behind this, and that poor attitude was demonstrated in court by MnDOT.

My insurance carrier phoned me some months ago and said Minnesota is notoriously slow in notifying insurance firms of renewed drivers licenses and, so, asked me to send a photocopy of what they sent me. It had expired more than a year earlier, and I had missed this because I never received a notice. When I asked MnDOT about this, the answer shot back as crafted for a constantly asked question: "We only send them out as a matter of courtesy; we are not required by law!" They seem to be telling me courtesy isn’t much of a value for them and they must be legally required to do even simple, logical things. An employee admitted to me that their computer sometimes skips sending notices months at a time.

I accomplished the renewal and was handed an unconvincing-appearing temporary renewal form, which I should be nervous to try on police in another state. The standard card not having arrived after three months, I phoned St. Paul and received it promptly in a hand-addressed envelope. While I certainly appreciate the kind clerk who got that done, it also betrays the fact it had been produced and was just lying around for someone to get around to putting it into the mail (the mail that department finds so convenient to blame for its own failures).

But Alan Page went to court for me – and for you, too. He can more easily afford to pay the fine than most of us, and he could have saved himself embarrassment and the fee he had to pay the lawyer who represented him in court. Without using the weight of his office but his knowledge of the law and sense of justice, the justice saw that justice was done for the people of Minnesota.

Page could have retired on his Vikings earnings. He could use his considerable popularity for selfish advantage. Yet, he entered the bar to serve justice. He could have done that and also made even more money in private practice. What he does, however, is to sit on the court in wisdom. He also goes into court when justice is outraged and pleads compassionately and selflessly for the common person. That’s why I like Alan Page.

Wallace Alcorn’s column appears Mondays