Remembering Rick Plunkett

photo of Rick Plunkett and Carol Christenson

The following text was excerpted from a larger Annual Hennepin County Bar Memorial booklet, which was presented by the Hennepin County Bar Association to the Hennepin County District Court on April 27, 2017. It is a tribute written by Mike Christenson and Charlie Nauen about the founder of the Minnesota Justice Foundation, Rick Plunkett, and highlights the history of how MJF came to be. 

September 19, 1955 – November 2, 2016 

[…] Rick was a 1984 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and a member of the firm now known as Lockridge Grindal and Nauen until 1990. He then returned to Rochester to run family cable, banking, and real estate businesses. Rick met his wife, Carol Christenson, at a post-bar party at her brother Mike’s home in 1984. They were inseparable for the next 32 years, except when Carol journeyed two days weekly to her post as a Hennepin County public defender. 

We both met Rick early in his career. Mike remembers him for his brilliance and activism, qualities that led him to launch the Minnesota Justice Foundation (MJF). Ralph Nader, who Rick knew in his former role as the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) president, criticized the legal profession for its “crassness” in a U of M Law School appearance in 1982, referring to those driven more by the pursuit of income than justice. By 1983, with Rick’s leadership, 250 university law students pledged one percent of their summer income to support four public interest clerkships. Six hundred clerkships followed and MJF emerged as a powerful response to Nader’s address. 

Charlie knew Rick as one of his first recruits and that rare lawyer who combined scholarship and organizing techniques. Together they organized class actions and cases to address substandard housing and medical care, and price-fixing. Rick was brilliant, creative, dogged, and always successful. He worked as well in the law library as in the streets of St. Paul. His range of ability allowed him to thrive in an unusual practice. 

Both of us will remember Rick as a friend and brother. His fierce intellect somehow came with the gentlest of hearts, and we loved the whole package. Rick was always honest, often irreverent, and never phony. He studied nature, delighted in his family, and treated both of us as his Irish brothers. 

[…] We are so grateful for the life and times of Rick Plunkett. We thank Carol, her sons, Alex and Luke, and daughter, Katie for seeing him all the way through. It’s a courageous clan that cares for its own, and we saw Rick in all those caregivers. That is the greatest tribute of all.