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Monday, December 10, 2007

Justice Paul Anderson already gearing up for '08 election

As Minnesota Lawyer reports in its Bar Buzz column this week (password required), state Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson has already launched his '08 re-election campaign effort. His campaign committee is now soliciting funds and other support for the justice.

Anderson will present an interesting test case for Minnesota judicial elections, which so far have not been much impacted by federal court rulings striking down restrictions on judicial campaigning. Many in the legal community have been worried the rulings -- which were made in the White case -- will lead to the big-money highly politicized judicial races experienced in a number of other states. However, since White, judicial races have thus far remained relatively quiet.

But pro-life interests have publicly stated in the past that they would target Anderson when he came up for election because he was on the high court when it issued Doe v. Gomez in 1995. (In the Gomez case, the court struck down a law limiting state medical assistance for abortion to cases of life endangerment and reported rape and incest.)

Whoever decides to take on Anderson will have an uphill battle to fight. First of all, he is a Republican appointee who, in 13 years on the court, has earned a reputation as a moderate voice. Secondly, the longtime justice is also known as being the most gregarious of the seven justices. In fact, he has frequently been called the high court's "goodwill ambassador" due to his amiable disposition and omnipresence at community events and other outreach efforts. I have heard tell that he will serve as a tour guide for almost any student he happens to run into who expresses an interest in the courts. It's going to be pretty tough for an opponent to come at the popular justice if the only arrow in his or her quiver is a single opinion from 12 years ago (which Anderson didn't even write). "Activist judges" should be made of stronger stuff.

Whatever happens, 2008 is likely to be a watermark year for judicial elections. It brings to mind the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." For judicial elections, we do.

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