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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Voters want to vote on judges

A St. Paul Pioneer Press poll reports the unsurprising news that Minnesotans don’t want to be disenfranchised from selecting judges. It also found that Minnesotans would favor switching to a retention-election system, which is consistent with the recommendation of the Quie Commission’s majority.

A retention system has also received a qualified endorsement from the Minnesota State Bar Association. By a narrow margin, the MSBA voted in favor of switching to an appointment system, but also endorsed retention elections as the "next best" choice.

Interestingly, the PiPress reports that the survey is being released just weeks before the Legislature is scheduled to consider a constitutional amendment that would make judges subject to periodic retention elections.

It’s not my job to disrespect my colleagues, but the Legislature doesn’t go into session until Feb. 12 and the only scheduled “consideration” of judicial elections is a joint meeting on Feb. 4 of the Senate committees on the judiciary, judiciary budget and state and local government operations and oversight. The latter committee is chaired by Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope. Rest's administrator, Brenda Shafer-Pellinen, reports that the meeting is the only currently scheduled judicial election related event. The list of speakers at the meeting is not yet final, but should be available by the end of the week, Shafer-Pellinen said.

Most Legislature-watchers don’t expect a constitutional amendment to come out of this session.

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