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Friday, March 14, 2008

RCBA chimes in on judicial selection debate

The Ramsey County Bar Association has come up with a unique suggestion for judicial election reform in Minnesota.

At a special meeting held late last month, the association’s board of directors adopted a resolution recommending that the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide for retention elections -- but only for justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court. (Under a retention model, the governor would appoint judges and voters would decide whether to retain the judge at the end of an eight-year term.)

Under the RCBA’s resolution, the current system of electing District Court and Minnesota Court of Appeals judges would remain in place.

It’s an interesting, and as far as I know unexplored, idea that might be worth considering. It appears that it might actually be an attempt at a compromise between the Minnesota State Bar Association and Quie Commission's recommendation that Minnesota switch entirely to a retention system, and the wishes of the Minnesota District Judges Association, which seeks to retain the state’s current judicial election system. (Some District Court judges fear abuses of the retention model, like a last-minute smear campaign that could remove them from their seat.)

The RCBA has sent its recommendation to the leadership of the Minnesota House and Senate and to the authors of bill relating to judicial selection.

The effort may be neither here nor there, however, as sources tell us that it doesn’t look like judicial election reform is likely to go any further in the current legislative session. But, of course, there’s always next year …

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