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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Boyd Beccue: MSBA should trust voters

As the editor of Minnesota Lawyer, I always enjoy getting letters from readers, even ones I disagree with or that take issue with something I've said or written. I particularly like the ones that take a contrarian approach to "conventional wisdom" because they make us step back rethink the premises under which we operate.

A good example is the letter to the editor we got from Boyd Beccue, which will be appear in Monday's print edition of Minnesota Lawyer. The letter was in response to articles we published interviewing incoming MSBA President Michael Ford and taking a look at a committee the MSBA has formed to monitor judicial candidates' conduct (See "Judicial campaign misconduct? The MSBA will be watching").

For such topics, it's easy to find lots of folks who approve of the State Bar's position. There are, of course, folks out there who disagree, but they often don't want to put their opposition on the record. Mr. Beccue, however, obviously has no such compunctions on this topic and wrote a very strong letter to us outlining his disagreement with the MSBA's view of judicial campaigns.

Whether or not you agree with Mr. Beccue's position, his letter is worthy of consideration. The full text of the letter appears below:

MSBA should trust voters to pick judges

To the editor:

The Minnesota State Bar Association apparently has an issue with the concept of trust. Despite the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals [in Republican Party of Minnesota, et al. v. White, et al.], it will have a committee monitor judicial candidates and pressure them to conform to what the MSBA believes is a proper code of campaign conduct. Apparently the MSBA does not trust potential candidates for judicial office, especially challengers, to understand and follow the law and ethical rules governing elections.

Incoming MSBA President Mike Ford speaks of the “Lake Wobegon Conceit” while ignoring the far greater MSBA conceit -- believing that it has all the answers. It appears the MSBA does not trust the people of Minnesota to decide who should be a judge. The MSBA ignores the fact that many people no longer trust lawyers.

Rather than proposing that the citizens of Minnesota give up their right to vote in fair and open elections, the MSBA should learn to trust the voters to exercise their franchise wisely. The mere possibility of a tough campaign does not necessarily mean that the voters will choose the wrong person for the job. If the MSBA could somehow find the courage to trust the voters, perhaps the voters would learn to trust lawyers again.

Restoring public confidence in the bar and trusting the people to select their own judges will do more to maintain public faith and trust in the institution of the law than transferring control over judicial selection to a chosen few.
-- Boyd Beccue

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