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Thursday, June 12, 2008

New chief to reveal position on judicial-election reform

State of the Judiciary addresses delivered by chief justices at the Minnesota State Bar Association's annual meeting are typically fairly vanilla affairs. The formula usually goes something like this:

-- Thanks for having me;
-- [insert joke and/or self-deprecating, yet heartwarming tale here];
-- Independence of the judiciary is important;
-- Court funding is inadequate;
-- Access to the justice system for poor people remains an issue;
-- Thanks again for having me --- and go do some pro bono!

However, with a new chief, this year promises to be different. At a meeting with Minnesota Lawyer earlier today at the Minnesota Judicial Center, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson said he plans to make a much-anticipated announcement -- his view of judicial-election reform efforts in Minnesota -- during his speech next Tuesday at the MSBA's annual convention in Duluth.

Magnuson's predecessor, Russell Anderson, advocated switching the state's judicial elections from a contested-election system to a retention-election system. The retention-election approach -- recommended by a special blue-ribbon citizens' commission headed by former Gov. Al Quie -- has the support of the MSBA. Proponents claim the change is needed to stop judicial races from becoming the big-money, nasty and highly politicized affairs they have grown into in some states. Opponents counter that retention elections are an elitist approach designed to keep judges from obtaining a seat on the bench via the ballot box.

So which camp is Magnuson in? The legal community has been wanting to know since his appointment was announced. We'll apparently get our answer Tuesday in Duluth. Meanwhile, the smart money is on Magnuson coming out in support of retention elections. What better place for the new chief to reveal that his view is in accord with the State Bar's than at the State Bar's annnual convention?

By the way, there's still time to sign up for the convention and see Magnuson make his revelation live and in person.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am guessing that Magnuson will announce that he supports a judicial election system where insurance companies get to elect the judges. I understand he, together with Pawlenty's other appointees are infected with ohh...just a little bit of private interest money. Hmmm....we shall see.