Our readers in the 9th Judicial District no doubt recall Judge Terrence Holter, one of handful of local judges who have actually managed to lose their seat in an election challenge. Holter was defeated in 2006 by his former law clerk, John Melbye.
Holter subsequently applied to (now former) Chief Justice Russell Anderson to sit on cases by designation as a “retired judge.” (As a means of dealing with resource issues, state law allows the chief justice to appoint retired judges to preside over individual cases.) Anderson, who knew Holter for many years as both a fellow Bemidji lawyer and a fellow 9th District judge, denied the request, concluding that such an appointment would be inappropriate under the circumstances. As was chronicled by City Pages last April, Holter was pretty upset at being spurned by the chief. (See "Judgment call: A former judge accuses retiring Supreme Court Chief Justice Russell Anderson of playing politics.")
A Bemidji couple -- Nick and Patricia Gould -- sought assurances from the state high court that Holter would never get such an appointment. With a new chief coming in, they were worried that Holter’s request would fall on more receptive ears.
Fear not, was essentially the message they got from the high court shortly before Eric Magnuson was sworn in as the 21st chief justice.
“[T]he policy of chief justices has been not to appoint judges who have lost elections to serve as retired judges. Chief Justice-designate Magnuson has indicated he will follow the policy when he assumes office,” wrote Supreme Court Commissioner Richard Slowes in a letter dated May 28.
Nick Gould is happy with the response, but not 100 percent happy. “There ought to be a written policy stating that if you get voted out of office, you don’t get to sit on any more cases,” he said.