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Monday, July 14, 2008

Judicial election filing period closes tomorrow

Thinking about running for a judicial seat? Tomorrow is your last day to file.

So far, there are a number of interesting looking races, including three ones for appellate seats. As previously mentioned here and here, Supreme Court Justices Paul Anderson and Lorie Gildea both faces challengers (in fact, Anderson has two), and Court of Appeals Judge Terri Stoneburner has an opponent as well (which we mentioned here).

The most contested seat is in the trial court, where five vie for an open seat created by Judge John Finley's retirement. Open seats are relatively rare in Minnesota. Most retiring judges by tradition have left prior to the end of their term to allow the governor to appoint a replacement. When a seat on the bench does fall vacant, the field of challengers is often a crowded one, as is occurring with Finley's seat. (In recent years, there have been races for open seats that have garnered as many as 12 candidates.)

Why so many? One reason is that lawyers may be reluctant to run against a sitting judge, particularly if they have no particular beef with how that judge has performed. With an open seat, your candidacy is not going to offend anyone. Another reason may be that incumbents have the advantage of having their incumbent status appear on the ballot. In a race for an open seat, everyone is presumably on equal footing.

Where there are multiple challengers for a single judicial seat, the field will be whittled down to two in a primary in September. Since judicial races are nonpartisan, the candidates who are the top two vote-getters will be the ones whose names will appear on the November ballot.

One surprise this year is that so far only two lawyers have filed to run for the Hennepin County seat being left vacant by Judge Thomas Wexler's retirement. Of course, anything can happen between now and when filings close end of the business day tomorrow. Stay tuned. ...

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