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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This just in...another judicial candidate

Hennepin County District Court Referee David L. Piper has announced his candidacy for the seat on the bench expected to be vacated by Judge Thomas Wexler. Piper has served as a family court referee since 2001 and previously served as a child support magistrate. Prior to that he was in private practice and served as a family court public defender. His campaign manager is Jeff Stoebner.


Anonymous said...

Can someone explain how judicial elections work? Are there qualifications, or, is it a popularity contest? Where do I go to vote? Does my vote matter?

Mark Cohen, editor said...

It is a popularity contest only in the sense that all elections are (he or she with the most votes wins.)

You want to vote for the person you think is most qualified, rather than someone whom you just happen to like. In making this assessment, you want to consider things such as trial experience, general reputation, years in practice, intellect, community activities and demeanor. Some of this will come out in the campaign -- and Minnesota Lawyer plans to prepare some information for voters on the candidates on the Web.

Your vote definitely matters. If you think it doesn't, just imagine getting an unqualified judge when you have your day in court. We all deserve better than that.

Anonymous said...

Mark: That is an interesting response. Not to delve too deeply, but, is Minnesota Lawyer, or any other agency compiling any of the decisions of the judicial candidates so we can, as you say make an assessment of the candidates. Or, if decisions are not available (because the challenger is not yet a judge) doing anything to review the work of these canditates. It would be interesting to review actual work product.

Anonymous said...

I also wondered whether there was any way to guage one's abilities, and thus, potential success on the bench. It seems that a compilation of work product would be the best source for a prediction. I am skeptical that "general reputation," "years in practice," and "community activities" are good yard sticks for measuring a potential judge's abilities. I was especially suprised to learn during the appointment of Chief Judge Magnuson (one of the Governor's good ol' pals) that there was no reporting on what this well-respected practitioner did while practicing law. While I am sure he is well-qualified, it would have been nice to have some concrete examples, like who he represented, what he did, and whether he practiced in a manner expected of the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. "Demeanor" does seem to bear some relationship as to how one may act on the Bench. As for "intellect," how is that measured? Are those up for election taking an IQ test, retaking the LSAT, or, engaging in some other activity which measures "intellect?" Part of the problem with opening judicial candidates to a general election is that there is not enough information available to the average public to make an informed decision, leaving it ripe for abuse.

Mark Cohen, editor said...

Election in general is an imperfect process (as is gubernatorial or presidential selection). If you think about it, are you really sure you know everything relivant about that person your sending to Congress?

With judges it can be particularly difficult to gauge. Particularly with trial court judges, since there is no central repository for their decisions. For appellate judges, you could physically read everything that an incumbent has written (or even signed off on), since all appellate opinions are easily available.

Our goal is to provide voters with certain basic information, and at least a taste of what some of the candidates think on certain topics. As for an IQ test for those seeking election to public office, I'd say we should start with Congress and the presidency myself ...

Intellect would include activities (e.g. teaching or lecturing in field), articles written, etc. Demeanor, of course is fairly subjective.

The Hennepin County Bar Association used to have a survey of lawyers where they ranked judges on some of these things, but (unfortuntely in my view) discontinued the practice.

Bar associations do typically sponsor debates in the contested judicial races. I like to attend to get a sense of who these people are -- which is, of course, helpful to Minnesota Lawyers readers. For those of you who are subscribers, we do provide an overview of the judicial races in our paper. The more interesting ones might get visted several times in a campaign season.

The other thing to look for is that candidates themselves are likely to set up websites. One idea we are considering is providing a list of links to those as well. (Of course, with that info, the candidate will be presenting himself/herself in the best possible light, but you will be able to see things such as education, academic achievements, scholarly articles, etc .. listed out.

Anonymous said...

In the best interest of the judicial system based on a fair decision making process in Minnesota,I would NOT RECOMMEND Mr.David Piper to a position of this caliber. Fairness, Integrity, Unbiased decisions are qualities he doesn't possess. I would highly recommend researching and investigating all of his case decisions as a referee prior to voting. Qualified doesn't necessarily mean you possess an honest and moral character with unflawed, influenced, backroom deals affecting and changing a person's life permanently. Judges need to be held to the highest of standards in our country. He is not the right choice in Minnesota's justice for all standards.

Anonymous said...

Be sure to check out the fall forums that will be held by several nonpartisian groups to discuss how we select judges and a forum debate.
Yes your vote matters. It is tough gauge if you have't worked in the system. The courts need expertise in a number of areas (not only civil, but other courts), community, diversity, and respect and humility never hurts.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the commenter that WOULD NOT RECOMMEND Piper, I COMPLETELY AGREE! His website claims that he gives consideration to both sides and sets aside preconceived notions is a bunch of baloney! He's only listened to the other side from day 1, and refuses to listen to anything I say, or my attorneys. My attorney told me he's lazy and doesn't like to work hard, even when he's dealing with a complicated case--I believe it.

Anonymous said...

You can search the web for-governor appointment minnesota judge. This will provide you with lots of information about the candidates for judge.
The affiliations are probably the most telling.

Anonymous said...

This webpage will be of interest to your readers. http://www.impartialcourts.org/problem.html