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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Picking judges: Two views from two very different sources

It's easy to forget sometimes that the conventional wisdom of the legal community is not always the conventional wisdom of the world in general. A case in point: Most in the legal community would acknowledge that appellate lawyers are best situated to know who is (and who is not) a good candidate for the Supreme Court and Court Appeals. Appearing before these courts on a regular basis gives you a pretty good idea of what is required. Veteran court watcher and fixture of the Minnesota appellate bar Chuck Lundberg made that point in a piece he penned for the Star Tribune to help voters at the polls in a quandary about who to vote for.

However, lawyer stereotypes can lead members of the general public to distrust any voting advice given by a lawyer, as Lundberg quickly learned from comments made when the Strib put the article on line. A second Strib opinion piece -- written by a member of the public in response to Lundberg's piece -- takes Lundberg to task for his advice to voters that incumbents are usually a good pick because most of them were vetted by a merit-selection commission prior to appointment.

Lundberg's point that the Minnesota bench overall has an excellent reputation is well-taken. Most of the judicial appointments have been very good. On the other hand, voters can and should educate themselves about particular races by looking at resources such as the Minnesota Lawyer online judicial election guide. That may be the best strategy, short of taking an appellate lawyer with you in the voting booth.

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