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Friday, July 18, 2008

Catching up with Marvin Anderson

“Rondo Days” is celebrating its 25th anniversary this weekend. The Pioneer Press did a nice article about the history of the event and even caught up with Marvin Anderson, one of the originators of the St. Paul celebration.

Marvin served as the Minnesota state law librarian for 22 years. When he left the position nearly six years ago, his retirement party was jam packed with well-wishers -- appellate court judges, legal practitioners and current and former state law library staff members.

In addition to starting up the now-famous “Rondo Days” celebration, Anderson was active in many other community events and professional boards as well, including initiating the court’s “Everybody Wins” volunteer reading program for elementary students.

I interviewed Marvin back in February 2002, when he was one of Minnesota Lawyer’s Attorneys of the Year for 2001. He told me then that his work with the state law library had left him feeling energized. “I am going to do something else; I don’t know what, but I am going to do something else,” he told me.

Curious as to what that “something else” turned out to be, I called Marvin to find out. It turns out that his main activity over the past several years has been starting up and serving as executive director of a statewide “Everybody Wins” reading program.

The program, in which participants go into schools and read to first, second and third-graders, has been a huge success, attracting more than 1,000 volunteers to date. Anderson hopes to grow that number to 1,200.

“Building a program and watching it grow -- and seeing the impact volunteers are having on school children is very fulfilling,” he said. “Life has been good.”

Marvin noted that he’s not sure how much longer he’ll be involved with the reading program though, because he’s ready for a new adventure. He’s not sure what it’ll be but yet, but he’s already looking forward to it!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Naturalization Ceremony

Few things can reaffirm your faith in government and country like a naturalization ceremony.

I attended yesterday morning's event at Bethel University to watch a very special person, Martha Moreno, cap a seven-year journey toward citizenship. Here she is with U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim, who presided over the ceremony.

In all, 656 people representing 90 different countries took the oath of citizenship, recited the pledge and watched a video from President George W. Bush welcoming everyone to the "joy, responsibility and freedom of American citizenship."

Congratulations to you all!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Politics unlikely to be a major part of mix in appellate races

A quick overview of the appellate races shows a field of candidates not overly interested in politicizing judicial races.

Three of the six appellate court challengers running in 2008 have run before without making politics a centerpiece of their campaigns -- Tim Tingelstad and Jill Clark at the Supreme Court level and Dan Griffith at the Court of Appeals level. (Tingelstad did receive the endorsement of the state GOP when he ran for a District Court judgeship in 2004, but did not run any attack ads or make an issue of his opponents' politics. Clark reported she is undecided about whether she would seek or use a party endorsement this year, but did not run a political-based campaign when she ran for a trial court seat six years ago.) The other three -- Supreme Court challengers Alan Lawrence Nelson, Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund and Richard Gallo -- have all said they do not plan to bring politics into their campaigns. Likewise, the incumbents have no interest in waging partisan campaigns.

Thus, it appears on the appellate level anyway, that Minnesota has again escaped a special-interest funded, politicized judicial race like the one recently experienced in Wisconsin. (We are still studying the trial court races and candidates.) In fact, two of the appellate candidates (i.e. Gallo and Nelson) have even said that they plan to do no fundraising at all. That's not to say, however, that the appellate races will all be tame. I predict that the race for Justice Lorie Gildea's seat will be particularly lively.

New district judge plays no favorites - not even Mom

Lost in the flurry of candidacy filings and impending challenges against sitting judges was the news of one newly-minted judge who won't have to face a challenge for more than two more years.

Assistant Winona County Attorney Nancy Bostrack was named as judge for Minnesota's Third District, where she will take over for Judge Margaret Shaw Johnson, who retired May 13. Bostrack beat out former Senior Olmsted County Attorney Lisa Swenson and Rochester civil trial lawyer Daniel Heuel for the seat.

Bostrack, 42, earned her law degree from the Hamline University School of Law in 1991 and joined the Winona County office in 1992, and is also an adjunct professor at Winona State University.

Bostrack has a track record as a stern prosecutor. At the ceremony during which her appointment was announced by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Bostrack's father, Lou Buytendorp, remarked to reporters, "She's the type that would sentence her mother to jail if her mother were caught robbing a bank."

UPDATE: Pawlenty also announced the appointment of Steven R. Schwab to a Third Judicial District trial court bench vacancy in the city of Albert Lea in Freeborn County. The vacancy occurred with the retirement of the Honorable James E. Broberg on April 29, 2008.

More on the challenges against Justice Paul Anderson

Alan Lawrence Nelson -- on of the two candidates challenging Justice Paul Anderson for his seat -- has unveiled his biographical information on his website. It turns out that, in addition to being a lawyer, Nelson has been a software engineer for 23 years. He describes his software and law careers ar "parallel."

"I pride myself on keeping clients out of the courtroom," he writes on his website. "I’ve been doing it for 16 years. General areas of practice include estate planning, real estate, business contracts, and copyright law."

Nelson sees his computer experience as an asset to the high court. "Software Engineering is probably one of the best non-legal training careers for a Supreme Court judge," he writes. "A software engineer has to be able to read thousands (sometimes millions) of lines of source code; analyze megabytes of trace data; decypher [sic] the intent of the original designers (and all the subsequent engineers who have 'fixed' the code); and then arrive at a solution that solves today’s problem and that can withstand future changes."

Nelson also says he will not accept campaign contributions, and believes in keeping politics out of judicial elections. "Like many people, I’m worried about politics and negative ads creeping into judicial elections. Accordingly, my campaign is focused solely on my qualifications to be the next Supreme Court Associate Justice," he writes.

Anderson's other challenger, Tim Tingelstad, is a child support magistrate in the 9th Judicial District. Tingelstad makes a point of noting that his Biblical worldview informs his decisions as a judge. He has run for judgeships twice before -- once for a Supreme Court seat and once for a trial court seat. His website is http://www.highesthill.com.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A roundup of judicial-election filings

At the Supreme Court level, both justices up for election face a field of challengers. Justice Paul Anderson, the second most senior member of the seven-member high court, faces two opponents. One of those opponents has run twice before for a judgeship, both times unsuccessfully. The second opponent we are awaiting further information on. Justice Lorie Gildea, the second most junior member of the court, faces three challengers in her first election. These include: a longtime public defender, a Hennepin County District Court judge and a Minneapolis defense attorney who has run unsuccessfully for a judgeship once before.

Only one of the six Court of Appeals judges up for election will face an opponent – Terri Stoneburner. Stoneburner's opponent, Daniel Griffith, has run unsuccessfully for judgeships on two prior occasions.

At the District Court level, the following incumbents will face challengers:
-- 1st District Judge Joseph Carter faces a challenge from Rice County prosecutor Nathaniel L. Rietz;
-- 3rd District Judge Lawrence E. Agerter faces a challenge from Anthony Moosbrugger;
-- 4th District Judge Philip D. Bush faces a challenger from Alan Eugene Link;
-- 4th District Judge James T. Swenson faces a challenge from Thomas F. Haeg;
-- 8th District Judge Randall J. Slieter faces a challenge from Glen M. (Jake) Jacobsen;
-- 10th Judicial District Judge Nancy Logering faces her second challenge from Luke Stellpflug (the prior one was when she was last up for election six years ago); and
-- 10th District Judge Robert P. Varco faces a challenge from John P. Dehan.

Not surprisingly, the two most contested seats at the District court level are for seats left vacant by retiring judges. Eight are running for retiring Judge John Finley’s seat in Ramsey County, and seven are running for retiring Judge Thomas Wexler’s seat in Hennepin County.

So far, it looks to be a fairly typical election cycle. Supreme Court justices almost always get at least one challenger when they run, although this is the first time in at least a decade that a single justice has gotten more than two challengers. Court of Appeals judges sometimes get challengers, but the majority of them don’t, as was the case this year. (Judge Terri Stoneburner, the one Court of Appeals judge who did, also faced a challenger when she last ran six years ago.) At the District Court level, as is typical, the vast majority of judges this year are running uncontested. Vacant seats inevitably draw a lot of interest, and this year was no exception. The number of judges being challenged in all courts is consistent with prior judicial elections in the last decade.

With many concerned that the politicized judicial races experienced elsewhere will find there way to Minnesota -- and with an effort on locally to end contested judicial races and replace them with retention elections -- the 2008 judicial races are sure to be closely scrutinized. Minnesota Lawyer will, of course, provide detailed coverage of these races in print and electronically. Stay tuned!

Two more challenge Justice Gildea

In a highly unusual move, a sitting District Court judge has launched a challenge against a sitting Minnesota Supreme Court justice.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund has filed to run against Justice Lorie Gildea.

Minneapolis attorney Jill Clark also just filed against Gildea, meaning the justice, appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2006, faces three challengers in her first election. (As previously reported, the other challenge is from assistant Hennepin County Public Defender Richard Gallo Jr.)

Some last minute judicial challenges

Time is just about up to file with the Secretary of State, and a handful of additional judicial candidates have filtered in. Here are some last-minute filings for judicial challenges:

Hennepin County Family Court Referee Thomas Haeg has filed against Judge James T. Swenson in Hennepin County.

In the 10th Judicial District, Luke R. Stellpflug is taking on Judge Nancy J. Logering (again). Stellpflug ran unsuccessfully against Logering when she was last up for election six years ago in 2002. Stellpflug got 32 percent of the vote to Logering's 68 percent in that election.

Also, in the 10th Judicial District, Ramsey attorney John P. Dehen will square off against Judge Robert B. Varco.

Lucky number 7 in Hennepin race

Two more attorneys have joined the race (for prior posts on the race see here, here and here) for the seat left open by Judge Thomas Wexler's upcoming retirement.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Cheri Sudit and St. Louis Park attorney Nick Slade have filed to run, bringing the total field up to seven candidates. In 2004, there was also a race for an open Hennepin County seat that drew seven candidates.

Meanwhile, assistant public defender Connie Iverson has filed for the open seat in Ramsey County created by the retirement of Judge John Finley, bringing the number of contestants for that seat up to six.

Guzik for judge campaign announced

Roseville attorney John P. Guzik has sent Minnesota Lawyer an announcement of his candidacy for the Ramsey County District Court bench, although he hadn't officially filed when we posted. A 1983 graduate of William Mitchell College of Law, Guzik has a private practice in Roseville. He is running for a seat to be vacated by Judge John Finley. So far, he has five opponents who have filed. Filings close at 4:30 today.

Where's Wersal?

Filings for judicial office close at 4:30 p.m. today and so far Golden Valley attorney Greg Wersal, says he is undecided about whether to run. He's frustrated because he believes he is prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct from raising campaign money. Wersal is a plaintiff in a a federal lawsuit challenging the portions of the code of judicial conduct that prohibit judicial candidates from endorsing other candidates and restrict solicitation of funds. In his verified complaint, Wersal states he is a candidate for justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the 2008 election and intends to run in future judicial elections. A motion for a preliminary injunction has been argued to Judge Ann Montgomery and is under advisement. Query whether Wersal would have standing to continue with the suit if he doesn’t file? His attorney, James Bopp of Indiana, said yes, since Wersal could plan to run in the future.

Wersal said he has been waiting for Montgomery to rule on his request before making a decision. "It's very discouraging that we can't get an order. The judge knew the filing deadline," he said. "It's disheartening as hell when your constitutional rights are limited. Until a judge releases me I can't even ask my spouse for money. I don't see how they can find [the code] constitutional but it's six years of litigation while the incumbents have all the protection. You have to wonder about the people on the Supreme Court who allow this to happen," Wersal told Minnesota Lawyer.
Allowing that there's a good chance he won't file for office without an injunction in hand, Wersal said he would absolutely run for the court in 2010. Apparently referring to the court, he said, "By then they better damn well watch themselves."
Perhaps the recent retirement of former Chief Justice Russell Anderson threw a monkey wrench into Wersal’s plans, since he had previously hinted that was the race he intended to enter. Paul Anderson already has two opponents, Alan Lawrence Nelson, about whom we know practically nothing, and Tim Tinglestad, a child support magistrate in Bemidji, who ran against Justice Alan Page in 2004 and Judge Terrence Holter in 2006.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Two more file for Wexler's seat in Hennepin County

Two more entrants in the race for the seat left vacant by retiring Judge Thomas Wexler. Jane Ranum and Thomas Sheran have thrown their hats in the ring, bringing the total field for that seat so far to four attorneys.

In other election news: a challenge has been filed in the 3rd Judicial District, with Anthony Moosbrugger to square off against Judge Lawrence Agerter.

UPDATE, 7/15/08: Minneapolis defense lawyer Paula Brummel has entered the race, bringing the field up to five.

Unsung Legal Heroes Awards

Minnesota Lawyer is very proud to announce the recipients of our first Unsung Legal Heroes award.

These 25 award recipients represent some the state's most talented and dedicated legal support professionals in the following categories: firm administrator, law librarian, legal marketer, legal secretary and paralegal. The honorees — five in each category — were chosen by Minnesota Lawyer's editorial staff from a substantial number of nominations.

The 2008 Unsung Legal Heroes are:

Mickey Bailey Bowman and Brooke, L.L.P.
Joanne Daubenspeck Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility
Richard Knutson Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren, Ltd.
Mark Thompson 4th Judicial District
Gregg Trautwein Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota

Jennifer Doyle Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P.
Carol Florin Ramsey County Law Library
Barbara Golden Minnesota State Law Library
Anne Grande Hennepin County Law Library
Donna Trimble Bowman and Brooke, L.L.P.

Jennifer Bridgman Leonard, Street and Deinard, P.A.
Deb Cochran Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
Elizabeth Lockett Gray Plant Mooty
Janet Nelson Bassford Remele, P.A.
Linda Whalen Sieben, Grose, Von Holtum & Carey, Ltd.

Sharon George Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P.
Mari Johnson Halleland Lewis Nilan & Johnson, P.A.
Renee Kleinjan Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
Cheryl Nutzmann Gray Plant Mooty
Kimberly Rodrigue Charles A. Ramsay & Associates, P.L.L.C.

Lisa Fleck McGrann Shea Anderson Carnival Straughn & Lamb, Chtd.
Geri Krueger Geri's Paralegal Service
Bonnie O'Malley Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
Carol Schultz Hennepin County Attorney's Office
Stephanie Vizecky Best Buy

Minnesota Lawyer will publish a special section and host a lunch celebration in September to show our appreciation of this distinguished group.

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. ...

A French lesson

Happy Bastille Day to our Francophile readers!

Bastille Day is one of those odd holidays. It's can't be classified as a "Rule of Law" day because it involves the storming of a prison and the liberation of the prisoners through, shall we say?, extrajudicial means. On the other hand, it was an action against a despotic monarchy, and we here in the States can certainly sympathize with that. Unlike the American Revolution, however, the French Revolution took a pretty nasty turn. On the bright side, the modern French nation eventually arose out of the ensuing chaos.

I celebrated in my traditional fashion this morning -- with a highly caloric chocolate croissant. It did call to mind an anecdote from a brief soujourn I took to Paris a few years back. While staying a week in London for a seminar, I took a trip to Paris by train through the Chunnel. I don't speak French, but brought a small phrase book with me to help me navigate my way though the city. Strolling down the Champs-Elysees, I saw a bakery with a window display of delicious-looking croissants. I decided I would try to order a chocolate one in French.

"Pan du chocolat, s'il vu plait," I said pointing at the handily labeled pastry in the glass case.

The young French woman working at the counter looked at me, cracked a smile and said in perfect (if slightly accented) English, "Will that be all?"

So much for my French.