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Friday, September 12, 2008

Judicial campaign conduct committee's idea is food for thought

The Minnesota State Bar Association committee monitoring the conduct of judicial campaigns has an interesting idea -- get together with the opposing candidates over a meal.

Detroit Lakes attorney David Stowman, the chair of the MSBA Judicial election Campaign Conduct Committee, recently explained it this way to Minnesota Lawyer's Michelle Lore: "When people get together face to face and they get to know each other on a personal basis, it's more difficult for them to have a nasty campaign. I don't see any downside in doing and I think some good might come of it."

Hmmm. Well, the words "food fight" do come to mind ... But assuming the candidates mind their table manners, it's an intriguing concept.

If a lunch can't be arranged for logistical or other reasons, the committee will try to coordinate a conference call.

Stowman also said he plans to contact the candidates who lost in Tuesday's judicial primary to get their input on the committee and how it might be improved.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Will fantasy football get sacked?

FootballSince the Large Hadron Collider apparently hasn't torn a gaping hole in the universe, I need to find another doomsday scenario.

(rifling through my End Times folder)

Here we go: The NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday against CBS Interactive over the use of player statistics in fantasy football games, the Associated Press reports.

The suit, filed in Miami, comes a week after CBS Interactive sued the NFL Players Association in federal court in Minneapolis. That suit seeks to clarify who controls the statistics that underlie its fantasy football games.

As a Wisconsin native, I've already lost the most talented quarterback known to man. Now take away our fantasy teams? There's no telling what will happen!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Recount necessary in Supreme Court race

Stop the presses! The ballot presses anyway.

It looks like there will be a recount in the race for Justice Lorie Gildea's seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Gildea came out far ahead of her three challengers with 53.45 percent of the vote in the primary election yesterday. Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund is the purported second-place finisher with 17.86 percent of the vote, which is less than one-half of a percentage point ahead of Golden Valley attorney Jill Clark's 17.43 percent.

According to Clark, the recount was initiated by the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office. She indicated that she got a call about 1:00 p.m. this afternoon from the office indicating that the race fell with the "automatic recount range."

Hedlund said a recount in such a close race wasn't unexpected, although she was not aware there was an automatic recount range. "I think the entire state is electronic so at least we won't have any hanging chads," she said.

In fact, it is the paper mark-the-oval ballots that will be retrieved, reviewed and recounted by hand. According to the Secretary of State's Office, the recount will involve a manual review of more than 300,000 ballots (most of which were originally fed into optical-scan machines). An estimated 90,000 of those were cast in Hennepin County. The current count has Hedlund leading by 1,369 votes-- a margin unlikely to erased by any recount, according to a knowledgeable source.

Discussing the recount this afternoon at a St. Paul event sponsored by Politics in Minnesota, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said it is "a very unusual thing to have happen. " The last statewide recount reportedly was in the 1962 governor's race.

Ritchie also said that his office had contingency plans in place for a statewide recount and anticipates that it could be completed in as little as three days once it starts. The recount has to be completed in time for ballots to be printed and in the mail to absentee voters by Oct.3.

It's Justice Gildea vs. Judge Hedlund

It's now official. It will be Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund who will face off against Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea in the general election in November. Hedlund squeaked by Jill Clark, who fought a highly aggressive campaign, which included filing unsuccessful state and federal court actions to get Gildea disqualified from the ballot.

Hedlund got about 17.86 percent of the vote to Clark's 17.43. (Gildea, the first place finisher for the seat, got 53.44 percent).


I think the voters got it right here. While Clark's campaign was hard fought, she dedicated the lion's share of it to trying to get one of her opponents disqualified and to challenging the word "incumbent" on the ballot. I think some of that time might have been better served doing what is incumbent on all candidates -- making the case for why they are the best choice. The publicity surrounding the various court challenges gave Clark some name recognition, but also may have rubbed some voters the wrong way.

By contrast, Hedlund concentrated on what she would potentially add to the mix -- years of experience as a trial court judge. Whether or not you buy Hedlund's argument that the high court needs someone with her background, it's a more constructive approach.

Push to exit -- and we mean PUSH!

Like many regular visitors to the Minnesota Judicial Center in St. Paul, I enter the building through its southeast side, from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. And as regular visitors to the building no doubt know, the doors to that entrance weigh approximately 10,000 lbs. each. I don’t know what kind of triple-reinforced armor they’re made out of, but they make the entrance to the average bank vault seem like a cottage screen door.

Usually I can muster the strength to open the doors if I remember to plant my feet and square my back, just as I was taught in the weight training unit of a long-ago gym class. But on a recent visit to the Judicial Center, in my haste I forgot to do those things as I exited, and not only did I walk square into the unyielding door, but my attempt to lightly push it open resulted in a gashed finger, thanks to a metal edge on the door frame. I briefly considered a personal injury action against the building’s management, but a quick mental survey of the legal minds within it made me reconsider.

I used to silently mock the able-bodied people who would insist on pushing the automatic door-opening button when entering the Judicial Center, but no more. Sometimes the path of least resistance really is the best way to go.

Judicial primary results; Incumbents advance, plus ...

As expected, the two incumbent Supreme Court justices up for election -- Paul Anderson and Lorie Gildea -- easily sailed through the primary. Anderson, who got about 64 percent of the vote, will square off against the number two vote-getter, 9th District referee Tim Tingelstad, in the November election. Tinglestad got about 22 percent of the vote. The third candidate in that race, software engineer/ attorney Alan Lawrence Nelson, got about 14 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, the race between two of the challengers who want to face Gildea in November is a real squeaker. Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund currently leads Minneapolis attorney Jill Clark by a razor-thin margin of about half a percent. (Both candidates have between 17 percent and 18 percent of the vote. At the time of this post, the counting for 95 percent of counties was reported as complete.) The fourth candidate in the race, Richard Gallo, finished with a little more than 11 percent of the vote.

In Hennepin County, family court referee David Piper (26 percent) and prosecutor/ former state Senator Jane Ranum (22.3 percent) emerged victorious in a field of six attorneys running for an open seat, earning themselves spots on the November ballot. (Prosecutor Liz Cutter made a valiant effort, missing out by only about 1 percent). In Ramsey County, prosecutor/ former state Representative Howard Orenstein (28.6 percent) and Children's Law Center of Minnesota Executive Director Gail Chang Bohr (20.4 percent) were the top two vote-getters in a field of eight for an open seat.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Minnesota Judicial Races on Primary Ballot

For complete information about the judicial races on today's primary ballot,
Click here
or on link above.

Don't forget to vote!

A vote for the justice system

Just in time for primary election day, Hennepin County District Court Chief Judge James Swenson and Hennepin County Bar Association President Mary Vasaly have issued a press release addressing the cut in jury pay and other effects of budget cuts on the courts. They write that civil filing is now closed on Wednesday afternoons; mandatory non-binding arbitration has been shut down; supervision of parent visitation services has been discontinued; and staff has been cut that would otherwise help victims process their domestic abuse cases.

Vasaly and Swenson continue: “The results:

“The time it takes to process civil judgments has doubled. One attorney noted it will now take more than two months to begin efforts to collect a multi-million dollar judgment. In that time, he fears the money will be hidden or gone. Previously, a writ was ready in two to four weeks;

“Homeowners suing a contractor for work not done will wait four to five months for a hearing date. Meanwhile, there are no funds for the homeowner to finish the incomplete home improvement project;

“If you suspect ill-treatment of your parent in a nursing home, the nursing home may file a harassment claim against you. A hearing request regarding the claim now takes two months. In the meantime, the harassment order remains in effect which bars you from seeing your parent.”

The solution is in the public’s hands. “Tell candidates for public office that it is time to properly invest in our court system. Fair pay for jury service, keeping all Hennepin County courthouse doors open, protecting children and domestic abuse victims, and ensuring that justice is not delayed all depend on it,” Vasaly and Swenson write.

Blog readers, please pass the word, and don’t forget to vote!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Alito puts a period on Clark's primary ballot battle

Minneapolis attorney and judicial candidate Jill Clark has lost her last-ditch bid for federal relief in her effort to remove the name of her opponent, Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, from the primary ballot, or, in the alternative, to prevent Gildea from being identified an an incumbent.

A special panel appointed for the purpose of hearing Clark's state Supreme Court petition had denied the contentious candidate's request for relief hours after arguments in the case. Clark then sought relief from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, the circuit justice for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking him to prevent the "unconstitutional text" from the ballot. (Clark had argued, among other things, that identifying the incumbent as such on the ballot violates the state Constitution.)

On Sept. 5, without further comment, Alito denied Clark's application for an injunction.

Two other candidates -- Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund and Hennepin County assistant public defender Richard Gallo -- are also challenging Gildea in tomorrow's primary. The top two vote-getters will earn a place on the November ballot.

Judicial races not political so far, but not all 'nice' either

Despite concerns about the possibility that politics would infuse themselves into the state's judicial elections, so far its been a pretty quite judicial election season. With the primary slated for tomorrow, none of the four judicial races with a primary has turned overtly political. That's not to say that everything has been Minnesota nice, mind you.

In one of the two Supreme Court races, Minneapolis attorney Jill Clark has filed legal challenges seeking to disqualify her opponent, Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea. The substance of those various complaints has been detailed in prior posts, so I won't bother reiterating them here. (Suffice it to say that a special panel appointed to look into Clark's arguments disposed of them in record time. However, Clark hasn't given up, seeking relief from the federal courts.) I've not heard much from Gildea's other two opponents -- public defender Rick Gallo and Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund. It will be interesting to see if Clark's combative tactic of filing these court actions -- and of getting the resultant media coverage and name recognition -- translates into enough votes to get her through the primary. (Only the top two vote-getters will be on the general election ballot in November.)

The second Supreme Court primary pits Justice Paul Anderson, the second most senior of the high court, against 9th Judicial District referee Tim Tingelstad of Bemidji and attorney/ software engineer Alan Nelson. Tingelstad, who has run before unsuccessfully for a high court and a District Court judgeship, emphasizes his experience as a referee and his "biblical worldview." As for Nelson, if he kept a profile that was any lower, he'd be able to star in an episode of "Lost." He has not provided us or the Star Tribune for that matter with a photo, he has not answered our questionnaire (and did not give much of a response to the Strib) and responds to questions only via e-mail. (He does have a website though).

As for the two District Court judgeships up for grabs in Ramsey and Hennepin, it's anybody's guess who will prevail tomorrow. There are eight candidates in the Ramsey race and six candidates in the Hennepin race. I live in Hennepin County and received a number of direct mail pieces from candidates for that seat. I think there are a number of very good choices for both seats, so I am looking forward to seeing how those races come out.

For information about the candidates involved in tomorrow's judicial primary, check out the Minnesota Lawyer Judicial Elections 2008 website.