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Friday, October 3, 2008

Incumbent designation 'shall' be on the ballot

For the past several weeks, Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund, who is running for the Supreme Court seat currently held by Justice Lorie Gildea, has been challenging her opponent to forgo using the “incumbent” designation on the November ballot.

In August, Golden Valley Jill Clark -- who also ran for the spot but didn’t make it through the primary -- brought a formal court challenge that among other things, also sought to strike the incumbent designation from judicial ballots. Clark’s petition was unsuccessful, but like Hedlund, she continues to request that Gildea voluntarily drop the label.

I met with Gildea last week and asked her to address the request. In response, she relied on the statute that discusses the incumbent designation, Minnesota Statute 204B.36, subd. 5, which says “the word ‘incumbent’ shall be printed after that judge's name as a candidate.”

“The statute that the Legislature has written is directed to election officials,” Gildea said. “And the statute says what the election officials are to include on the ballot. It says [they] ‘shall’ [include the incumbent designation], and shall means shall. Also it’s the truth, I am the incumbent in this race.”

She makes a very good, perhaps irrefutable, point. (The statute is silent about a candidate’s ability to opt out of using the designation.)

I understand that Minnesota is one of only a few, if not the only, state that includes the “incumbent” designation on the ballot in judicial races. If we are going to stick with the election system for choosing judges in Minnesota, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate that requirement. At a minimum, it would be interesting to hear some discussion on the idea.

Twin Cities Legal; The Siebens are ready for their closeup

If you are a fan of Boston Legal, you may see a few familiar faces on Monday's episode. Local attorneys and brothers, Harry, Mike, Bill and John Sieben will all make a cameo appearance.

The Sieben brothers, originally from Hastings, were given the opportunity to appear on the episode titled “Dances with Wolves” after expressing their fondness for the series to former Hastings resident and Hollywood Producer Trent Broin, according to a press release.

The Siebens are, of course, well-known personal injury lawyers when they are not hobnobbing with the Hollywood elite. They report the cast was cordial, and that actor James Spader even expressed an interest in their professional lives.

Hennepin County judicial races: Judge James Swenson

For the final installment in our five-part video series on the Hennepin County District Court races, we present a clip of Judge James Swenson. Swenson, who was appointed to the bench in 1995, faces a challenge from Hennepin County referee Thomas Haeg.

In this clip from the Sept 22 Hennepin County Bar Association's judicial candidates' forum, Swenson discusses some of the challenges facing his court and how he has dealt with them during his time on the bench.

For the other installments in this series, click bellow:
Part I: Judge Philip Bush
Part II: David Piper
Part III: Jane Ranum
Part IV: Thomas Haeg

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hennepin County judicial races: Thomas Haeg

For part four of our five-part video series on the Hennepin County judicial races, we present Hennepin County referee Thomas Haeg. Haeg has been a referee in the District Court since 1976. He is running against incumbent Judge James Swenson.

In this video clip from the Hennepin County Bar Association's judicial candidates' forum on Sept. 22, Haeg discusses his qualifications for the judicial seat for which he is running.

You can also view this clip on YouTube by clicking here. To see the prior three installments in this video series, click here (part I), here (part II) and here (part III).)

State Bar announces lawyers' preferences in District Court races

In the previous post, we report the results of the Minnesota State Bar Association poll for the statewide appellate races. The following are the results of the Bar poll for the contested local District Court races. The polling was conducted in conjunction with local bar groups.

1st Judicial District

The incumbent, Judge Joseph Carter, handily beat Rice County prosecutor Nathaniel J. Reitz 91.5 percent (43 votes) to 8.5 percent (4 votes). Minnesota Lawyer has a story on this race in its upcoming edition.

2nd Judicial District (Ramsey County)

In the race for the seat left vacant by the retirement of Judge John Finley, Hennepin County prosecutor Howard Orenstein squeaked by Children’s Law Center of Minnesota executive director Gail Chang Bohr 51 percent (234 votes) to 49 percent (228 votes). This race, which pits a well-known former state lawmaker against a popular nonprofit executive/ attorney is turning out to be a nail biter.

3rd Judicial District

Incumbent Judge Lawrence E. Agerter prevailed over Burnsville attorney Anthony J. Mossbrugger 75.5 percent (40 votes) to 24.5 percent (13 votes).

4th Judicial District (Hennepin County)

  • Incumbent Judge Philip D. Bush trounced challenger Alan Eugene Link 97 percent (1,015 votes) to 3 percent (30 votes). Link has declined to furnish information about his candidacy, including his photo, and was the only candidate not to participate in the Hennepin County Bar Association’s debate.
  • In the race for the seat left vacant by the retiring Judge Thomas Wexler, family court referee David Piper fetched 59.5 percent (622 votes) to Hennepin County prosecutor Jane Ranum’s 40.5 percent (424 votes);
  • Incumbent Judge James T. Swenson received 78 percent (836 votes) to District Court referee Thomas F. Haeg’s 22 percent (234 votes)

8th Judicial District

Incumbent Judge Randall Slieter outpolled challenger Glen M. (Jake) Jacobsen 84 percent (31 votes) to 16 percent (6 votes).

10th District

There are two contested District Court races in the 10th District, but the 10th District Bar chose not to participate in the polling.

For more information on the judicial elections, go to Minnesota Lawyer's online Judicial elections guide, which you can access by clicking here.

MSBA poll: Lawyers favor incumbents in statewide appellate races

The Minnesota State Bar Association has released the results of its plebiscite in which members are polled on the judicial races. The following are the results for the statewide seats that will be on the ballot in November.

There were no surprises in the race that pits 15-year Minnesota Supreme Court veteran Justice Paul Anderson against 9th Judicial District referee Tim Tingelstad. The well-known justice trounced Tingelstad, receiving 92 percent of the vote (i.e. 2,229 votes of 2,417 cast) from participating lawyers.

In the other Supreme Court race on the ballot, Lorie Skjerven Gildea, who was appointed to the high court by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2005, received 72 percent of the vote (1,703 of 2.377 cast). Gildea’s challenger, Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund, got 28 percent of the vote, which is actually not a bad showing in the MSBA poll, where the incumbent tends to do very well. Hedlund has made the central focus of her campaign her lengthy experience as a trial court judge. It’s highly unusual in Minnesota for a trial court judge to challenge a sitting justice for a high court seat, so this race is being closely watched. As Minnesota Lawyer will report in its upcoming edition, Gildea leads Hedlund in another important respect – funds raised. Gildea’s campaign reports taking in about $35,000 so far. Meanwhile, Hedlund’s campaign reports only $600 in contributions.

In the one contested Court of Appeals race, Terri J. Stoneburner, who joined the court eight years ago, received an impressive 92 percent of the vote (2,175 of the 2,375 votes cast). Her opponent, International Falls attorney Dan Griffith, has made two prior bids for a judgeship.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hennepin County judicial races: Jane Ranum

Continuing with our five part video series on the Hennepin county judicial races (click here and here for the prior installments), today we bring you Hennepin County prosecutor Jane Ranum, who is one of two candidates running to fill the seat left vacant by the forthcoming retirement of Judge Thomas Wexler. (The other candidate is Hennepin County District Court referee David Piper.) Ranum is a former state senator.

In this clip, Ranum discusses why voters should pick her to fill the open seat.

Click here for the YouTube version of this video.

College fairs put students on their way

Attention budding law students: You've gotta start somewhere.

A good first step for great future great legal (and non-legal) minds is the two-day Fall National College Fair, starting today at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The fair is expected to draw 25,000 high school students and their parents, who will visit booths representing more than 75 public and private two- and four-year college and universities from all over the United States.

The fair lets students and parents meet one-on-one with admission representatives and will learn about admission requirements, financial aid, course offerings, and campus environment, as well as other information pertinent to the college selection process.

As the parent of a high-school junior, I can tell you that events like this are valuable for learning about a wide array of higher-education options all at once.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hennepin County judicial races: David Piper

Yesterday we brought you video of Judge Philip Bush at last week's Hennepin County Bar Association judicial forum. Today we bring you part two of our five-part video series on the Hennepin County judicial races with David Piper. Piper has been a full-time family court referee in Hennepin County since 2001. He is one of two candidates who survived the primary in the race to fill the seat left open with the forthcoming retirement of Judge Thomas Wexler. Piper's opponent in the race is Hennepin County prosecutor and former state Senator Jane Ranum.

In the clip we present today, Piper discusses his qualifications to make the move from referee to judge.

Click here to see the YouTube vsersion of this video.

Magnuson multi-tasks

Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson is working the rooms across the state to garner support for an additional $54 million for the justice system and told Minnesota Lawyer he’s gratified at the public reception so far although he knows there is a lot more work to do with the governor and the legislature. A measure of the court’s success in getting its message out was Sunday’s editorial in the St. Cloud Times, “Our view: Justice system requires funding.” It cautions, “Remember, legislators and the governor largely created this situation with their latest budget-balancing efforts. They need to fix it or justice might not just be delayed (even more); it might well be denied statewide.”

Also this week, Magnuson attended the MSBA Appellate Practice Council launch of its quarterly lunch series, designed to elevate the practice of the appellate bar and bring together appellate practitioners and appellate judges to discuss current appellate practice issues. Not only did he attend, he set the table when the caterers were late. “I’ve always been a hands-on kind of guy,” the chief joked modestly.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Minnesota Lawyer election videos debut: Judge Philip Bush

Minnesota Lawyer is trying something new this judicial-election cycle -- providing video clips of the candidates in selected judicial races. Our cameraman, Bill Klotz, shot video footage of judicial candidates responding to questions at the Hennepin County Bar Association's judicial candidate's forum in Minneapolis on Sept. 22. (Five out of six of the Hennepin County District Court candidates participated.) This week, we will provide a video clip of each of the five candidates who were there.

Today, we start with Judge Philip Bush. Bush, the incumbent, has been challenged by attorney Alan Eugene Link, who works for Regis Corp. Bush has served in the seat for 19 years. Link declined to participate in the forum and has not responded to informational requests.

In the following clip, Bush responds to a question about when the laws a judge must apply conflict with his/her personal views. The debate moderator was former Hennepin County District Court Judge Pamela Alexander, who now heads the Council on Crime and Justice.