Minnesota is a national leader in voter turnout. We take pride in our civic engagement. But the returns tell a different story when it comes to judicial elections. Many of us eagerly cast our ballot for president, but leave the ballot blank for judicial races. We don’t know much about the judicial candidates. We don’t feel like we can make an informed choice. So we don’t vote at all.
This year, we need to change that and vote. There is one statewide race on the ballot. That race is for a seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court — our state’s highest court. When it comes to this race, the stakes are too high to leave the ballot blank.
How to bone up on the candidates
Where can you get information about this race? How can you make an informed choice at the polls? You can go to www.votemnjudges.org. This website was established by the Minnesota State Bar Association, the largest professional organization of lawyers in the state. We represent 59 percent of the licensed, active lawyers in Minnesota and have over 15,000 members. Our members come from every community across the state and practice in every field — criminal law, family law, business, real estate, estate planning, and civil litigation.
This website — www.votemnjudges.org — has information about the race for the Minnesota Supreme Court. The two candidates are Justice Natalie Hudson and Michelle MacDonald. The Minnesota State Bar Association sent a questionnaire to each of the candidates, and you can find their answers on the website. You can learn about their background, careers, and experience. You can find out why they want to serve on the Supreme Court. The Minnesota State Bar Association took a poll of its members in advance of the August primary election, when there were three candidates running in this race. You can find out the results of that poll on the website. Voters say they want fair and impartial judges. Based on all of this information, you can judge for yourself who is most qualified to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court.
How Minnesota selects judges
The Minnesota State Bar Association’s website also contains information about how we select judges in Minnesota. Minnesota has trial (district) courts, a Court of Appeals, and a Supreme Court. The vast majority of judges are appointed to the bench by the governor and then run for election or re-election when their term ends. Others obtain their seats on our courts by election. Under Minnesota law, judges appointed to the district court must undergo a rigorous merit selection process. Merit selection is not required for Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judges. But most governors use a merit selection process to make their appointments to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court — including Gov. Jesse Ventura, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Gov. Mark Dayton. Justice Natalie Hudson, one of the candidates running for the seat on the Supreme Court, was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Gov. Ventura and the Supreme Court by Gov. Dayton through the merit selection process.
Who serves on the Minnesota Supreme Court matters. It matters to you. Minnesota’s judiciary is one of the best in the nation. We are known for our fair, impartial, and qualified judges. So visit our website, votemnjudges.org, and vote on Nov. 8, 2016.
Robin Wolpert is president of the Minnesota State Bar Association.
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