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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

You have a role in judicial elections

So you’re a lawyer, right? That question usually precedes a series of questions about an area of law completely unrelated to your practice. When Prince died I was asked by friends to explain the inner workings of the laws of intestate succession. While I did pass Estates and Trusts in law school—I can dig out my transcript if you don’t believe me—there was nothing in my 32 years of personal injury defense work that qualified me to address the topic. 

I am writing to prepare you for the questions you will likely hear this fall from your friends and neighbors: Who should I vote for in the judicial elections? Do you know anything about the race for Supreme Court justice? What about the court of appeals election? Do you know this lawyer who’s running for judge? 

A duty to be informed

When I was asked about intestate succession, I didn’t have time to do the research required to provide intelligent answers. You, on the other hand, have the time to do the research. As a lawyer you have an obligation to contribute to the administration of justice. That includes making sure we have good judges and justices on the bench. Please take some time to get up to speed on the statewide races and the local races in your judicial district. 

The general election is on November 6, and early voting is already underway. There are two statewide judicial elections and numerous local races. Regardless of the general turnout, there is always a big drop-off in the number of votes in the judicial elections. I think people get to the judicial races, realize they have little or no information on the candidates, and just don’t vote for anyone. Let’s try to change that. 

To learn about the statewide races, you can start with the websites set up by the MSBA. Information on the candidates for the Supreme Court and court of appeals is available at www.votemnjudges.org. That website also presents the results of the MSBA plebiscite, a poll of section members who regularly appear in court and individual members who opted in to the survey. The poll went to 5,560 of our members and 30 percent responded. In the Supreme Court race, Justice Margaret Chutich received 95.81 percent of the vote and Michelle MacDonald received 4.19 percent of the vote. In the contested election for the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Judge Lucinda Jesson received 90.06 percent of the vote and Anthony Brown received 9.06 percent of the vote. 

Local races matter too

For your local races you will need to do a little digging on the internet. The Secretary of State will make sample ballots available 45 days before the election. Use the research skills that you developed in law school to get the information you need to know about the judicial candidates. This will help you cast an informed vote. It will also prepare you for the questions you know are coming from your friends and family. This will give you the opportunity to provide them with information. We’re all better off when more people can make an informed decision.

 

PAUL GODFREY is the Managing Attorney for the Twin Cities Branch Legal Office for Farmers Insurance. He is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 40 cases to jury verdict, with issues ranging from claims for whiplash to claims for wrongful death. 

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