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Picking judges

May 9, 2012
The Journal

There has been a lot of debate, legal challenges and rulings about judicial selection in Minnesota ove the past several years. Critics feel we have gotten away from the idea of letting the public pick the judges, as outlined in the state constitution. They challenged rules issued by the Minnesota Supreme Court on what is proper campaign behavior for judges. The critics want to make judicial elections just like regular elections, with judges seeking political party endorsements, raising campaign war chests, and making promises on how they will rule on issues.

What has been happening in Minnesota for quite some time is quite different. Judges usually retire in midterm, making it necessary for the governor to appoint a replacement. Replacements, once on the bench, Over the years a system has developed that takes much of the political gameplaying out of the process.

We have felt that the process works pretty well, and the announcement of three finalists for the vacancy on the Brown County District Court bench is evidence of that.

Those interested in the position apply to the Commission on Judicial Selection. The commission, a non-partisan panel with 49 members, 22 appointed by the governor and 27 appointed by the Supreme Court, examines the qualifications of the applicants, and gives the governor a list of three finalists. The governor then interviews with the finalists and usually picks one of the three, though the governor can reject all three.

The finalists for the Brown County position are Robert Docherty, Mark Ullery, both from New Ulm, and Redwood Falls City Attorney Patrick Rohland. All three are clearly qualified, and we expect the Fifth Judicial District, which includes Brown County, will be well served.



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