What’s the point of judicial elections?

I’m off this week but here’s something to think about if you so choose.

I filled out my absentee ballot this weekend, making sure to turn the ballot over so I could ignore the judicial races on the back, all of which (other than the Minnesota Supreme Court) feature a judge I know nothing about (except for the ex-politicians) who are running unopposed.

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In my district, the race for Water and Soil Conservation Commission is hotter.

Enjoy your week.

  • MrE85

    I know enough about Tad Jude to wish he had a challenger this election.

    • I assume a challenger to a judge would like come from attorneys who appear in court in front of a judge who may have just been a lawyer’s opponent in an election. How’s that work?

      • Rob

        It works like this: Lawyers tend to be wonderful human beings who can set their personal animosities aside for the sake of the smooth and impartial administration of justice (with a few exceptions here and there, including the lawyer in Houston who shot a bunch of people earlier today).

        • Not always, according to some lawyer twitter accounts I folo

          • Rob

            You follow some lawyer twitter accounts? Sounds a tad masochistic. Oops – I meant, different strokes… : )

      • Zachary

        Any idea if there is a requirement to run (and/or serve) as a judge? Would we get more/less challengers if people understood what the job requirements are?

        • BJ

          I’m pretty sure, if I recall correctly, that in Minnesota you need to be a member of the Minnesota Bar Association to be a judge. Not sure exactly how that works. I know in several states you don’t have to have any credentials.

      • Mike Worcester

        That is often an impediment to challenging judges, esp at the district court level. While we do expect those who don the black robes (thankfully we got rid of the powdered wigs long ago) to be fair and impartial, they are human.

    • Rob

      I think there’s a song named after him…

  • wjc

    No reasonable point at all. It would be reasonable (if you really want elected judges) to only list a race on the ballot if it was contested. Having to vote for uncontested races seems pretty pointless.

    • Kassie

      You don’t have to vote for anything…

  • John

    Right now, maybe no point.

    But, what about that Judge in the Stanford swimmer rape case? It would be good if there were a system in place to replace him with someone less apparently biased.

    So, no point right now, but if there’s a truly awful judge out there (there may be) it’s good that we could vote him/her out.

    • Iowa did that with their Supreme Court justices who apparently interpreted the law correctly some years ago but people did want the law interpreted correctly in that case.

      I certain get the rape case and the justified outrage, but isn’t there a danger in subjecting the application of law to popular opinion?

      • John

        There certainly is danger in it, but then again, there’s danger in every elected position. There’s always a chance that we will put a terrible person in office.

      • Jeff

        Elections are a good way to punish people who do the right thing.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        Apparently the people that hired them felt they did not, in fact, interpret the law correctly, and fired them for playing fast and loose with it.

        Otherwise they wouldn’t have been sent packing, probably.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            Yeah well, getting into how leftist judges have tainted the constitution with their radical worldviews would be a blatant thread jack. When the rubber meets the road, government governs with the consent of the governed.

            When the governed detects their best interests have been co-opted, they may find relief in the voting booth; that’s exactly what happened in this case. In my opinion, it is regrettable that relief isn’t more widely available

          • Rob

            Yes, those leftist justices are spoiling it for everybody. Shame on em for advancing womens’ rights, civil rights, first amendment protections, collective bargaining rights, clean air and water, etc. How much more can we take?

  • guest

    I always wondered why not file for a judge job. I figure I’d have a 50-50 chance with no effort beyond a filing fee.

    Same for Soil and Water districts, just get a job for the easy asking…….Of course I expect to be awful at a job I have no background for. But until the next election……. 🙂

    • MrE85

      I actually know the Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor who is running unopposed in my district. We served on a committee together. She’s a good candidate I always feel good about voting for.

      • Rob

        “I actually knew the S&W District Supervisor, and believe me, senator, you’re no District Supervisor.”

    • Jeff

      I think all you need is a good Minnesota name like Anderson or Olson. “Guest” probably won’t fly.

    • Kassie

      Like the guy who was in the Primary for Supreme Court of MN whose stated reason for running was he needed a job? That didn’t work so well for him.

    • Postal Customer

      I doubt it’s 50/50. I would like to see some numbers, but I’d bet that people don’t vote in a race if they don’t know the candidates. They leave it empty like Bob.

      A good example was the judicial race this summer. The winner got something like 70%.

  • Zachary

    I write myself in for S&W Commish every election. And just to encourage competition, I also vote for the non-incumbent in Judges races that have them.

    • Jared

      I know someone who does this (automatically votes for non-incumbents) and I can’t understand why. Without actually researching the candidates, why would you assume a non-incumbent is more qualified? It seems like a reckless way of voting to me.

      • Zachary

        I only do it for these sorts of races. My logic on it is as follows:
        If someone was doing a “good job” then there would be no contest. Since there is contest, then someone (the challenger) thinks this person is doing “not a good job”, and my vote (however it may decide, if any) is an affirmative to the process (challenger v. incumbent). The process is what I am voting for. We need challengers, without them, the process stagnates.

        • Postal Customer

          If someone was doing a “good job” then there would be no contest.

          What? No. That just means that somebody disagrees with the incumbent. Define “good job” for a judge.

          • Zachary

            define “good job” for any elected official.

          • Particularly when under Minnesota rules, the judicial candidates can’t really say very much during a campaign.

        • Laurie K.

          I agree we need challengers, but we also need voters who educate themselves on the views of the candidates. To simply assume that someone is being opposed because they’re not doing a “good job” is irresponsible.

          • Zachary

            but that’s the trouble with these races – there is no information out there to educate with. Can anyone point to any information about the above listed candidates?

          • rallysocks

            google?

          • Laurie K.

            What do you mean by “these races”? What specifically are your referring to? The candidates for judge? There was a contested race for a judge in my district last election and I can tell you there were plenty of sources of information in which one could educate themselves on both the incumbent and the challenger, including the local newspaper, websites set up for the candidates which outlined their positions as well as through my own experience of working in the judicial system in the district. If I did not have personal information I would have sought some insight from people who do work in the justice system. Information is out there, it’s our job as voters to find it and educate ourselves.

          • Zachary

            School board? S&W? Judges? County Commish? Township boards? I’ve looked, and there is not a lot of solid information on these people. You google, and you get a facebook page of “vote for me on Nov 8th” type stuff, but for the majority of these, there is nothing. Not even good links from the SoS site (where I get the sample ballot to go look).
            I want more information, but it’s lacking. If you can help me out, it would be appreciated, but until then, I’ll keep running with my logic, if they were doing a good job, then there would be no reason to oppose them.

          • Jeff C.

            “if they were doing a good job, then there would be no reason to oppose them.”

            Opposition doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing a bad job. Opposition may mean that they are doing a good job but that someone else thinks they can also do a good job but in a different way.

            A wise blogger wrote:

            Here’s another worth considering: It’s the last line of the Star Tribune’s story today looking at the Senate race in Edina between incumbent David Hann and challenger Steve Cwodzinski.

            “We’re just two regular people that want to serve the public, that’s all,” Cwodzinski said. “I just think I could do a better job.”

            We take our decency where we can find it.

            From http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2016/09/1000-words-moments-of-decency/

          • Zachary

            If that truly was the case, wouldn’t there be more contested races?

          • Laurie K.

            I cannot believe that there is no information concerning these races in your local paper or during open candidate forum. Another great resource is the telephone…if you have specific concerns/questions for the candidates most are more than willing to discuss their views on various issues with voters.

          • Zachary

            I’m seeing a lot of bio’s, but nothing that makes me think “this person will be a better county commissioner that the one we have right now.” There is no substance.

          • wjc

            I’m with Zachary on this one. A lot of down-ballot races in Minneapolis are never mentioned in the paper or on any websites that I have looked for in the past. The candidates generally spend very little money and have very little in the way of an online presence. Whatever might be out there is inconsistent and minimally difficult to find. It’s hard to imagine many voters going to the trouble of seeking information.

            Maybe the city, county and state should host pages for the candidates, so information can be all in one place for the voters.

          • Jeff C.

            You can learn more about the people running for Supreme Court at:

            http://www.mnbar.org/public/judicial-candidate-information#.V-lstrGa2wX

          • Zachary

            that one’s easy – but how about for the others?

      • Zachary

        So is uninformed judiciary voting, more or less reckless then: Hold-Your-Nose, Lesser-Of-Two-Evils, Ennie-Mennie-Miney-Moe, or The Mouse With His Own Media Empire voting?
        Just asking for a friend.

        • Jeff R.

          I have a couple of lawyer friends who are on both sides of the system & they both agree that voting for the sitting judge is the best policy. They are quick to point out the rare judgeship that should be overturned and they agree on those positions also. They point out poor judgement/interpretation of the law, mental capacity and political partisanship as the top three reasons that a judge should be removed at election time. I’d talk to friends or colleagues that have a better handle on the Judicial system before outright voting for the non-incumbents.

          • Carol S.

            Yes, my attorney husband and friends also recommend this strategy for judicial voting.

        • Jared

          It’s obviously an opinion but I think *completely* uninformed voting is more reckless than not voting. After trying to find information on these races I found exactly what Jeff R said.

    • Jack

      I once voted for someone that I hadn’t researched and found out after the election that the person was not holding the views that I supported. I will never guess in the voting booth ever again.

      Yes – I do vote every race as I don’t know who might be waging a write-in candidate that I don’t agree with. Better safe than sorry.

      • Zachary

        Do you research every race? What happens when someone you do not agree with is running unopposed? Do you not vote in that race?

  • BJ

    Many states if unopposed at filing that person wins. No election needed. In Minnesota we have had one or two write in campaigns at the last minute, that have been successful (none come to mind in the last 10-20 years).

    • wjc

      I would be for this.

  • Mike Worcester

    A part of me is glad we don’t have partisan balloting for judicial races like we see in so many other states.