Keep our judges impartial

Legislation would give Minnesotans a direct say in the retention of judges.

When it comes to the stateâÄôs judiciary, many people believe that those selected will turn aside their own beliefs in order to make impartial judgments. However, due to the nature of our judicial selection process, judges must face contested elections every six years, opening a door for special interests to influence elections in their favor. Two bills, HF 224 (Rep. Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park) and SF 70 (Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope), would give Minnesotans a chance to change that. The bills do not make any changes to our stateâÄôs Constitution; rather, they would give Minnesotans a chance to switch to a retention election model on the general election ballot this November. The retention election system, already in place in several other states, calls for initial appointment by merit, followed by evaluations by nonpartisan independent coalitions who release their results to the public. Every eight years, the public decides by vote if the judge should be retained or let go. Any seats opened when a judge is not retained are filled by merit-based appointment instead of being filled by a contested election that can be influenced by special-interest campaign dollars. The debate has heated up since Chief Justice Eric Magnuson announced he will step down at the end of June. While Gov. Tim Pawlenty does have a chance to try to appoint a successor, petitions have been filed to force the seat to be filled by open election. Over $6.2 million was spent on a 2007 Wisconsin election for a supposedly impartial judgeship. A retention election model in Minnesota would help keep special interest money out of the judiciary.