League of Women Voters MN does not invite judicial candidates to participate in the Vote411 Voter’s Guide due to the number of candidates across the state and associated administrative costs. This combined with the fact that most judicial candidates want to keep a low profile make this a practical decision. Information about judicial candidates is harder to find than it is for candidates of other offices.
However, there are a few things voters can do to learn more about candidates and make their voices heard.
Understand the Process: In Minnesota, attorneys can become judges by being elected or appointed by the Governor. Selecting and appointing judges when vacancies arise on the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and the ten Judicial District Courts in Minnesota is one of the Governor’s most important constitutional responsibilities. An estimated 90% of judges are appointed by the Governor. Appointed judges must go through a lengthy selection process before being recommended to the Governor. If appointed, they must stand for election district-wide in the next general election that is more than one year after the swearing-in date. If a candidate files to run for election, there is no vetting process and it is especially important for
voters to research candidates. An elected judge’s term is 6 years.
Make your Voice Heard: Voters can sign up for news releases from the Judicial Selection Commission to learn about who is being appointed and to participate in the public comment periods. Public comment periods are a citizen’s best opportunity to voice their opinions on judicial candidates before their names appear on the ballot.
Get Involved: Take steps to learn and stay in the loop!
● Interested citizens (lawyers and non-lawyers) are encouraged to join the nonpartisan MN Judicial Selection Commission when there are vacancies. This commission reviews judicial applications and makes recommendations to the Governor.
● Sign up for news releases from the Judicial Selection Commission to learn about
candidates and to weigh in during the public comment period.
● Do your research. Most judicial candidates want to keep a low profile. Sitting judges’ biographies can be found on the MN Judicial Branch website. To see if a judge has been reprimanded, check MN Board on Judicial Standards.
● For new candidates (not appointed) running for election, research where they worked before, look at their social media profiles (if they have them) and search local papers for stories related to cases the candidate worked on or other related information pertaining to the candidate in order to determine if the candidate possesses the right attributes and professional experience to be a judge.
● In the rare case that an election is contested, voters can usually find statements from candidates in MN Lawyer or Bench & Bar of Minnesota.
● To learn more about the structure, functions, personnel and finances for the judicial
branch of state government in MN read: The Minnesota Judiciary: A Guide for
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