2018 Minnesota Judicial Races: Statewide & 1st District

Voting for judges is always kind of weird. Usually it’s the back of the ballot and there are a flood of names in uncontested races. It often feels like it doesn’t matter. But then there are a few contested races, and it definitely matters. Unfortunately, no one has talked about it, so if you haven’t done your research (and brought it to the polls), these judicial races can be challenging.

I’m looking at the specific judicial races on my ballot. This does not cover all judicial races in Minnesota, so if you live somewhere else, you’ll have to do your own research. You can visit the Secretary of State site to see what races are on your ballot.

Minnesota Supreme Court

There is only one supreme court justice position that’s being challenged, the second associate justice seat. Governor Mark Dayton appointee Margaret Chutich is facing perennial candidate Michelle MacDonald.

All you have to do is Google “Michelle MacDonald” to see what a train wreck she would be. Earlier this year her law license was suspended for 60 days and she was put on a two-year probation. Then there was the time she was arrested for drunk driving (was later acquitted), the GOP endorsed her, then back-pedaled when the story came out.

Chutich, on the other hand, doesn’t have any crazy stories when you Google her name. Winner! She has the credentials of someone you’d expect to serve on the highest state court. It also helps that Chutich won 95% of the vote in a Minnesota Bar Association statewide poll of 1,647 attorneys.

It’s also a little gross that one of the reasons MacDonald decided to challenge Chutich is because she’s gay:

“It factored in, but it wasn’t the only reason,” MacDonald said. “ … When that came to me, that piece, I’m just like, ‘Yep, that’s the one.’ ”

“Spiritually, the reason why you connect with somebody is to procreate, basically,” MacDonald said. “And I’m pro-life. You can certainly publish that. I’m not afraid to be pro-life.”

One other “fun” tidbit: MacDonald happens to be from West St. Paul. Seriously, her law offices are on Robert Street. Add her to the list of less than stellar West St. Paul candidates, along with the bully and the Confederate flag guy.

If you need to know more about this race, you can watch the League of Women Voters candidate forum.

So vote for Margaret Chutich (duh).

Court of Appeals

There’s only one contested court of appeals seat, where incumbent Lucinda Jesson faces Anthony Brown.

Jesson was appointed to the court of appeals in 2016 by Governor Mark Dayton. She seems like an experienced and thorough judge.

Brown is a lawyer and seems to have argued in front of a lot of courts and wants to be a judge to fix the system. He makes an interesting case about the court being rigged against the poor. I’m inclined to hear him out on this one, but I think if you’re going to run on that kind of a platform you should make a more thorough case (maybe I shouldn’t base that on his website, but I do).

I do appreciate Brown’s rationale for running:

“Part of my goal in this is to force judges to get out there and talk to the community. Encourage lawyers to run so that the public can get the opportunity to get more educated.”

That’s not always a popular move, but I think it’s good for our democracy. His challenge did prompt Jesson to post all her court decisions online.

If you want to know more about this race, you can watch the League of Women Voters candidate forum.

I’ll be voting for Jesson.

1st District Court

The only contested district court position on the ballot is between GOP-endorsed Martin Judge and incumbent Arlene Perkkio.

Perkkio was appointed to the court in 2011 by Governor Dayton and was reelected in 2012 when she ran unopposed.

Judge is an attorney and mediator from Hastings who specializes in personal injury. I’m not sure it’s very helpful in this political climate, but the chairman of the Republican group that endorsed Judge compared him to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh:

“We are in favor of judges, like Kavanaugh, who will uphold the laws as written and the Constitution as written.”

The Dakota County Bar Association polled their members, and while less than half responded, Perkkio won 55-7. Perkkio is also known for instituting a “one family, one judge” rule for family cases that allows them to stick with a single judge and seems like a good way to bring consistency to the process.

As much fun as it would be to have a “Judge Judge,” I think Perkkio is vastly more experienced.

I’ll be voting for Perkkio.

Vote November 6

Those are my takes. Be sure to do your own research and vote on November 6 (or earlier).

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