Accentuate the Positive in Judicial Elections — and Adhere to the Affirmation


As the song goes:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

Minnesota Litigator Bing Crosby 150x150 Accentuate the Positive in Judicial Elections    and Adhere to the AffirmationWhen it comes to judicial elections, keeping politics out is accentuating the positive.  That helps assure that the best candidates – most likely to really make decisions based on the merits – are elected. And it fosters public trust – that decisions are being made based on the law and not on political pressure.

In Hennepin County, that means signing the Hennepin County Bar Association’s Affirmation of Judicial Candidate Conduct, and adhering to it.

The Hennepin County Bar Association asks all judicial candidates to sign an affirmation pledging that they will adhere to high standards in running their campaigns. One of the key provisions requires candidates to pledge that they will refrain from political activities in running their campaigns. Here’s what that provision says:

I agree that I will not identify myself or my opponent as a member of a political organization, except as necessary to vote in an election, and will not attend political organization gatherings or seek or use endorsements from any political party. I understand that I may speak to gatherings other than political organization gatherings on my own behalf.

A couple of the candidates in Hennepin County contested races did not sign the affirmation at all: Chris Ritts and Bruce+ Rivers. Two of the candidates – Beverly Aho and Amy Dawson – signed it but noted their own key exceptions from it.

At least five of the candidates attended a DFL gathering on September 17.  This would seem to violate the affirmation, which says in black and white, “I agree that I . . . will not attend political organization gatherings . . . .”

Minnesota Lawyer asked the candidates why they were not able to sign the affirmation as it is written. And why they attended the DFL meeting.  See the article here.

Politicization – it is a slippery slope. As attorneys, we have to fight to keep politics out of judicial elections. The affirmation is a modest request made of judicial candidates.

All candidates who do not sign the affirmation or who can’t sign it without reservations should be evaluated closely. Candidates who sign the affirmation but then don’t comply with it should be examined closely.  And should be questioned about their ability to make decisions on a non-partisan basis.


Blue Cross et al. v. Wells Fargo: Taking It Up On Appeal to the Eighth Circuit

Eight Ball 300x223 Blue Cross et al. v. Wells Fargo: Taking It Up On Appeal to the Eighth CircuitUpdate (October 30, 2014): The notice of appeal filed yesterday will come as no surprise in Blue Cross v. Wells Fargo, in which the plaintiffs, represented by Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, lost at trial before a jury and before U.S. District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank (D. Minn.). The decision to appeal such a loss would be unsurprising in any case with this much at stake. This case had the additional anomaly discussed below in which the trial judge and jury who both heard the evidence reached different conclusions.

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Judicial Elections on Tuesday: Helping Our Voters

Minnesota Litigator vote1 150x150 Judicial Elections on Tuesday:  Helping Our VotersAround this time of the year, Minnesota lawyers are starting to receive questions from the most diligent voters. Who is running for judge and who should they vote for?

This year is particularly challenging since the League of Women Voters is not publishing its voter guide because its funder (Target) dropped out. So a usual source of information has dried up.

Which makes our job helping voters even more important.

This year is a lively and challenging one in Hennepin County with four contested races. There are two contested races each in the 7th and 10th judicial districts. And one lone contested race in the 5th district. And of course we all will be getting questions about the two contested Supreme Court seats.

There are several great sources of information. First, Minnesota Lawyer has published its voter guide. This is “ahead” of their paywall so all voters will have full access to it. Be sure to check it out.

Some of the bar associations also have voter guides. MSBA has a guide addressing the two Supreme Court races. And the Hennepin County Bar Association has put out a guide for the four contested races in that county. Other bar districts may have put out other guides.

And, the League of Women Voters of Golden Valley has sponsored two candidate forums for the four contested races in Hennepin County. One forum featured all the candidates for the seats that were on the Hennepin County primary ballot. And another forum hosted the candidates in the two contested races that did not appear on the primary ballot. I am going to pour a cup of coffee and listen to these fora as I sit at my computer.

Be ready to answer questions from your friends and neighbors. And pass along some of these materials along with your thoughts to those you know will be interested.

Finally, A Break-Through On Appeal…

hole 18221 1280 300x226 Finally, A Break Through On Appeal...Here is a situation that all experienced trial lawyers get to enjoy one time or another, though, fortunately, not all that often: a trial court gets a basic legal ruling completely wrong forcing a litigant to go through civil discovery, followed by a trial, followed by an adverse jury verdict, followed by reversal of the basis legal proposition that the defendant raised before the trial court at every possible opportunity.

In Olmstead County, Ray Barta agreed to let Gary Carlson come onto Barta’s property to chop down a bunch of trees, and sell the lumber. The two entered into a contract in which Carlson agreed not to sue Barta for any claims “arising out of the performance” of the contract. Then, in “performing the contract,” driving his 28,000 lb. harvester over Barta’s property, Carlson unwittingly drove onto a frozen pond and his harvester broke through.

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