Don’t Lose Your Right to Elect Judges

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Jun 27, 2014 Comments Off on Don’t Lose Your Right to Elect Judges GOP Activist

From the First Judicial District Republican Committee

Many DFL members of the legislature want to take away your right to vote for judges!

The bills were introduced last session & will be introduced again in the next legislative session.  This legislation is designed to amend the Minnesota Constitution to create a panel of unelected and unaccountable commission members (mostly lawyers) which would limit the Governor to 3 possible nominees for each judicial vacancy.  The Governor would be required to pick from that list.

The appointed judges would serve for 6 years before they appear on the ballot.  However, they would have no opponent on the ballot! It’s called Retention Elections, even though there is really no election at all!

This is a similar system to the one used in Iowa and Missouri.  In those states the commission is packed with liberal lawyers that have effectively pushed the judiciary to the left even when the Republicans control the governorships.

For over 150 years, the Minnesota Constitution has given the people the right to hold courts accountable through the contested election of judges instead of appointments as in some other states.  This provision originated because the US Supreme Court in 1857 handed down the Dred Scott decision, which declared that Scott (an escaped slave living in Minnesota) would be forced to return to his owner.  The decision also voided the Missouri Compromise.  These two rulings enraged the North.  Minnesota and 38 other states established elected judiciaries.

However, from the 1970’s until 2002, the Minnesota Supreme Court refused through their Canon of Ethics to allow meaningful campaigning by judicial candidates by threatening to revoke the license to practice law of any candidate for judicial office that attended a political convention, spoke on issues, raised money for a campaign, or asked a political party for their endorsement.  The Minnesota Supreme Court for years ignored the Minnesota Constitution because the judges did not agree with what it said.  In 2002 the US Supreme Court struck down these restrictions on free speech in a lawsuit initiated by the Republican Party of Minnesota.

Judges needed challengers on the election ballot.  Competitive elections provide accountability to the public.  Mistakes by a judge can be devastating to someone in their courtroom.  The worst kind of mistake is blatantly legislating from the bench instead of applying the law and the Constitution to the case before them.  There are too many cases where judges set aside the law or rewrite the Constitution in favor of their own personal views simply because they do not agree with the outcome!

For example, during the Minnesota government shutdown in 2011, the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed a regent at the request of Minnesota’s attorney general to authorize budget expenditures!  The state Constitution does not give them this power.  Budgets and policy are to be made only by the Governor and the legislature!  It is not to be made by courts or a court appointed regent!  The court wanted to rewrite the Constitution.

Constitutions are reduced to mere pieces of paper if each generation does not retain authority over the government through elections.  The writers of our federal and state constitutions never intended for the courts to become a constitutional convention that never adjourns!  When judges are allowed to write their own laws and determine how (or if) they are held accountable, the Republic designed by our founding fathers is doomed.