Minnesota State Bar Association

Report on the 2002 Minnesota Judicial Elections
- Last Updated 3/11/03 -

Summary

During the 2002 election cycle 124 judges stood for election.  Eighteen (18) of the races were contested; the remaining 106 (85%) were uncontested.  Of the 18 contested races, two involved races with no incumbents.  All 16 incumbents won reelection.  In only four of the 16 races with incumbents did the incumbent receive less than 60% of the vote.  Both of the races without an incumbent were decided by a margin of less than 10%.

Issues: Campaign literature, websites, and advertisements were reviewed to determine the issues raised in judicial elections. Issues are grouped in the following categories in an attempt to generalize the types of issues commonly raised:

·         Incumbent’s Conduct:

§         Ethics
§         Decision-making
§         Performance/Treatment of Others
§         Unspecified

The incumbent’s conduct was cited by 10 challengers as a reason for running.  No issues specific to the opposing candidate were raised in six of the contested races or in the two open races.  Three candidates running against incumbents did so to give the voters a choice, and one candidate cited the flawed judicial selection process (appointment and easy reelection).

Only a few candidates (none of the incumbents) expressly supported the Supreme Court ruling that found unconstitutional the judicial rule prohibiting candidates from announcing views on disputed legal and political issues and stated that it would affect their campaigns.  Most candidates noted that judges must decide cases based on the law and evidence, not on politics or opinions.

Endorsements:  Candidates’ websites, campaign literature, and advertisements were reviewed for information on endorsements.  This review was conducted during the middle of the campaign so endorsements made after the review are not reflected in this report. Several organizations may be listed under slightly different names by different candidates, and some may be a unit of a larger organization (for example, the United Auto Workers and UAW Minnesota State CAP Council, and Minnesota DRIVE and Teamsters Joint Council 32).  Also, most websites of the endorsing organizations did not list their judicial endorsements or the policy behind endorsements.  This made it difficult to determine exactly which organizations endorsed which candidates.

Eight judicial candidates did not seek endorsements.  One noted that Canon 5 of the Judicial Code forbade candidates from seeking political endorsements and that he, generally, does not think endorsements are appropriate.  Eight others identified no endorsements.

Few organizations appear to review all of the candidates and then make endorsements.  These organizations, such as Minnesota Women Lawyers and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, have a list of considerations or sent the candidates questionnaires.  More often, organizations seem to be solicited by the candidates and then review the candidates and interview them or have prior connections or familiarity that make the organizations consider endorsing them.  Many endorsing organizations appeared repeatedly. However, some organizations, for example the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and the New Ulm Journal, only endorsed one candidate. 

The following organizations supported candidates.  Any policies regarding their endorsements are noted:

Finances:  All candidates who receive more than $100 in campaign contributions or incur similar campaign expenditures are required to file reports with the Campaign Finance & Public Disclosure Board.  For the purpose of this report, the statements due at the end of January 2003 and covering the period of January 1 through December 31, 2002 were examined. Table 1 summarizes the activity for individual candidates.  The numbers in Table 1 should be viewed as a general indication of campaign financial activity.  Campaigns used different methods of reporting financial activity.  For example, some campaigns reported a candidate loan as a receipt and the repayment of that loan as an expenditure in the same reporting period.  Others did not report a candidate loan but reported expenditures exceeding receipts.  

Five candidates did not file reports, including the challengers for the two statewide elections. The following conclusions assume that these campaigns received no contributions and made no expenditures.   

The total expenses for all campaigns was $642,000 or an average of $17,800 per candidate.  The largest expenditure by a single candidate occurred in the Supreme Court race with the incumbent spending $88,000.  However, since the challenger in that race incurred no campaign expenses, a district court race in the Ninth Judicial District involved the greatest expense, $128,000.  Eight candidates (22%) reported campaign receipts of less than $500.  Only four candidates (11%) raised more than $40,000 for their campaigns.  Ten candidates (27%) raised between $10,000 and $20,000 for their campaigns. 

Candidates, either through loans or direct contributions, accounted for 43% of the total campaign revenue. If the two statewide races are excluded from this calculation, the percent of campaign expenditures financed by candidate themselves rises to 50%.  This does not include any funds from the candidates’ families.  Total campaign receipts for all campaigns was $642,000, of that amount candidates contributed or loaned $273,000. 

Ten percent ($60,300) of the campaign receipts were raised from political funds.  A single law firm’s political fund accounted more than half ($37,000) of these contributions made in ten races. 

THE RACES

Paul Anderson vs. Jack Baker  (Supreme Court)

Issues: Incumbent’s Conduct – Ethics

Baker alleged that Anderson chaired the Minnesota News Council’s mediation council in violation of Canon 4F of the Code of Judicial Conduct.  The Minnesota News Council considers complaints about the media.  Canon 4F states that judges cannot act as an arbitrator or mediator in a private capacity.  He further stated that Anderson chaired that council during an earlier time “in exchange for public flattery.” Baker also disapproves of the news industry, which unlawfully uses its power to “gain special access into the secret deliberations of the court” and compromises the judges. 

Anderson’s website includes a Saint Paul Pioneer Press article endorsing Anderson, which notes that Anderson’s role involved presiding over non-legal deliberations that did not call into question his impartiality or violate the ethics code.  Other information by or about Anderson did not address the issue, but highlighted his experience and integrity.

Endorsements:

Anderson:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis
·         Minnesota Teamsters
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune
·         Saint Paul Pioneer Press
·         Duluth News Tribune
·         New Ulm Journal
·         Red Wing Republican Eagle

Baker:  Did not seek endorsements.

Terri J. Stoneburner vs. Jeffrey A. Sloan (Court of Appeals)

Issues: Incumbent’s Conduct – Decision-making; Choice

Sloan stated that voters “need alternatives in judicial elections” because incumbent judges can run forever with virtual impunity.  He provided such an “alternative.”  Sloan argued that Stoneburner is an activist judge who uses her power “to achieve politically correct outcomes through the judicial process” and to impose her morality and politics.  As an example, he noted Stoneburner’s decision in Goins v. West Group, which the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned in an opinion noting that the Court of Appeals went “beyond the parameters of a legislative enactment.”  Sloan also stated that he can be a fair and impartial decision maker.

In response, Stoneburner stated that she is impartial and does not want to “advance a private social or political agenda.”  She notes that someone who “wants to change the law belongs in the legislature, not on the bench.”

Endorsements:

Stoneburner:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council
·         AFL-CIO Minnesota Teamsters Joint Council 32
·         Minneapolis Police and Peace Officers Association
·         H.E.R.E. Local 21 (Rochester, MN)
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune
·         Saint Paul Pioneer Press

Sloan: Did not seek endorsements.  His website stated that “raising money as a judicial candidate seems awkward.”  Instead, he attempted a grass roots effort by spreading his message via email.

Charles (Chuck) Halberg vs. Carol A. Hooten (W) (1st Judicial District)

Issues: None

Halberg ran based on a desire to serve the community.  He emphasized his experience and personal traits that would make him a good judge.

Hooten ran because she has admired judges while practicing law.  She believes she has the experience to be a good judge.

Endorsements:

Halberg: Did not seek endorsements.

Hooten: Did not seek endorsements, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press endorsed her.

Kevin Eide* vs. David H. Grounds (1st Judicial District)

Issues: Election choice

Grounds ran to give voters a choice of candidates.  He also noted that the First Judicial District provides quality legal services (implying that he would like to play a role in such an organization). He simply asked the voters to learn about both candidates and then make their choice.

Eide emphasized his qualifications, experience and community involvement.

Endorsements:

Eide:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, LeSueur, McLeod, Scott and Sibley County Sheriffs
·         Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, LeSueur, McLeod, Scott and Sibley County Attorneys

Grounds: Did not seek endorsements.

Karen Asphaug* vs. Kevin C. Quigley (1st Judicial District)

Issues: Incumbent’s Conduct – Performance/Treatment of Others

Quigley alleged that Asphaug did not work hard – does not show up; does not complete her work in a timely fashion; has a backlog of cases that is larger than all of the other judges combined; and has one of the highest rates of absenteeism in the district. The Minneapolis Star Tribune noted that Asphaug previously ordered Quigley to pay child support and spousal maintenance in his dissolution case, which he refused to pay pending appeal.

Asphaug responded that Quigley grossly mischaracterized the facts.  She cited district statistics showing that she decided cases expeditiously and was on duty at rates well above the district average.  She also noted the 22% increase in caseload from 1996 through 2001.  Asphaug filed unfair campaign complaints against Quigley.

Endorsements:

Asphaug:

·         Dakota County Attorney and Sheriff
·         Hastings and Farmington Police Chiefs
·         Carver, Scott, Goodhue, McLeod, Sibley and LeSueur County Attorneys
·         Scott, Goodhue, McLeod, Sibley and LeSueur County Sheriffs
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune
·         Saint Paul Pioneer Press

Quigley:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers.

Mary J. Theisen* vs. Judith (Judi) Payne (1st Judicial District)

Issues: None

Payne ran because she believes she has the experience (much as a solo practitioner) and the background to be an effective judge.  She ran for a First Judicial District seat because she lives and practices there and is familiar with the issues and communities.

Theisen emphasized her experience and qualifications.

Endorsements:

Theisen:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         First Judicial District County Attorneys
·         First Judicial District Sheriffs

Payne: No endorsements listed.

John T. Finley* vs. Kathleen Fixsen Hupalo (2nd Judicial District)

Issues: Incumbent’s Conduct – Ethics

In her Minnesota Lawyer questionnaire responses, Hupalo did not provide specific reasons for running against Finley.  Instead, she indicated that she wanted to run for a judgeship and chose this particular race because she believed Finley’s own actions have caused him to “have some issues,” which “mak[e] him more vulnerable.”  However, in campaign literature, Hupalo stated (1) that Finley, as a Ramsey County Commissioner, voted to give his own corporation a large tax break (without revealing a conflict of interest) for which he was publicly reprimanded by the Board on Judicial Standards; (2) Finley falsely notarized documents that were not signed in his presence; and (3) the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered public censure of Finley in response to six complaints by the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board.

Finley did not respond directly to allegations of misdeeds.  He relied on his judicial and legal experience and noted that Hupalo did not appear to have actually practiced law. 

Endorsements:

Finley:

·         St. Paul Building and Construction Trades Council
·         Teamsters DRIVE (Minnesota Democrats Republicans Independents Voter Education – the political committee representing Minnesota’s Teamster members)
·         St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly
·         Saint Paul Pioneer Press
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune

Hupalo: No endorsements listed.

Harry S. Crump* vs. Kevin J. Kolosky (4th Judicial District)

Issues: Incumbent’s Conduct – Decision-making

Kolosky felt Crump was “too imperialistic and rigid in his approach” and was “much to [sic] quick to grant a summary judgment motion.”  He also believed that “judicial seats should have turnover,” and Crump had had his turn.

Crump pointed to his judicial experience and “prompt, impartial and fair proceedings.”

Endorsements:

Crump:

·         Minneapolis Building and Trades Council
·         Minneapolis Central Labor Union
·         Minnesota Teamsters DRIVE
·         Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis
·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         International Association of Firefighters
·         Minneapolis Local 82 (32?) (AFL-CIO)
·         Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune

Kolosky: Did not seek endorsements (cited Judicial Canon 5 and he did not believe seeking endorsements is appropriate).

Stephen C. Aldrich* vs. Judd Edward Gushwa (4st Judicial District)

Issues: Incumbent’s Conduct – Decision-making and Performance/Treatment of Others

Gushwa stated that he ran against Aldrich because Aldrich has “long history of not following the rules” and takes actions contrary to the law.  As examples, Gushwa asserted that Aldrich released an admitted rapist without bail, failed to follow state sentencing guidelines when sentencing a drunk driver who killed a person, dismissed cases “on his own accord,” unsealed a murder complaint that could have jeopardized the case, and told a female prosecutor “that she should go back to the office and talk to her dad about how to be a real attorney.”

Aldrich stated that he has taken the lead in testing intermittent sentences for repeat drunk drivers. Aldrich highlighted his expertise in the family law area and his assistance in reducing the backlog of cases awaiting trial in Hennepin County Family Court.  He described himself as “encouraging and crafting creative solutions.”

Endorsements:

Aldrich:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         Lavender Bar Association
·         AFL-CIO Central Body (Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council?)
·         Minnesota DRIVE
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune

Gushwa:

·         Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. 

Tanya M. Bransford* vs. Joseph (Pat) McCormick (4th Judicial District)

Issues: Flawed Judicial Selection Process

McCormick picked a Hennepin County seat that was up for election.  He felt that the judicial selection process is flawed because judges are usually appointed based on their connections, and voters do not have very much information (partially due to ethics issues) when deciding whether to reelect the incumbent or vote in a new judge.

Bransford highlighted her experience, commitment, hard work, and appropriate judicial demeanor and temperament.

Endorsements:

Bransford:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers
·         Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council, AFL-CIO
·         Minnesota Teamsters Joint Council 32 and Minnesota DRIVE
·         Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputies Association
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune

McCormick: Did not seek endorsements.

Thomas W. Wexler* vs. Jill Clark (4th Judicial District)

Issues: Incumbent’s Conduct – Performance/Treatment of Others

Clark stated that she took issue with Wexler’s conduct and lack of impartiality, as evidenced by comments about racial minorities.  Clark emphasized the need for neutrality and a lack of bias or stereotypes in the justice system.

Wexler responded by pointing to his high ratings by attorneys in the categories reflecting a lack of bias, courtesy, fair sentencing, preparation, efficiency in scheduling, and open-mindedness. Jurors’ exit comments also rated him “excellent” for fairness, courtesy, etc. He specifically stated that Clark’s allegations were not true.

Endorsements:

Wexler:

·         Minneapolis Star Tribune
·         Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis
·         United Auto Workers and UAW Minnesota State CAP Council
·         Minnesota DRIVE and Teamsters Joint Council 32

Clark:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers

Herbert P. Lefler, III* vs. Liz Pierce (4th Judicial District)

Issues: None; Incumbent’s Conduct – Decision-making

Pierce wanted to run for a judgeship, but did not necessarily want to replace Lefler.  She chose Lefler’s seat due to concerns that he used the contempt power (to put someone in jail) too often. Pierce also stated that she has the experience and temperament to be a fair and impartial decision maker and noted her desire to affect a number of social problems.

Lefler relied on his judicial experience, particularly his work with the Juvenile Court.  Lefler noted his concerns for social problems similar to those highlighted by Pierce and his work to alleviate them.

Endorsements:

Lefler:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         The Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
·         Central Labor Union Council, AFL-CIO
·         Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis
·         Firefighters Association of Minneapolis
·         Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputies Association
·         DRIVE/Teamsters Council 32
·         National Association of Social Workers
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Pierce:  No endorsements listed.

James T. Swenson* vs. Robert D. Schwartz (4th Judicial District)

Issues: Incumbent’s Conduct – Unspecified

Schwartz stated that he ran against Swenson because he “will be a much better judge than the incumbent. Some times one becomes so close to their position they ‘cannot see the forest because of the trees.’” He did not give any examples, but stated that he would “bring a fresh view to the bench,” suggesting a belief that the incumbent has simply been a judge for too long.

Swenson emphasized his legal and judicial experience (as opposed to Schwartz’s experience largely limited to Tax Court), particularly his six years as a Family Court judge, and his strong work ethic and impartiality.

Endorsements:

Swenson:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis
·         Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council, AFL-CIO
·         Minnesota Teamsters Joint Council 32 and Minnesota DRIVE
·         Lavender Bar Association
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune

Schwartz: Did not seek endorsements.

Lloyd B. Zimmerman* vs. Julie Delgado O’Neil

Issues: None

O’Neil did not identify any conflicts with Zimmerman, but highlighted her experience as a prosecutor and defense attorney with significant trial experience as well as the diversity she would bring to the bench as a Mexican-American female.  She stated that she could make decisions fairly and decisively while treating everyone with respect and courtesy.

Zimmerman also pointed to his legal experience, which includes many complex cases, and the support he received from former opposing counsel for his appointment to the bench.  He stated that he can provide fairness and equality since he worked for the EEOC.

Endorsements:

Zimmerman:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers
·         Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis
·         Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council, AFL-CIO
·         Minnesota Teamsters Joint Council 32 and Minnesota DRIVE
·         Lavendar Bar Association
·         Minneapolis Star Tribune
·         Hennepin Sheriff’s Deputies Association
·         Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council

O’Neil:  None listed.

Thomas M. Stringer* vs. John A. Hatling (7th Judicial District)

Issues: None

Hatling ran for this seat because it is situated in Otter Tail County and the Seventh Judicial District where he practices.  He identified the personal qualities that would make him a good judge and noted his legal experience and work as a child support magistrate/ALJ.

Stringer pointed to his experience and ability to decide cases on their facts and the law, as well as his hardworking, fair and sensible qualities.

Endorsements (no candidate websites found and nothing on the Star Tribune website):

Stringer:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers.

Hatling: None listed.

David Frederick Harrington (W) vs. Ted Lundrigan (9th Judicial District)

Issues: None

Lundrigan stated that he ran for this seat because he has extensive experience (over 28 years in practice covering a very wide range of cases) in Cass County and desired to be “useful.” He noted that he promised his father to run for a judgeship in Cass County if one came up.

Harrington believes that he has the ability and work ethic to be a good judge and that it would be personally fulfilling to serve the community as a judge.  He would like to return to where he started practicing law.

Endorsements (no candidate websites found and nothing on the Star Tribune website):

Harrington:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers

Lundrigan: None listed.

Lois J. Lang* vs. David G. Kuduk (9th Judicial District)

Issues: None; Election Choice

Kuduk did not want to criticize Lang and wanted to run a positive campaign.  However, his reasons for running included improper judicial conduct – litigants who are treated rudely and inappropriately and judges who are inflexible in accommodating litigants’ schedules.  Kuduk wanted to “challenge the system, try new things, and treat people with the courtesy and respect that they deserve,” but did not suggest Lang treats people inappropriately.  He also wanted to give voters a choice and notes the incumbent was appointed.

Lang highlighted her judicial and legal experience and her knowledge of the communities served by the Ninth Judicial District.

Endorsements (no candidate websites found and nothing on the Star Tribune website):

Lang:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers

Kuduk: None listed.

Nancy J. Logering* vs. Luke Stellpflug (10th Judicial District)

Issues: None.

Unlike all of the other candidates, Stellpflug did not provide responses to the Minnesota Lawyer questionnaire, so information on why he ran was limited.  He pointed to one difference from the incumbent – he had more “life experiences,” including involvement with children, which would help him deal with the numerous “child-centered” issues addressed by the court.  The information available suggests that he was interested in addressing issues related to the criminal justice system and has administrative experience that would help him succeed as a judge. He was committed to “education, fairness, community and social justice.”

Logering stated that she has the experience and qualifications necessary to be a good judge and can apply the law fairly.  She treats people respectfully and acts with integrity, impartiality and fairness.

Endorsements:

Logering:

·         Minnesota Women Lawyers

Stellpflug: None listed.