So you want to be a judge? Spotlight: Hon. Rachel Hughey

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The Hon. Rachel Hughey was appointed to the Fourth Judicial District Bench in July of 2021. Judge Hughey was previously a partner and shareholder at Merchant & Gould, where she practiced civil litigation. 

Judge-Rachel-Hughey-150What motivated you to start the application process to become a judge?

There was not one single thing that motivated me, but instead a variety of factors that played into my decision. One very strong motivation was the desire to do more to serve my community.  Long before I applied to be a judge I was involved in the community in a variety of ways, providing pro bono legal services in a variety of different areas and through nonprofit board service. I felt that service as a judge would give me an opportunity to use the skills that I developed throughout my career to serve the community full-time. I am excited that I have the privilege to use my skills and talents to ensure that the court provides fair and equal justice.

What was one thing that surprised you about the application and onboarding process?

The application process was far more emotionally demanding and time-consuming than I would have guessed. It required a lot of soul searching, and I leaned very heavily on my mentors and friends for support and encouragement throughout the process.

As for the onboarding process, I am fortunate that Hennepin County has a robust new judge training program, and the entire bench is very supportive of new judges. Just about every single day I rely on one colleague or another for wise counsel. So that was a surprising part of the onboarding process, but in a very good way.

What’s one piece of advice you would have for someone who wants to become a judge? 

For anyone who wants to be a judge, I suggest they put in a lot of work well before there is an opening.  In particular, I think applicants should think about whether there are things they can do to make them stronger candidates and eventual judicial officers. For example, if you do not have experience in some areas of the court’s jurisdiction, can you do some pro bono work in those areas, or at least take some CLEs or observe some proceedings in those areas? Also, the application turn-around is fast, so talk to your supporters, and perhaps even have some of your letters of recommendation put together ahead of time. I think being really prepared when there is an opening will make you a much stronger candidate and will make the application process less stressful.

What’s one thing you wish you knew before you started the process?

I wish I knew it was going to work out! It was a ton of work to get here, but I am so glad that I pursued this path and persevered when I was not selected the first or second time. Being a Hennepin County judge is hard work, but it’s extremely fulfilling. I am so glad I persevered.

Is there anything else you wanted to mention about the process?

A lot of the local bar associations provide services to judicial applicants, such as providing CLEs on the process, reviewing letters of interest, doing mock interviews, etc.  I used a number of these resources and am eternally grateful for the support shown to me by our legal community.


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