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When you vote this year, don’t forget to turn over your ballot and vote for judges. These nonpartisan races are often uncontested and forgotten. Of the 15 judicial races on the West St. Paul ballot, only two are contested. But they’re important races.
Here’s our overview of the judicial races on the 2020 ballot for West St. Paul.
Minnesota Supreme Court
The race for an open Minnesota Supreme Court seat has a West St. Paul connection. But that’s nothing new. Michelle MacDonald has law offices on Robert Street and is running for the Minnesota Supreme Court for the fourth time.
But this might not be an instance of hometown pride. MacDonald has a few strikes against her:
- In 2014, MacDonald was arrested for drunk driving (and later acquitted). The GOP endorsed her, then back-pedaled when the story came out (they had to ban her from their state fair booth). She was eventually convicted of obstructing the legal process.
- In 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court suspended MacDonald’s law license and put her on a two-year probation. That year, one of the reasons MacDonald challenged eventual winner Margaret Chutich is because Chutich is gay.
- This year, there’s more. The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility is seeking disciplinary action against MacDonald, citing repeated misconduct and a frivolous defamation lawsuit. A ruling is expected later this month.
MacDonald claims it’s a setup, telling MPR, “The system is coming down on me, the legal system, because I know what’s happening. I’ve experienced it, and they’re trying to muzzle people.”
Nevertheless, she’s been competitive, racking up 44%, 41%, and 46% of the vote in her three previous runs.
She faces incumbent Justice Paul Thissen, a former representative in the Minnesota House and appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2018 by Governor Mark Dayton. Though a sitting Supreme Court justice hasn’t lost since the 1940s, Thissen is not taking the challenge lightly. He’s campaigning hard, seeing both a serious challenge and an opportunity to highlight the work of the court.
The Minnesota State Bar Association polled its nearly 7,000 members, and 91% support Thissen over MacDonald.
- League of Women Voter/Minnesota State Bar Association candidate forum
- Minnesota State Bar Association questionnaire:
First District Court
There’s not a lot to go on in this race. There are no candidate forums, questionnaires, or other coverage. You’ve basically got the candidate’s websites.
Carter was appointed in 2001 and re-elected in 2002, 2008, and 2014. So he’s got nearly 20 years experience on the bench and another 20 years as a lawyer, prosecutor, and public defender. Carter has a lengthy list of endorsements and accomplishments on his website.
Judge is an attorney and mediator from Hastings with 25 years of experience. He also ran for First District Court in 2018 and lost. Judge has a barebones landing page for a site with no endorsements listed (in 2018 he was endorsed by Republicans).
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