Statewide Coalition, Lawmakers Announce Effort to Reform Minnesota's Judicial Selection System

Former Governor Al Quie Leading Campaign in Support of Proposed

Constitutional Amendment



Jan 31, 2008, 00:00 ET from Minnesotans for Impartial Courts

    ST. PAUL, Minn., Jan. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Minnesotans for
 Impartial Courts (MIC), an educational and advocacy organization chaired by
 former Governor Al Quie, today launched a statewide education and lobbying
 campaign urging the Minnesota Legislature to approve a constitutional
 amendment enacting retention elections for judges. The campaign will inform
 the public of emerging threats to the fairness and impartiality of
 Minnesota's judicial system, and advocate for a ballot question for voter
 consideration in the November 2008 election.
 
     "Minnesotans are justifiably proud of the integrity of our judicial
 system," said Governor Quie. "Unfortunately, very real and serious threats
 to Minnesota's judiciary are emerging. Judicial campaigns around the
 country are quickly transforming into high-stakes political campaigns,
 complete with special interest group endorsements and negative
 advertising."
 
     Senator Ann Rest and Representative Steve Simon are the chief authors
 of legislation supporting the proposed constitutional amendment, which will
 be introduced when the Legislature convenes on Feb. 12. The proposed
 reforms are designed to ensure that judicial selection in Minnesota is
 based on merit, quality performance and informed voter approval.
 
 
Key features of the proposed constitutional amendment include: 1. Merit Selection -- The amendment calls for Merit Selection Commissions to nominate the most qualified judicial candidates to fill vacancies at all levels of the state judiciary; 2. Gubernatorial Appointment -- The Governor will appoint judges to fill vacancies from the list recommended by the Merit Selection Commission; 3. Performance Evaluation - A Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission will evaluate judges' performance and release those evaluations to the public; and 4. Retention Elections -- A yes or no Retention Election system will replace the current system, continuing to ensure that voters have the final say on retaining or removing all judges through a simple up-or-down public vote. If a judge is removed from office, the Governor will ask the Merit Selection Commission for recommendations to fill the newly created vacancy. "In other states, such as Wisconsin, fair and impartial justice has been threatened by an influx of negative political influences," said Senator Ann Rest, author of Senate legislation to support the constitutional amendment. "Retention elections have protected fairness and impartiality in other states, and we have a responsibility to support this constitutional amendment now in order to protect the integrity of Minnesota's judicial system for generations to come." The efforts to reform Minnesota's judicial selection process are based on recommendations from the Minnesota Citizens Commission for the Preservation of an Impartial Judiciary, a bi-partisan, independent commission led by Governor Quie. The Commission's task was to consider the scope of threats to an impartial court system in the aftermath of the White decision, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows Minnesota judicial candidates to seek political party endorsements, announce their views on political issues and directly accept campaign contributions from special interest groups. A survey conducted by Decision Resources Ltd. of Minneapolis and released this week by Justice-at-Stake, a nonpartisan national organization promoting fair and impartial courts, found that 81 percent of Minnesotans support or strongly support creating an evaluation of the performance of all judges by a commission including lawyers and non-lawyers. The full results of this survey can be found at http://www.justiceatstake.org. "There is no question that citizens should continue to have the final voice on the retention or removal of judges," explained Rep. Steve Simon, chief author of the retention election bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives. "But it is just a matter of time before Minnesota judicial elections become dominated by special interests and questions of politics, rather than character. Retention elections with a public performance evaluation system are the best way to preserve a fair and impartial judiciary." Minnesotans interested in preserving a fair and impartial judiciary are encouraged to visit http://www.ImpartialCourts.org for more information, to get involved, or to read the full recommendations of the Commission. Minnesotans for Impartial Courts is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation of concerned citizens from all walks of life and political persuasion -- people from the legal community, education, labor and business -- who want to keep Minnesota's courts independent and accountable by keeping special interest, partisan consideration, and campaign contributions from influencing the selection and retention of Minnesota's judges.

SOURCE Minnesotans for Impartial Courts
    ST. PAUL, Minn., Jan. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Minnesotans for
 Impartial Courts (MIC), an educational and advocacy organization chaired by
 former Governor Al Quie, today launched a statewide education and lobbying
 campaign urging the Minnesota Legislature to approve a constitutional
 amendment enacting retention elections for judges. The campaign will inform
 the public of emerging threats to the fairness and impartiality of
 Minnesota's judicial system, and advocate for a ballot question for voter
 consideration in the November 2008 election.
 
     "Minnesotans are justifiably proud of the integrity of our judicial
 system," said Governor Quie. "Unfortunately, very real and serious threats
 to Minnesota's judiciary are emerging. Judicial campaigns around the
 country are quickly transforming into high-stakes political campaigns,
 complete with special interest group endorsements and negative
 advertising."
 
     Senator Ann Rest and Representative Steve Simon are the chief authors
 of legislation supporting the proposed constitutional amendment, which will
 be introduced when the Legislature convenes on Feb. 12. The proposed
 reforms are designed to ensure that judicial selection in Minnesota is
 based on merit, quality performance and informed voter approval.
 
 
Key features of the proposed constitutional amendment include: 1. Merit Selection -- The amendment calls for Merit Selection Commissions to nominate the most qualified judicial candidates to fill vacancies at all levels of the state judiciary; 2. Gubernatorial Appointment -- The Governor will appoint judges to fill vacancies from the list recommended by the Merit Selection Commission; 3. Performance Evaluation - A Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission will evaluate judges' performance and release those evaluations to the public; and 4. Retention Elections -- A yes or no Retention Election system will replace the current system, continuing to ensure that voters have the final say on retaining or removing all judges through a simple up-or-down public vote. If a judge is removed from office, the Governor will ask the Merit Selection Commission for recommendations to fill the newly created vacancy. "In other states, such as Wisconsin, fair and impartial justice has been threatened by an influx of negative political influences," said Senator Ann Rest, author of Senate legislation to support the constitutional amendment. "Retention elections have protected fairness and impartiality in other states, and we have a responsibility to support this constitutional amendment now in order to protect the integrity of Minnesota's judicial system for generations to come." The efforts to reform Minnesota's judicial selection process are based on recommendations from the Minnesota Citizens Commission for the Preservation of an Impartial Judiciary, a bi-partisan, independent commission led by Governor Quie. The Commission's task was to consider the scope of threats to an impartial court system in the aftermath of the White decision, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows Minnesota judicial candidates to seek political party endorsements, announce their views on political issues and directly accept campaign contributions from special interest groups. A survey conducted by Decision Resources Ltd. of Minneapolis and released this week by Justice-at-Stake, a nonpartisan national organization promoting fair and impartial courts, found that 81 percent of Minnesotans support or strongly support creating an evaluation of the performance of all judges by a commission including lawyers and non-lawyers. The full results of this survey can be found at http://www.justiceatstake.org. "There is no question that citizens should continue to have the final voice on the retention or removal of judges," explained Rep. Steve Simon, chief author of the retention election bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives. "But it is just a matter of time before Minnesota judicial elections become dominated by special interests and questions of politics, rather than character. Retention elections with a public performance evaluation system are the best way to preserve a fair and impartial judiciary." Minnesotans interested in preserving a fair and impartial judiciary are encouraged to visit http://www.ImpartialCourts.org for more information, to get involved, or to read the full recommendations of the Commission. Minnesotans for Impartial Courts is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation of concerned citizens from all walks of life and political persuasion -- people from the legal community, education, labor and business -- who want to keep Minnesota's courts independent and accountable by keeping special interest, partisan consideration, and campaign contributions from influencing the selection and retention of Minnesota's judges. SOURCE Minnesotans for Impartial Courts