FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Helen Palmer, Judicial Study Committee Co-Chair
Keesha Gaskins, Executive Director
Direct: (651) 789-0376 Main: (651) 224-5445
ST. PAUL, Minn. (February 22, 2008) - Minnesota should adopt a system of merit
selection and retention elections for Minnesota's judges. This is the position
announced today by the League of Women Voters Minnesota (LWVMN) following a study
begun last May and consensus expressed by an overwhelming majority of its members
Helen Palmer, co-chair of the League's 15-member Committee on Judicial Selection,
said the LWVMN studied the issue and interviewed experts from the Minnesota Supreme
Court, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the Republican and DFL parties, the Minnesota
State Bar Association, the United States District Court, the legislature and members
of Minnesota's Commission on Judicial Selection.
"Ultimately, 34 LWVMN chapters across the state met, reviewed the committee report,
and voted 99% in favor of merit selection and retention elections for Minnesota's
LWVMN's official position on judicial selection supports initial appointment
to the judiciary by the Governor from a list a candidates provided by an impartial
nominating commission. A judge's performance is evaluated at the end of his
or her term by a broadly based and nonpartisan evaluation commission, whose results
are made available to the public. Based upon the information provided, voters
choose to retain or not retain a sitting judge.
"The League of Women Voters of Minnesota believes this system is the best at
keeping politics and money out of elections," said Palmer. "It assures that
new judges will be highly qualified; it provides for performance evaluation for
all judges; and it offers unbiased information to voters who have the final word
as to whether a judge should or should not be kept in office." LWVMN rejected
the federal appointment model which involves legislative confirmation because of
the high potential for partisan battles. Similarly, LWVMN rejected a pure
appointment model because it removes voters from the process.
In Minnesota it was long considered unethical for judicial candidates to seek
campaign endorsements from political parties and special interest groups or to proclaim
their personal positions on controversial issues in order to win their elections.
However, in 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in the White decision that Minnesota's
system of competitive judicial elections cannot limit campaign speech. As
a result, Minnesota's judicial candidates may now announce their views on issues,
seek, accept and use political party endorsements, and directly ask for campaign
"LWVMN believes that the White decision threatens the independence of Minnesota's
judiciary and leaves the judicial election process open to the worst kind of political
manipulation and subject to the corrupting influence of money," said Palmer.
She cited Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who said, "Judicial independence does not
happen all by itself. It is tremendously hard to create, and easier than most
people imagine to destroy." The League will testify before the House Government
Operations Committee February 26 and will follow the issue closely in this legislative
full position along with the full text of the rationale is available at www.lwvmn.org
or at the LWVMN State Office, 550 Rice Street, St. Paul,
MN 55103 or by calling (651) 224-5445.
The League is an 88-year-old multi-issue, grassroots volunteer organization of
concerned women and men working together to better understand and influence the
issues that affect individuals, families, and the future of democracy. The
League is a non-partisan organization that does not support or oppose any political
party or candidate.