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Home / Minnesota Legal News / Legal News / Judicial Elections 2012 / Minnesota Supreme Court, Seat 4: Stras v. Tingelstad
Coverage of Minnesota Supreme Court judicial election candidates David Stras and Tim Tingelstad.

Minnesota Supreme Court, Seat 4: Stras v. Tingelstad

David Stras

DAVID R. STRAS

Date of Birth: July 4, 1974

Education: J.D., University of Kansas School of Law; B.A. and MBA, University of Kansas

Employment: Associate Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court, 2010-Present; Professor of Law, University of Minnesota, 2004-2010; Of Counsel, Faegre & Benson LLP (now Faegre Baker Daniels LLP), 2009-2010; Hugo Black Faculty Fellow, University of Alabama School of Law, 2003-2004; Law Clerk, Supreme Court of the United States, 2002-2003; Associate, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP (now Sidley Austin LLP), 2001-2002.

Professional Associations: Minnesota State Bar Association, Hennepin County Bar Association, American Bar Association, American Bar Foundation, American Law Institute, Cardozo Society

Community Activities: Bet Shalom Congregation, Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation

Hobbies/Interests: sports, reading, biking

Family: wife, Heather; two sons, Brandon, 12 & Benjamin, 5

Website: www.justicestras.org

Why did you opt to become a judge?

I deeply respect public service, and I love the law. That is why, more than two years ago, I was honored and delighted to accept my appointment as an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Hearing cases, serving on legal committees, and overseeing the state court system alongside my colleagues has been a deeply gratifying experience in public service. It has also allowed me to sustain my innate love for the law. From my six years as a law professor to my two years on the Minnesota Supreme Court, it has been rewarding to consider some of the most difficult legal issues facing the country and our state. It would be my honor to serve the citizens of Minnesota for an additional six years.

What is the most important personal quality of a judge?

I believe the most important attribute for a judge is to faithfully interpret and apply the Constitution and laws passed by our elected representatives, without favor toward any political party, power broker, or special interest group. Judges should decide cases in an impartial, even-handed, and objective manner, not follow their own political leanings or policy preferences.  Being a judge is not, and should not be, a political job.

Why should voters select you rather than your opponent?

My two years of experience as a member of the Minnesota Supreme Court provides the most persuasive evidence for why I am the most qualified candidate to continue in the position. In addition to my service as a judge, I was a law clerk to a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and to two federal appellate judges prior to becoming a professor of law at the University of Minnesota. I am the only candidate running for this seat that has experience as an appellate judge.

Moreover, a broad, bipartisan cross-section of more than 300 of Minnesota’s citizens and leaders believe that I have done the job well and publicly support my candidacy, including eight former Justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court, all four Deans of Minnesota’s law schools, two former governors, and eight former members of the United States Congress.

What have been some of your accomplishments during your time on the bench?

I have participated in more than 200 cases, authored more than 25 opinions (including 16 majority opinions), and have considered some of the most difficult legal issues facing our state and country.

I have also served the state court system in a number of administrative capacities. I am the Supreme Court’s liaison to the Fourth District (Hennepin County), which is the state’s largest judicial district (in terms of the number of cases and judges). I am also the liaison to the General Rules of Practice Committee for the District Courts, to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Ethics Committee, and to the State Law Library. On the General Rules Committee, we submitted, and the Supreme Court adopted, a major revision of the rules governing family law cases. On the ADR Ethics Committee, we are currently engaged in a major revision of the rules covering mediation, arbitration, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.

Finally, I have devoted significant time and effort to educating judges and members of the practicing bar, addressing the topics of effective oral advocacy, the nature of appellate judging, and developments in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Other than financial resources, what are the major issues facing the court on which you sit or wish to sit?

Other than diminishing financial resources, the single most important issue facing the state judiciary is to maintain its integrity and independence. As an independent branch of government, the judiciary must continue to decide cases in a nonpartisan and nonpolitical fashion, and to do so with excellence to maintain the public’s respect for the courts. External pressures and declining budgets are posing increasing challenges to the judiciary’s ability to accomplish these objectives. Our Supreme Court has remained independent and resisted challenges to its independence, and I will work to have it remain so.

How can those issues be realistically addressed?

The composition of the Minnesota Supreme Court will change markedly over the next several years through a combination of normal attrition and mandatory retirements. The best way to ensure that the state judiciary maintains its integrity and independence is to retain experienced, independent judges to guide the judiciary through these challenging times.

What can the court do to address its funding deficit?

The Minnesota Supreme Court has responded to the funding deficit in at least two notable ways. First, the court has engaged the public and our elected representatives on the importance of an adequately funded judiciary. In the most recent biennium, the court system was able to avoid a reduction in funding by convincing legislators and the executive branch that an adequately funded judiciary system benefits all Minnesotans. We must continue our efforts to secure adequate funding by educating community leaders and elected representatives about why the courts constitute a core public service.

Second, we must continue to innovate. Over the past several years, the Minnesota Supreme Court has led the judiciary in an effort to use technology to reduce variable costs. For example, a pilot project is underway to implement electronic filing of court documents, which, once implemented statewide, is expected to reduce the judiciary’s costs substantially. We must continue to explore all avenues of modernization and efficiency, large and small.

Do you have any suggestions/ideas about the day-to-day operation of the court?

My answer to this question is largely the same as my answer to the previous question. Our court, and the state judiciary more broadly, must continue to innovate, both to better serve the attorneys and parties that appear before us and to lower our costs. Although we are ahead of some of our peer courts in this regard, we must continue to serve our constituents better.

What should the court do to promote public trust and confidence in the judiciary?

The answer to this question centers on judicial independence and civic education. We must decide disputes independently, in accordance with the Minnesota Constitution, the laws passed by our elected representatives, and our case law. And we must consistently remind Minnesota’s citizens that that is what we do, and that the judiciary is not a political branch. One specific way to promote public confidence in the courts is to continue, and even possibly increase, the number of times in which the Minnesota Supreme Court and Minnesota Court of Appeals hear cases in various communities around the state. Those visits provide a wonderful opportunity for us to engage members of community, share information about the courts, and demonstrate the courts in action.

What else would you like voters to know about your candidacy?

No matter who you are, I will consider your case and all cases without bias or partiality, to the very best of my ability, and decide them based on the law. If that is what you hope for in a judge, then it would be my honor to serve the people of Minnesota for an additional six years.

Tim Tingelstad

TIM TINGELSTAD

Date of Birth: December 26, 1959

Education: BA from Concordia College, Moorhead, MN and JD from UND Law School

Employment: Magistrate for Ninth Judicial District

Family: Married with two daughters

Website: HighestHill.com

Why did you opt to become a judge?

I have served as an Administrative Law Judge and Magistrate for the Ninth Judicial District for over 14 years. I became a Magistrate at the invitation of the State.

What is the most important personal quality in a judge?

There are two: Wisdom and Compassion.

Why should voters select you rather than your opponent?

I am a life-long Minnesotan, with over 14 years of experience on the bench. I also have 9 years of experience in the private practice of law.

What have been some of your accomplishments during your time on the bench?

I have presided over more than 10,000 evidentiary hearings, and to the best of my knowledge have never had one of my orders reversed by a higher court.

Other than financial resources, what are the major issues facing the court on which you sit or wish to sit?

The most important issue is retaining the confidence of the general public that they will receive a just result in their case.

How can those issues be realistically addressed?

We must restore the people’s constitutional right to meaningful judicial elections. The only way that we the people retain authority over our government is through meaningful elections.

What can the court do to address its funding deficit?

Communicate with our legislators with regard to ways to help the people avoid costly litigation.

Do you have any suggestions/ideas about the day to day operation of the court?

I am honored to serve regularly in 10 of the counties in northwestern Minnesota, and have a very high regard for the high quality of people that serve in our court system.

What should the court do to promote public trust and confidence in the judiciary?

Our Supreme Court Justices should be educating the people on the path back toward meaningful judicial elections . People must see our Judges as our greatest servants, not as our rulers. The only way to do this is by restoring our Constitutional right to meaningful judicial elections, rather than having virtually all of our judges come to the bench through politically partisan appointments.

What else would you like voters to know about your candidacy?

As a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, I will always submit my will to the will of the people, as expressed through the original intent of our Constitution.

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