DIANE M. HANSON
Date of Birth: July 2, 1951
Education: University of Minnesota Law School, J.D. cum laude, 1991; B.A., Kalamazoo College, B.A., 1973
Employment: District Court Judge, First Judicial District, Scott County, 2004-present, appointed in 2004 and elected in 2006;: Assistant Scott County Attorney,1996-2004; Assistant Morrison County Attorney, 1992-1996; previous work experience has included teaching and working for Northwest Airlines
Professional Associations: Co-chair of Scott County Juvenile Coordinating Committee; Judicial Representative on Scott County Community Corrections Advisory Board; member of Scott County Methamphetamine Task Force; speaker at local school and community events
Community Activities: Habitat for Humanity (helped to construct first home in Scott County); member and supporter of Minnesota Zoo; supporter of local Salvation Army and Cap Agency
Interests: Spending time with family and friends; traveling; horse riding
Why did you opt to become a judge?
My interest in working as a judge was, and is, based upon my dedication to public service, my experience with and enjoyment of the courtroom environment, and my strong belief in our system of justice.
What is the most important personal quality in a judge?
The job requires a unique combination of experience, legal knowledge and skills, decision-making ability, patience, compassion, a sense of humor, and hard work, not necessarily in that order on any given day. Assuming appropriate legal knowledge and experience, temperament is the key ingredient: a judge needs to be comfortable in his or her role and establish an environment in which everyone is treated fairly and with respect.
Why should voters select you rather than your opponent?
As a judge and a former prosecutor, I have been committed to public service for over 20 years and have extensive courtroom and trial experience. Additionally, as a 12-year resident of Scott County and the 1st Judicial District, I am familiar with the needs of our local communities and am dedicated to serving those needs. Our system of justice works best when the individuals who work together within it are well-qualified, appropriately experienced, and dedicated.
What have been some of your accomplishments during your time on the bench?
Since I have been on the bench in Scott County, we have become a six-judge county, and we now handle the heaviest case load per judge in the 1st District. By working together within our county, we have nonetheless been able achieve one of the best case resolution rates in the district, and I am proud of the good service we provide to the community. We have also moved to a one-judge/one-family approach to child protection cases, enabling us to better address the needs of children and families at risk, and we have achieved excellent outcomes in these cases. During the years in which I have served as the judicial representative on the Scott County Community Corrections Advisory Board, we have implemented a bail study policy that ensures that judges are timely provided with information critical to public safety when making bail decisions in criminal cases.
Other than financial resources, what are the major issues facing the court on which you sit or wish to sit?
Our communities and courtroom are becoming increasingly diverse, not only culturally, but in terms of the number of parties who are appearing without attorneys. We must ensure that all individuals enjoy equal access to the court system and are treated with fairness and respect. Because being in court can be a very intimidating experience, it is critical that we be sensitive to the varied needs of litigants and provide appropriate resources to assist them and to ensure that their rights are protected. Also challenging is our current transition to an increasingly electronic system: while technology can provide incredible benefits in terms of efficiency, it is important to remember that justice is essentially a hand-crafted, labor intensive and concerted undertaking, and that the best decisions result from our cooperative efforts on a case-by-case basis.
How can those issues be realistically addressed?
I support a transition from a calendar call system in our district to a block system, with appropriate cases blocked to a single judge. We have already started doing this with select types of cases, including child protection cases, family law cases, and certain criminal and civil matters. Additionally, in Scott County and elsewhere in the 1st District, we are putting programs in place to provide appropriate resources for pro se litigants, reduced fee or pro bono legal assistance, early neutral evaluation in family law cases, qualified interpreters, and training in diversity issues.
What can the court do to address its funding deficit?
Within the system, we are already taking steps to enhance efficiency. Beyond that, it is important to understand that adequate support for our court system is imperative to ensure equal access to the courts, effective representation, fair and efficient resolution of cases, and qualified employees, including judges.
Do you have any suggestions/ideas about the day to day operation of the court?
As noted above, I support a transition to a block system to promote the fair and efficient resolution of cases, access to self-help resources for pro se litigants, access to reduced fee and pro bono legal assistance, and the utilization of all appropriate technology. Adequate funding for our public defender system is critical, as well.
What should the court do to promote public trust and confidence in the judiciary?
Given this world’s ever changing and challenging economic and political circumstances, it is critically important to maintain an independent and qualified judiciary. The judiciary is an integral part of our democracy’s system of checks and balances that must remain free from influence in order to protect our individual rights. In order to preserve the integrity of our system of justice, we must ensure that judges are selected based on merit and not partisan or political considerations. While everyone, including judges, has opinions and perspectives on current events and issues, my job as a judge is to set those aside and rule only on the law and facts of each case as presented. Each case is of great important to the parties involved and demands equal and fair treatment under the law. That is my goal every day, and I am honored to be part of our Minnesota court system, one of the finest in the nation.
What else would you like voters to know about your candidacy?
I am committed to public service and to serving the citizens of Scott County and the 1st Judicial District, whose voters I trust to make good decisions.
Mr. Larson did not respond to Minnesota Lawyer’s request for information.