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Increasing deafness causes Judge Stephen Aldrich to retire.

Aldrich says goodbye to the bench

This is Hennepin County District Court Judge Stephen Aldrich’s last week on the bench.

In June, Aldrich applied to Gov. Pawlenty for disability retirement. In his letter to the governor, Aldrich explained that severe deafness in both of his ears has progressed to the point that he is “no longer … able, consistently, to run the smooth courtroom that the public deserves.”

The judge stated that he is “both humbled and proud to have been given the chance to serve as a Minnesota Judge. The satisfactions derived from seeing family conflict lessened, drinking drivers rehabilitated, and fair trials for all are irreplaceable.”

Most recently Aldrich was in the news over his acceptance of a public reprimand from the Board on Judicial Standards in connection with comments he made during a criminal proceeding late last year, including referring to witnesses in the case as “a bunch of drunkards” and “incompetent” due to their alleged intoxication. The complaint was initially filed by WATCH, which observes judges’ demeanor during court proceedings.

Aldrich was first elected to the bench in 1996.


  1. If a judge addressed a pejorative to a party, attorney or witness, that might be a suitable ground for discipline. But to discipline a judge for speaking out loud what he is thinking about a case? Won’t we have better quality justice with more, rather than less, reason-giving and exchange of ideas? If the judge clams up, neither I nor opposing counsel gets an opportunity to try to address the judge’s concerns. Judges now must be concerned that they will land in the soup simply for being human beings inside the robe, and we’re going to see less honesty and less transparency in the courtroom. What a bad idea.

  2. I think Carol makes an excellent point here. Courtroom decorum and guarding against the perception of bias are important. However, the flip side of this particular disciplinary action is the potential chilling effect it could have on a judge’s ability to telegraph his/her concerns about a case. Not only is such feedback helpful to the lawyers, but it could also ultimately lead to a more just result.

  3. George Herbert~ Go not for every grief to the physician nor for every quarrel to the lawyer nor for every thirst to the pot.

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