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Coverage of Minnesota Supreme Court judicial election candidates Lorie Gildea and Dan Griffith.

Minnesota Supreme Court, Chief Justice: Gildea v. Griffith

Lorie Gildea


Date of Birth: 1961

Education: University of Minnesota, Morris in 1983, BA with honors, graduated in three years with a 4.0 grade point average, received the Royal Society of Arts Silver Medal as the University of Minnesota’s top undergraduate. Georgetown University JD in 1986, Editor of the American Criminal Law Review. A consistent Dean’s List student, magna cum laude and received the national Order of the Coif award.

Employment: Arent Fox, Washington, D.C. – 1986-1993, University of Minnesota, Office of the General Counsel, 1993-2004, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, 2004-2005. Hennepin County District Court 2005-2006. Minnesota Supreme Court – Associate Justice 2006-2010. 2010-Present Chief Justice.

Professional Associations: Minnesota State Bar Association, Hennepin County Bar Association

Community Activities: Member, Central Lutheran Church, Clothes Closet (Central’s ministry to the homeless), Member, Twin Cities Dunkers, Member, National Reining Horse Association, Member, American Legion Auxiliary

Hobbies/Interests: The National Reining Horse Association. I also closely follow several Gopher women’s sports teams.

Family: Married

Website: www.chiefjusticeloriegildea.com

Why did you opt to become a judge?

I want to continue serving as Minnesota’s Chief Justice because I love the law. I can think of no better way to honor the State that has given so much to me than by continuing to serve the people of my home state as their Chief Justice, leading the Judicial Branch and pursuing work that I do well and enjoy. I am committed to preserving equal justice under the law, the rule of law in guiding our society and the guarantees of liberty, safety, and democracy in Minnesota. I seek to continue this work because it is crucial and because I am good at it.

What is the most important personal quality in a judge?

The Chief Justice must be an innovative leader, effective manager, able negotiator and a persuasive advocate for the justice system. During my years of service as Chief Justice, I have shown that I have all of these qualities. The Chief Justice, like the other justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court, must be a generalist with the intellectual capacity and work ethic to become an expert in all of the areas of law that are at issue in the wide variety of cases that the Court is called on to decide. Justices must be clear, effective communicators, both orally and in writing. My record demonstrates that I have these qualities. All judges must be impartial and nonpartisan, beholden to the law, not to political party platforms. When people come into Minnesota’s courtrooms, they should not have to wonder whether their judge will be fair and impartial; they should have confidence that this is in fact the case. During my service on the Supreme Court, I have proven myself to be that type of judge, one who applies the law to the facts in a fair, unbiased and nonpartisan way.

Why should voters select you rather than your opponent?

In Minnesota, when something works, we keep it. I work very well on the Supreme Court as Minnesota’s Chief Justice and the people should keep me there. In my almost seven years on the Supreme Court, I have helped the Court make decisions in thousands of case, and I have authored over 100 opinions. When I took over as Chief Justice over two years ago, Minnesota’s courts had suffered years of budget slashes, and backlogs were building. I was successful in reversing that trend, and am leading reforms that are cutting backlogs and will reduce future costs. My broad base of support is confirmed in the poll conducted by the Minnesota State Bar Association, where I received 93% of the votes cast. For a complete listing of my public supporters, please go to www.chiefjusticeloriegildea.com.

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

Since taking over as Chief Justice, I have led the Judicial Branch through the 2010 gubernatorial recount, the unprecedented government shutdown in 2011, and the legislative redistricting process. I am also proud of the reform initiatives that I am leading that will help the Judicial Branch be more efficient and effective for the people of Minnesota. But the biggest accomplishment during my time as Chief Justice is our success in securing full funding for the Judicial Branch’s budget request for the current biennium. We achieved this success despite the historic budget deficit facing our state by assembling a broad base of support and by taking our case to the people of Minnesota.

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

The Minnesota Supreme Court is respected locally and nationally; the trust and confidence that the people have in us is something that must be retained and strengthened. The members of the Court individually and collectively understand and respect one another and the value of collegiality. We also each understand how fragile that collegiality is and how destructive its absence can be as we look at other courts around the country that have not been able to maintain it.

How can those issues be realistically addressed?

The respect that the people have for the Minnesota Supreme Court can be maintained if we continue to ensure that the most qualified people serve on the Court, people with integrity and the skills and credentials necessary to do the hard work that comes with serving on the highest court, and people who are committed to maintaining the collegiality that is one of the hallmarks of our state’s highest court. In the race for Chief Justice, my record demonstrates that I am that person.

What can the court do to address its funding deficit?

As Chief Justice, I am leading reforms that are making the courts more efficient. But justice is a human endeavor and in order to be effective, the Judicial Branch must have the judges and staff necessary to fairly and justly resolve the 1.6 million cases that the people bring to us each year. The judiciary has as a priority the strengthening of the public’s education regarding the core government function of the courts in a democratic society.

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

The implementation of eCourtMN, which was started under my leadership, will help make all of Minnesota’s courts more efficient. Through this project, we are moving the judiciary into the world of the electronic case record, making it possible for judges, attorneys and staff to view documents electronically and simultaneously. Public case records will also be able to be viewed by members of the public electronically, without requiring them to come to the courthouse.

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

Judicial decisions must grow from the facts and the law, not from party platforms and politically-grounded promises.

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

I am the only candidate with experience doing the job and because my record proves that I am good at it. My record of service demonstrates that I am a person of principle, someone who believes in the rule of law, understands the value of precedent, and believes that a judge should exercise her judgment, not impose her will. I am a clear and effective communicator. I am an innovative leader and a good manager. It matters a great deal who leads the Minnesota Judicial Branch, the third branch of our state government. This race is too important for political niceties, so I will be direct. In terms of academic qualifications, prior work experience, leadership capabilities, management abilities, communication skills, work ethic, nonpartisanship and impartiality, my opponent cannot come close to my record of achievement. I am an effective Chief Justice. I ask for your vote and support.

Dan Griffith


Date of Birth: 1962

Employment: Education: Juris Doctor, William Mitchell College of Law, Saint Paul, MN, 1993; Bachelor of Arts, University of Minnesota, 1988. Major in History with double concentration, Minor in South Asian Studies. G.P.A. 3.52/4.00, Dean’s List, History Honor Society; Associate of Arts, Rainy River Community College, International Falls, MN, 1985. Dean’s List, Honors

Professional Associations: 2011-12 President, 15th District Bar Association, Minnesota State Bar Association, American Bar Association, Bois Forte Tribal Court Bar, Minnesota Supreme Court Bar, U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota Bar, U.S. Court of Appeals Bar, Koochiching County Bar Association—past President, Judicare member for NE and NW Legal Aid, 2008 Winner of the Legal Services Award for providing outstanding legal service to the disadvantaged.

Community Activities: Attending track, cross-country, football, wrestling and swimming events that our four boys are involved in (This one takes the most time, but is also the most fun.), Children’s Justice Initiative Committee Member, Red Cross Volunteer/former Board Member, Friends Against Abuse former Board Member, Radio Station KBHW Board Member, Church, Life Care Center former Board Member, 4-H Volunteer, The American Legion

Hobbies/Interests: Camping with friends and family, Partridge and Deer Hunting, Going to the coffee shop with my sons to watch movies/shows on the laptop, BBQ

Family: Wife Debbie, Four sons. Marco, 18; Peter, 14; Joey, 13; and David, 10.

Website: www.griffithforjudge.com

Why do you want to become a judge?

Judge and US Supreme Court nominee, Robert H. Bork said, “The Constitution … is the highest prize and control of the selection of judges is the last step on the path to that prize. Why? Because the Constitution is the trump card in American politics, and judges decide what the Constitution means.” It is time the trump card is played in the people’s favor by applying our Constitution fairly and fully. I see the freedom we had when I was a child slipping away. I am running because it is time to stand up for our state and country while we still can. I am proud to be an American and believe we need to be Americans first. We are the UNITED states, not the divided states. For too long we have separated ourselves into opposing parties or groups. If a house divided against itself cannot stand, then how can a state or country? When people ask me what party I am I tell them I am an American.

What is the most important personal quality in a judge?

Humility. Judges need to remember they serve the people and therefore should be chosen by them and accountable to them.

Why should voters select you rather than your opponent?

I offer a servant’s perspective as Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. A good leader motivates, doesn’t mislead and doesn’t exploit. Judges are and should always be “public servants.

What experience have you had in dealing with the court on which you wish to sit?

I have practiced law for nearly 19 years, served our country in the military, and litigated 100s of cases in court. I have worked as an Assistant City Attorney, Assistant County Attorney, Adjunct Professor and a Judicare member for two legal aid services. In 2008 I was awarded the Legal Services Award, “In recognition of providing outstanding legal work making a difference for the disadvantaged.”

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

I think many in the judiciary have forgotten that their job is to listen to the facts, find the truth, and apply the law/Constitution, not rewrite it. As Patrick Henry said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”  For too long our government has grown unchecked by the limitations placed upon it by our Constitution. This has led to our present crisis where government is too big and people are too small. Government is important and necessary, but is also like fire, which needs to be controlled. Fire can heat your home. It can also burn it down. Workers do not want to destroy the company they depend upon for their livelihood. They just want a seat at the table. In the same way, our Constitution is what is supposed to control the size and scope of government and only Judges tell us what it means.

How can those issues be realistically addressed?

Judges who are held accountable for their decisions through meaningful elections will also remember they are above all—servants of the people. Lafayette Emmitt, Minnesota’s first Supreme Court Chief Justice said, “If the people are incapable of selecting their judges, they are also incapable of selecting the man who is to appoint the judges.”

What can the court do to address its funding deficit?

The same thing every American citizen has to do everyday. Assess what things we absolutely need and can afford and budget accordingly.

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

I am a big fan of technology and use an iPad regularly in Court. I like the concept of e-filing and other efficiencies that technology provides.

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

Listen to the facts, find the truth and apply the law, do not rewrite it. They also need to follow the Constitutional requirement for the selection of judges. The MN Constitution states, “Judges SHALL be elected by the voters …”

Many judges have circumvented the election requirement by making a practice of not completing their last term in office, which triggered a power granted to the governor to appoint a successor. This appointment power also exists for other offices and was intended to be used as a stop-gap when something unexpected occurred like when Sen. Paul Wellstone tragically died in a plane crash several years ago. On our current Supreme Court only one of the seven Justices was first elected as our Constitution prescribes.

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

I believe we are at a crossroad. Part of the reason is our government has grown too big and people have become too small. We keep sending people to Washington with the same message of reasonable government and reasonable taxes. They come back with bigger government and higher taxes. Our Constitution can restrict the growth and scope of government in our lives and only Judges tell us what it means.

One comment

  1. Tom and Julie Bentley

    I am voting for Dan Griffith on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. I believe his values, and that he has a family, and cares about us as people. I also am glad that he loves Jesus who is in control of us all.
    The Bentley Family

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