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Michelle MacDonald, Justice Paul Thissen
Michelle MacDonald, Justice Paul Thissen

Bar Buzz: MacDonald files for Supreme Court

Perennial candidate faces discipline, but won’t sit out election

It’s official—and no one paying any attention is the slightest bit surprised.

Perennial Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald is continuing her up-to-now quixotic quest to win a seat on the Supreme Court.

MacDonald, 58, has run for the state’s highest court during every election cycle since 2014 and gave every indication she planned to do it again this year.

The reason seems the same as the one she gave back in 2014, when she competed against incumbent David Lillehaug: “I’ve always wanted to be a judge.”

This time, MacDonald will run against sitting Justice Paul Thissen, 53, a 2018 appointee who is competing to win his first full, six-year term on Supreme Court. He is an experienced campaigner, having been a former DFL House speaker and eight-term legislator representing Minneapolis.

MacDonald filed for the 2020 election on June 1. Thissen filed by mail, but his candidacy papers were mark as received by the Secretary of State’s office on May 26.

Though MacDonald is seen as something of a fringe candidate, she has never received less than 40% of the vote in any of her previous Supreme Court bids. In her first run against Lillehaug, she polled a solid 46.5%.

In 2016, while losing badly to Associate Justice Natalie Hudson, MacDonald nonetheless won just short of 888,000 votes, a personal best.

Should she win election—depending on the timing—there is the weird prospect that MacDonald might one day have to stand at the podium facing her colleagues, rather than sit next to them on the bench.

The Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility has filed a three-count petition against MacDonald, partly for filing a “factually frivolous” defamation suit against writer Michael Brodkorb. It asks the Supreme Court to revoke her current probation and to further discipline her. MacDonald denies all counts and has asked for an in-person hearing to contest the allegations before a court-appointed referee as soon as that can be safely done.

Both Thissen and MacDonald list their party as “nonpartisan.”

Election Day is Nov. 3

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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