I think Andy hits on a basic difficulty with judicial elections in Minnesota. The state Constitution makes these positions elective but rules of judicial behavior and maybe general judicial norms disallow campaigning. But the thing that I find most appalling is the way judges routinely fail to fulfill their terms thus allowing the Governor to make appointments. The reality is that, that despite the Constitution, judges in Minnesota are almost exclusively appointed. Challengers are almost always opposed by an incumbent. The judges (the judicial branch) and the Governor (the administrative branch) contrive, and yes that is the appropriate word, to undermine the State's Constitution by essentially disallowing an open seat. We in this state have had one foot on the dock and one foot in the boat for many, many years. It is my hope the Constitution, above all, would be respected. If the Constitution presents problems then change it in the proper manner, not through the three-month-short-of-term resignation. Otherwise abide by the fact that judgeships are elective, fill out terms and let the best, or most persuasive, person campaigning and win.

Brian Bates, MacGrove

Andy Driscoll wrote:

First a tidbit about judicial elections. John Birrenbach may believe that
all judges should be challenged at election time, but suggests no reason to
replace any of them, let alone Judge Fetsch, whom he admits to knowing
nothing about. And what would you ask these judges to say in a campaign,
John? Their record - that is, their rulings - are public information unless
sealed. And why aren't the challengers raising that record as reason to
unseat them?

Charlie Swope suggests that maybe elections aren't all that great a way to
select our judges. It IS a two-edged sword to go either way on this matter
and some balance of selection plus accountability for judicial behavior and
temperament should be in place. That's all for another day. Now, to this
race.

I appreciate Ms. Sifferle's willingness to plunge into this cesspool of
political junkie-ism, but now that she's here, let us pose and posture a
bit:

This response from Ms. Sifferle is what I must characterize as double-speak.
I must point out some substantial contradictions in her claims:

1. This challenger claims she refuses to campaign negatively, but obviously
confuses candor with negativity. Further, she goes negative by implication
while refusing to campaign negatively. She states she'd be better than Judge
Fetsch and others want him replaced but tells us nothing about who they are
and why they want him off the bench.

This isn't negative? It's the worst kind of negative.

Your pledge, Ms. Sifferle, is little more than a smokescreen behind which
you can hide the differences between your qualifications and those of the
judge you believe should be replaced by you.

Give us reasons why you should replace Judge Fetsch.

What would make you a "better" judge than Judge Fetsch has been?

Who are those individuals and groups unhappy with Judge Fetsch? Why are they
unhappy with him? What about the job he's doing that makes them unhappy?

How can we know you're not aligned with those groups or prepared to advance
their agenda if you don't name them and state their objections to the job
Michael Fetsch is doing?

It is NOT negative campaigning to state the job-connected reasons for
unseating an incumbent whose record is public while yours is not, and what
it is about that record you deem wrong or insufficient for his retention on
the bench. His rulings? His judicial philosophy? His judicial temperament?
His courtroom demeanor? His demeanor in chambers?

Or is it really more personal? His wife? His kids? His voting record? What?
Do you consider a personal prochoice position enough to unseat him? A
prolife position?

Now here's a statement that surely can't be construed as negative:
"`I would like to improve on the way things are currently
being done. I believe I am more approachable, articulate, down-to-earth,
courteous, energetic, kind, and diplomatic than my opponent`"

Aside from knowing flat-out that Mike Fetsch is as approachable, articulate,
courteous, energetic, kind, and diplomatic a human being as I've ever known
in my life, probably more so than most, please explain your reasons for
stating this "nonnegative" assessment of Judge Fetsch.

As for your Cannon (sic) 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, the US Supreme
Court essentially removed many of those restrictions on issue campaigning
even though the code retain them, thanks to the ubiquitous challenger
Gregory Wersal and the Republican Party's immoderate wing attempting to put
the morality stances of sitting judges and candidates on the record.

In fact, most challenges to sitting judges are, indeed, based on morality
issues and any attempt to skirt those hidden agendas by hiding behind
judicial canons is disingenuous at best, utter dishonest . The presumption
had been that a judge's personal position on such issues should matter not
at all when deciding cases, even though, as a practical matter, judicial
interpretation (which is what the entire judiciary is all about) may flow in
one direction or another as long as it conforms to law - and precedent.

If one law conflicts with another, judges must resolve the conflict one way
or the other. The so-called - and incorrectly named - partial birth abortion
law has been struck down in two federal cases already because it conflicts
with a Constitutional right of privacy between a doctor and his patient and
doesn't provide for the procedure to preserve the health of the mother.

If the canons of judicial conduct prohibited Ms. Sifferle from responding to
the questions Minnesota Lawyer posed to judicial candidates, Minnesota
Lawyer would not have posed the questions at all. That makes Ms. Sifferle's
refusal to respond to them based on Canon 5 disingenuous and avoiding the
truth of her candidacy.

I also wonder whether groups and individuals unhappy with a sitting judge
and who encourage candidates to run against them are trusting that the mere
presence of of an opponent means that judge has done something to merit
opposition (besides his possible political position) - like alcoholic
behavior, abuse of his clerks, court staff and/or parties to cases,
especially women and women lawyers. Absent any stated reason to unseat him,
what specific issues will Ms. Sifferle cite as reason to throw Mike Fetsch
off the bench.

Andy Driscoll
Summit Hill



Date: Wed, 27 Oct 2004 09:43:22 -0700 (PDT)
From: Patty Sifferle <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

Thank you for your interest in my campaign for district court judge.  My
reasons for running are very simple.  I feel I have a lot to offer the
Ramsey County court system, and I believe I will be a better judge.  I have
pledged not to do any negative campaigning, and I will stick to that pledge.
I have been approached by many individuals and groups who are not happy with
the job that Michael Fetsch has been doing. I am not aligned or endorsed by
any of these, nor do I intend to pursue any type of agenda on their behalf.
Suffice it to say that there is a lot of negative campaigning that I could
be doing but am choosing not to.  I am running strictly on my merits to
serve, and because I would like to improve on the way things are currently
being done.  I believe I am more approachable, articulate, down-to-earth,
courteous, energetic, kind, and diplomatic than my opponent, and I will make
an excellent judge for Ramsey County. I hope you will vote for me on
November 2nd.

To respond to Joelle, you are correct that I did not give complete answers
to some of the issue-oriented questions presented by Minnesota Lawyer. This
is because Cannon 5 of the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct places strict
ethical restrictions on what judicial candidates may say and do.  Candidates
are not allowed to make any pleges or promises of any particular conduct
they will undertake when in office. Candidates are also discouraged from
speaking out on any disputed legal or political issues, particularly issues
that may possibly come before them as judge.  I believe the reasoning behind
these rules is sound and promotes an impartial and independent judiciary.
Voters should not be choosing candidates based on their views on disputed
issues, because judges have no authority to champion those views when in
office.  Judges take an oath to uphold the law and constitution objectively,
without regard to their personal beliefs or convictions.  Speaking out on
issues may m islead voters into believing that a judge will advocate for
those positions when in office, which of course, an ethical judge cannot do.
The idea is that judges should be chosen based not on their political views,
but on their integrity, experience, and committment to justice.  These
principles were discussed at a recent Continuing Legal Education course I
attended on judicial ethics.  I might add that there were very few, if any,
sitting judges in attendance.

I ended up on this forum unintentionally when one of my supporters posted my
information to the list.  However, I welcome the opportunity to participate
in this lively dialogue.  I hope you will read more about me on my website
at www.particiasifferle.org.

------ End of Forwarded Message

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