Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Book of Judges

Then the Lord raised up judges...
—Judges 2:16

Most years, I confess, I go into the voting booth entirely unprepared to decide between candidates for seats on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Under the Minnesota state constitution, justices are chosen by voters, unless a vacancy occurs between general elections, in which case a provisional appointment is made by the governor. This year, Minnesota voters will be asked to fill two seats on the Supreme Court, and again the names on the ballot will be unfamiliar to most people.

The first race pits incumbent Paul Anderson against challenger Tim Tingelstad. Tingelstad's campaign website reveals him to be an extreme fundamentalist Christian who argues against the separation of church and state, claiming that "the Church must return to its vital role of supporting and influencing the state." This, for example, is what Tingelstad says about Christianity and the public schools:
The Word of God was originally the cornerstone of this Nation’s public education system. The Bible is not an unconstitutional book. Instead, God’s Word is the only solid basis upon which to teach morality. When we removed the Bible from the public education of our children, we did not remove religion, we merely replaced the religious belief in the living God with a religious belief in the god of materialism and chance.
Tingelstad clearly believes that the Bible, not evolution, should be taught in public schools, and would undoubtedly bring that belief to the judicial bench. He says: "God's Word is the Light of Truth. As God's Word has been removed from our public lives, the resulting darkness has led to our present social disorder and political divisions. The correction of these problems will only begin when the Light of Truth is returned to our land's highest hills, the Supreme Courts."

This man should be kept at a safe distance from public office.

The other Supreme Court race is between incumbent Lorie Skjerven Gildea and challenger Deborah Hedlund. The Twin Cities chapter of the League of Young Voters originally endorsed Hedlund as a reaction against the conservative Pawlenty-appointee Gildea—then retracted their endorsement when they discovered that Hedlund was "a rabid right-wing Christian homophobe."

There are important issues, and occasionally some unpleasant surprises, lurking at the bottom of the ballot. It's best to come prepared.


Jim H. said...

And in the appeals court race, Dan Griffith of International Falls is running (again). Mr. Griffith's web site lists a number of endorsements, one of which is from his 9-year-old daughter. She says he'd make a good judge because he's a Christian.

Christopher Tassava said...

Thank you for this post, Rob. It'll be helpful next Tuesday. Gotta love that race for SC 4. Can I vote for Judge Dredd? How about Judge Reinhold?

Anonymous said...

Check out the October 21 article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about Supreme Court candidate Deborah Hedlund.

1. In my opinion, Hedlund is a BIGOT. She replies to an e-mail that is titled "Can a Muslim be a Good American?" which lists ten reasons why the answer is "no" by writing back "Matt, we speak the same language."

2. In my opinion, Hedlund is an IDIOT. She hit "reply all" when she sent her message of hate.

3. In my opinion, Hedlund is a LIAR. She told reporters that she had not read the bigoted e-mail or its subject line when she sent it.

Minnesotans should not vote for a judicial candidate who is a bigot, an idiot, and a liar. Dump Hedlund!

Rob Hardy said...

The story from the Pioneer Press, referred to in the last, anonymous comment, can be found here.

Shan said...

Rob, I'm so glad for this post; thank you. I confess that I typically go to the polls likewise uninformed when it comes to the judges. Thank you so much for this info.

Anonymous said...

The sources for each statement are from the Star Tribune or the Pioneer Press, with dates.

Minnesota Supreme Court candidate Deborah Hedlund is held in contempt in the Minneapolis Courthouse where she is a trial judge.

Who holds Deborah Hedlund in contempt?

THE OTHER JUDGES: The Star Tribune reported on January 12, 1997 that around the judge's chambers in the Hennepin County Court House, Hedlund is "known behind her back as Judge Ding Dong."

THE LAWYERS IN HENNEPIN COUNTY: The Hennepin County Bar Association polled its members on the legal skills and courtroom managment of the county's trial judges in 1994 and 2000. Hedlund was the only judge who finished in the bottom three in the two surveys. The Star Tribune reported on April 19, 1994 that Hedlund was at or near the bottom in "civil and legal expertise," "judicial demeanor," and "case management skills." On the same day, the Pioneer Press reported that Hedlund's rating as a judge was "below the level deemed `average' in the scoring system." On June 6, 2000, the Star Tribune reported that Hedlund ranked at or near the bottom in "legal expertise on civil and criminal matters," case management skills," "judicial demeanor," "fairness," and "lack of bias."

LAWYERS IN HER OWN COURTROOM: One of the most respected and reserved prosecutors in Minneapolis is Robert Streitz. In one case before Hedlund, it had been worked out that the identity of a juvenile witness would be protected. The Star Tribune reported on May 29, 1993 that Hedlund sat idly by while the defense council named the mother of the shielded juvenile witness. Goaded by Hedlund's potentially fatal inaction, Streitz exclaimed, "Your Honor, may we approach the bench? Jesus Christ!"

HER OWN DIVORCE LAWYERS: The Star Tribune reported on November 23, 1999 that Hedlund had been sued by one of her attorneys in her most recent divorce for $88, 127 and had a lien placed against her homes by another of her divorce lawyers for $45,512. In her latest divorce, her attorneys had worked to get her living expenses of $16,000 per month and her share of disputed diamonds and artwork, a $1.5 million lake home in Wayzata, and a $400,000 condo across Lake Minnetonka in Excelsior.

REPORTERS IN HER COURTROOM: The Star Tribune reported on April 14, 1993 that Hedlund ejected a reporter from the courtroom during preliminary phases of a controversial murder trial. "She also warned other reporters present not to pry into the upcoming case, at the risk of being removed themselves." It is easy to see why she would not want reporters prying into her low-rated "legal expertise on civil and criminal matters," case management skills," "judicial demeanor," "fairness," and "lack of bias."

New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .