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Judicial Elections
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Becoming a Judge:

Judges serve for six-year terms to which they are, in theory, elected by the people. But the constitution (art. VI, sec. 8) provides that "whenever there is a vacancy in the office of judge the governor shall appoint in the manner provided by law a qualified person to fill the vacancy until a successor is elected and qualified." In practice, most judges are elevated to the bench not by election but by appointment. A judge appointed to a vacancy must stand for election "for a six year term at the next general election occurring more than one year after the appointment" (Minnesota Constitution, art. VI, sec. 8).

The Governor fills a vacancy with advice from a statutorily created Commission on Judicial Selection (Minnesota Statutes section 480B.01), made up of both attorneys and non-attorneys. The statute (subd. 8) requires that "the commission shall evaluate the extent to which candidates have the following qualifications for judicial office: integrity, maturity, health if job related, judicial temperament, diligence, legal knowledge, ability and experience, and community service. The commission shall give consideration to women and minorities."

Requirements to Become a Hennepin County Judge:

To be eligible for a judgeship, one must be a lawyer admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of Minnesota. The Minnesota constitution (art. VI, sec. 5) requires that "judges . . . shall be learned in the law." The statute establishing the Hennepin County municipal court (Minnesota Statutes section 488A.021) elaborated on that requirement by providing that "each judge shall be a person learned in the law who is admitted and qualified to practice in the supreme court of this state and is a resident of the county of Hennepin in this state." The prerequisites for admission to practice include graduation from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association, passing the written bar examination, passing a written ethics examination, and "good character and fitness" as determined by an investigation into a detailed set of standards. The rules for admission to practice are available online on the Board of Law Examiners’ Web site at http://ble.state.mn.us/

A lawyer need not join the Minnesota State Bar Association, since the Supreme Court and not the bar association regulates the practice of law in Minnesota (unlike many other states, where the bar association is not a voluntary organization, but rather an arm of the court system).

HCBA Plebiscite on Judicial Candidates:

In each election year that multiple candidates compete for election in at least one judicial race, the HCBA holds a plebiscite (a preference poll) among HCBA members to determine preference between candidates.  The results of the plebiscite are made public before the election. 



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