Minnesota Judicial Appointment Amendment (2010)

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Minnesota Judicial Appointment Amendment did not appear on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Minnesota, as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, after the state legislature failed to approve the measure during the legislative session. The session ended May 17, 2010.[1]

Voters would have been asked whether the current election method should continue or if an appointment method should be established.[2][3]

According to reports the measure specifically called for the creation of a selection panel that would recommend candidates to the governor for judicial appointment. Judges would have been selected based on merit and their performance while in office. However, at the end of each eight-year term judges would be subject to a retention election. Any vacant seats would be replaced by appointment. At the time, in 2010, Minnesota court judges were subject to elections every six years.[4]

Despite Rep. Steve Simon withdrawing his bill in April 2010 after it was predicted to be defeated in a House committee, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Rep. Ryan Winkler sent the bill to a different committee for consideration.[5] It didn't receive the required approval from the legislature.


  • Judge David Knutson, a Dakota County district judge, argued that the proposed judicial appointment measure should appear on the November 2, 2010 statewide ballot. In an editorial, published in The Star Tribune, he wrote, "Merit selection, coupled with retention elections, is the best way to keep our state courts competent and impartial, as well as to maintain the public's trust and confidence in that impartiality. Judges need to continue to make decisions based on the law and the facts of each case, instead of worrying about how their ruling might affect their next campaign." And added that it would be a disservice to prevent voters from casting their votes on the issue.[6]
  • Sen. Ann Rest said the proposed measure would help keep politics out of judicial elections. "There is less of a climate of these aggressive negative ads in a state that has retention elections than they are when you put someone up in opposition to a judge," Rest said.[7]


  • Judge Jack Nordby, a Hennepin County district judge, was opposed to the proposed amendment. In an editorial published in The Star Tribune, he wrote, "This amendment itself may well be unconstitutional...Our laws already provide for removal of judges from cases in which their impartiality can reasonably be questioned. Thus, even if someone managed to buy a judge, the chosen one could not hear the supporter's case. It is one thing -- usually benign -- to alter a constitution to strengthen individual liberties. It is another and ominous thing altogether to do so to abolish them." The amendment proposed in order to increase independence, Nordby argued, would do the opposite and decrease independence.[8]
  • Leaders of the Minnesota Tea Party Patriots announced on March 18, 2010 that they opposed the proposed judicial appointment amendment. Tea Party leader Antoinette Backdahl said the proposed amendment would undermine the "power of the people."[9]

Path to the ballot

See also: Minnesota legislatively-referred constitutional amendments

Proposed amendments are required to be agreed to by a majority of the members of each chamber of the Minnesota State Legislature. However, at the end of the legislative session on May 17, 2010 the legislature had not approved the measure, disqualifying it for the 2010 ballot.[1] In late May, supporters said they would propose the measure again during the next legislative session.[10]

See also

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Additional reading