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St. Paul, Minn. — The two contested races for Appeals Court positions feature politically appointed incumbents facing lesser-known challengers.
RA Randall, who goes by Jim, was first appointed to the Appeals Court bench back in 1984 by Governor Rudy Perpich. He's the second longest serving appellate judge in the state. Randall describes himself as compassionate and committed to social justice. Aside from his lengthy legal career, he's active in a number of inner city support groups. He's a volunteer resource person for Native American inmates in state correctional facilities. Randall hopes his experience will attract reelection votes.
"In this race I have good credentials of 21 years on the bench and 17 years as a private attorney and 17 years as the chief assistant public defender in northern Minnesota on the Iron Range," says Randall.
This is the fourth time Randall has run for re-election but this is the first time he's has a challenger. Dan Griffith of International Falls has practiced law for the past 11 years. He's married, has four children and is active in his church. Griffith is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and William Mitchell College of Law. He calls Randall a "decent gentleman." But he says Randall's age means its time for a change.
"Frankly he was first appointed back a couple of decades ago so he is already at retirement age," says Griffith. "When people say who are you running against I say I don't know that I am running against Mr. Randall so much as the political appointee who would be replacing him when he retires because he is reaching that age in office."
The Minnesota State Bar Association lawyers vote every year on who they would prefer to win judgeships. This year the poll overwhelmingly supported Randall's candidacy with 88-percent of lawyers voting in his favor. In the same poll, David Minge, who is also running for reelection, received 90-percent of bar association votes. Minge's a former Democratic congressman who was appointed to the bench two years ago by Governor Jesse Ventura. He says judges should remain politically impartial. He also says voters should do some research before going to the polls.
"What are the backgrounds of the candidates? What have they done professionally? How have they conducted themselves in their communities? Have they been even handed with leadership? Are they careful decision makers? Are they committed to being fair," says Minge.
Minge's recognized as a talented jurist and has the support of some big names including former Vice President Walter Mondale.
Minge's challenger is attorney Paul Elliot Ross. He runs a law practice in Shakopee. He's a republican activist who two years ago co-chaired a group called the "The Committee on Judicial Transparency." The group was responsible for sending out a questionnaire to candidates in the 1st Judicial District asking for their views on issues like abortion, homosexuality and school prayer. Ross describes his approach to interpreting the law as conservative.
"I'm opposed to general philosophies that tend to bring I guess you would call it a liberal mindset to issues when in fact you have law in front of you that is already longstanding and solid and should not in my view be disturbed," says Ross.
Two other State Appeals Court judges are also up for reelection this year, but in both cases they are running unopposed.