Justice Page appoints the contest panel

Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson recused himself from exercising the power to appoint the three judges who are to preside over the election contest brought by Senator Coleman in connection with the recount. As a result, the Court’s most senior member — NFL Hall of Famer Justice Alan Page — has been called upon to exercise the power of appointment.

Justjce Page has appointed three state district court judges to form the election contest panel. They are Stearns Country District Judge Elizabeth Hayden, Hennepin County District Judge Denise Reilly, and Pennington County District Judge Kurt Marben.

The AP’s Brian Bakst somewhat misleadingly portrays the makeup of the election contest panel by the poliitcal stripe of the governor who appointed the judge. Judge Hayden was appointed by Democrat Rudy Perpich, Judge Reilly was appointed by nominal Republican Arne Carlson (who has called on Senator Coleman to abandon the election contest), and Judge Marben was appointed by Independent Jesse Ventura.

Perpich’s appointments to the bench tended to be highly partisan. I think it’s fair to say that his tenure in office resulted in the creation of a commission on judicial selection commission including both attorneys and non-attorneys. The judicial selection commission has had the effect of tempering partisan influence on the appointment of judges to the state courts, especially at the district court level. For what it’s worth, Judge Hayden’s appointment to the bench predated the creation of the judicial selection commission.

Prominent members of the Minnesota bar have served on and chaired the commission on judicial selection. Among the prominent attorneys who have chaired the commission on judicial selection, for example, is Chief Justice Magnuson when he was in private practice.

I don’t know any of the three judges appointed by Justice Page or have any insight on the political coloration of the election contest panel. On the surface, it appears to me that Justice Page has sought to appoint a panel that could not fairly be subject to accusations of partisan bias, and my guess is that he has succeeded.

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