2018 MN Judicial Races

A guide to Minnesota’s 2018 contested judicial races

The Minnesota Capitol remains lit at 1 a.m. May 22, 2017, as lawmakers pressed toward the mandatory end of the 2017 session. Brian Bakst | MPR News 2017


In Minnesota, judicial contests are not exactly the most exciting thing on the ballot.

There are only eight contested judicial races out of more than 100 up for re-election on Nov. 6, and in many of those contests, the incumbent is in a strong position to return to the bench.

• Voter guide: Where candidates stand on the issues
• More: The top 15 Minnesota House races to watch

Plenty of people like their judicial races sleepy — judges are supposed to be nonpartisan, even if some candidates run under a party banner, and so far, Minnesota has avoided the kind of contentious, expensive supreme court elections that have cropped up in neighboring states like Wisconsin.

But when voters turn over their ballot on Tuesday, they’ll still have to pick a candidate in a contested race to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court, as well as a judge to serve for the next six years on the state’s Court of Appeals. And residents of Ramsey County will have a handful of contested races to sort through.

Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice

Margaret Chutich was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2016 by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton after applying for the job several times before. With her appointment, she became the first openly gay woman to serve on the high court, and she’s running for a second term on the bench after previously serving on the Minnesota Court of Appeals, in the attorney general’s office, and as an assistant U.S. attorney for Minnesota. She attended the University of Michigan Law School.

She’s being challenged by attorney Michelle MacDonald, who is making her third run at the Supreme Court. She’s a controversial candidate who had her license suspended by the Supreme Court earlier this year for her behavior in court, including repeatedly interrupting a judge and taking a photo in the courtroom. She was endorsed by the Republican Party in 2014 but the party has distanced themselves from her the last two election cycles. She received her law degree from Suffolk University

Court of Appeals

Lucinda Jesson is running her first re-election bid to the Court of Appeals, after being appointed to the bench by Dayton in 2016. Before that, she served as the governor’s commissioner of Human Services, leading a department that serves some of the most vulnerable populations in Minnesota and spends billions of state dollars every year. Before her work with Dayton, Jesson worked in private practice, in the attorney general’s office and served as a deputy Hennepin County attorney under now-U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. She studied law at the University of Pennsylvania.

Attorney Anthony Brown, who has worked on both criminal and civil cases, is challenging Jesson. Originally from Chicago, he moved to Minnesota to attend law school at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. He touts his experience working for the “underdog,” including civil rights cases and those where employees have been mistreated by their employers. He’s been chair of the Human Rights Commission in St. Paul and did work with the Innocence Project of Minnesota.

First Judicial District (Dakota County)

Arlene Perkkio is an incumbent judge who was first appointed to the court by Dayton in 2011 and re-elected a year later. Prior to her judgeship, Perkkio’s was a part-time public defender and started her own practice focusing on representing non-citizen clients in immigration cases. She got her law degree at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Martin “Marty” Judge (his website encourages voters to elect “Judge for Judge”) is a native of Dakota County who works in his own private practice focusing on areas of plaintiff personal injury claims and criminal defense work. He is running as a Republican. He also attended the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Second Judicial District (Ramsey County)

Incumbent judge DeAnne Hilgers was a reporter at The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota before going to law school at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She spent years as a partner at one of Minnesota’s largest law firms, Ballard Spahr, before being appointed to the Ramsey County District Court bench by Dayton in 2017.

Thomas Andrew Handley Jr. is a public defender in the district and is challenging Hilgers this year. He has worked on a number of criminal cases and highlights the fact that he is a member of the “recovery community,” which he said gives him important insights into parts of the job that other judges don’t have.

Second Judicial District (Ramsey County)

Scott Flaherty is a partner at Briggs and Morgan, P.A. in Minneapolis and practices in the areas of intellectual property, as well as commercial, regulatory and criminal matters. Last session, he represented lobbyist Sarah Walker, who alleged former Republican Rep. Tony Cornish sexually harassed her dozens of times while she tried to do her work in St. Paul. He attended the University of Iowa College of Law.

He’s running against Adam Yang, a public defender in Hennepin County public defender’s office in the juvenile justice unit. He’s a founding member of the Hmong American Bar Association. He previously worked as an attorney with Neighborhood Justice Center, Inc., a non-profit criminal defense organization in St. Paul. He earned his law degree from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Second Judicial District (Ramsey County)

Judge Robyn Millenacker was appointed to the bench in Ramsey County in 2010 and won re-election in 2012, becoming an expert on sex-trafficking cases in the state. Before becoming a judge, she attended the University of Minnesota Law School and worked in private practice on product liability, business litigation and intellectual property disputes. She also served as assistant United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota.

Her challenger, Marcus Almon, started his legal career in the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office while attending law school at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. From there, he worked part time in the Ramsey County Public Defender’s Office in the juvenile division.

Second Judicial District (Ramsey County)

Incumbent Judge Tony Atwal was appointed to the bench by Dayton in 2016. It’s his first run for re-election as a judge, after serving several years in private practice and nearly a decade as an assistant appellate public defender in the state office. He studied law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. In May, the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards reprimanded Atwal for violating their code of conduct after he was caught driving while intoxicated on New Year’s Day.

He’s being challenged by Paul Yang, a Hmong refugee who came to America as a child. He grew up in Ramsey County and worked as a legislative aide. He started his own practice, working in criminal law, family and personal injury law. He’s also a part-time as a public defender for the state. He got his law degree from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Second Judicial District (Ramsey County)

Incumbent Judge Elena Ostby was first appointed to the district court by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2004. She’s won re-election twice since then. Before becoming a judge, she worked in her own private practice for several years. Ostby got her law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School.

Attorney Calandra Revering is challenging Ostby. She’s worked in the Ramsey County Attorney’s office and previously maintained her own private practice and served as interim director of the Neighborhood Justice Center. She went to Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Correction (Nov. 3, 2018): An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Thomas Andrew Handley Jr.’s occupation.


Star Tribune Twisted Tabloid Coverage

MacDonald for Justice

MacDonald Defamation Suit Against Brodkorb

Judge takes MacDonald, Brodkorb motions under advisement

A Ramsey County judge early Thursday heard arguments in Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald’s defamation suit against blogger and former GOP party operative Michael Brodkorb.

Ramsey County District Court Judge Richard H. Kyle, Jr., heard competing motions in a one-hour hearing before taking the matter under advisement.

MacDonald’s motion seeks a default judgment in her favor. Brodkorb and his co-defendant, Allison Mann, are seeking summary judgment to dismiss the case.

Continue Reading: https://minnlawyer.com/2018/11/02/judge-takes-macdonald-brodkorb-motions-under-advisement/


Dirt-Digging Journalism
Defamation by Implication 
Weaponized Information
Michael Brodkorb Sued for Fake News 
Supreme Court Candidate Michelle MacDonald



On March 25, 2015, Michelle MacDonald filed a Complaint against Dakota County Deputy Sheriffs, the Fluegel Law Firm and others seeking injunctions and money damages for more than twenty claims including False Arrest, False Imprisonment, Conspiracy, and Malicious Prosecution.

MacDonald’s lawsuit, filed in the District of Minnesota federal court, stems from her representation of an indigent mother in family court pro bono. MacDonald sued Judge David Knutson on behalf of this client for violations of constitutional rights that separated the client from her children and stripped her of all assets and property.  MacDonald filed the federal class action lawsuit against Judge Knutson and sought to recuse him from her client’s case. During the trial the next day, MacDonald was handcuffed and detained  by Dakota County Deputy Sheriffs for taking a photo while court was not in session. On Judge Knutson’s orders, MacDonald was required to complete her client’s trial in handcuffs without her client present.

As detailed in the lawsuit, MacDonald alleges Deputy Sheriffs employed up to seven of the eleven internationally recognized forms of psychological torture while she was in their custody from September 12th to September 13th, 2013. MacDonald was, further, disallowed a single phone call and Deputy Sheriffs threatened her with 30-days of additional detention for no specific reason. Deputies acted with the aid of City Attorneys at Fluegel Law Firm whom they claimed would merely file a “motion” with the court to allow them to continue to detain MacDonald without cause.

MacDonald notified lawyers for Dakota County and Judge Knutson of her intent to file a lawsuit. In response to MacDonald’s detailed notice of claims, Dakota County lawyer James Backstrom filed a frivolous complaint with the Minnesota Lawyer’s
Board in a retaliatory attempt to disrupt her lawyer’s licensing. Judge Knutson’s attorney at the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office just flatly refused to comply with the request to preserve evidence of the detention and torture. Neither presented facts to refute the claims made by MacDonald. The case was dismissed for immunities and was appealed and argued in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on October 17th, 2018.

According to MacDonald’s then attorney, Nathan Busch, “[o]ur Constitution guarantees every citizen inalienable rights of due process before arrest and detention to prevent exactly the outrageous tyranny Dakota County officials have inflicted on Ms. MacDonald. However, the words of the Constitution have no meaning unless our Judiciary both respects and abides by those words. When the Judiciary refuses to do so and instead retaliates against attorneys like Ms. MacDonald who are asserting their rights and the rights of their clients, then both the Judiciary and the State have become the very tyrants that the founders of this country sought to banish.”


Dirt-Digging Journalism

Star Tribune Twisted Tabloid Coverage

Star Tribune Twisted Tabloid Coverage

Justice Margaret Chutich                         Attorney Michelle MacDonald


The Star Tribune Tabloid recently came out with more biased coverage of the MN Supreme Court race between Michelle MacDonald and Margaret Chutich. “In bid to stay on Supreme Court, Margaret Chutich faces repeat candidate Michelle MacDonald” Dayton appointee Margaret Chutich faces attorney with a history of legal problems.  By Stephen Montemayor Star Tribune.

The article states that, “Chutich achieved a distinction when she joined the court more than two years ago as its first openly gay justice.”

In Lambda Legal, Chutich says, “If there are gay attorneys, gay people thinking about going to law school, I think it’s important that they know there aren’t barriers to their dreams,” Chutich told members of the press.

I don’t think gay people have ever thought they can’t be an attorney, a judge, a doctor etc. because of their sexual preference and Chutich seems to be promoting the victim mentality. It also seems to me that Chutich is using sexual orientation for political and economic advancement. A persons gender, race or sexual preference should not matter when appointing a judge or any other position and merit and ability should be the only factors considered in any job.

Montemayor wrote, “MacDonald said she views Chutich’s marital status as her right but cast it as a “liberal view” counter to MacDonald’s conservative philosophy.”

The Star Tribune article goes on to state that MacDonald is running her third campaign for Minnesota Supreme Court. Margaret Chutich also applied three times for an appointment to the state’s high court before Gov. Mark Dayton finally chose her in 2016. Again, the headline was Dayton selects first openly gay judge for state Supreme Court.

Judge David Knutson     First Judicial District

The Strib reports that MacDonald had her law license suspended due to professional misconduct, but conveniently left out what the professional misconduct entailed. Michelle MacDonald sued Judge David Knutson on behalf of a client and reported him to the Board of Judicial Standards for unconstitutional actions and violations of constitutional rights that, among other concerns, separated the client from her children and stripped her of all assets and property. Judge David Knutson just happens to be the Vice Chair of the Board of Judicial Standards and retaliated against MacDonald for attempting to hold him accountable.

In a December 26, 2013 letter MacDonald complained about “ongoing retaliation” against herself and her client, warranting investigation. She alleged evidence of improper case assignments, usurping of court files, and failing to report or involve the juvenile court and child protection by Judge Knutson.

On March 11, 2014, she reported that “the retaliation against myself and my client has been continuous, and is overwhelming.”

On November 15, 2016, an evidentiary hearing took place before a Referee appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court, where Judge Knutson and Ms. MacDonald testified. 

On January 3, 2017, the Referee issued findings and recommendation, and adopted almost all of the Director’s proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations nearly verbatim.

The Referee found that Ms. MacDonald violated Rule 8 (a) by making made false statements in reckless disregard for the truth concerning the integrity of the judge as follows:

  • Respondent’s statement regarding Judge Knutson’s lack of impartiality “since day one” was false and made in reckless disregard of the truth.”
  • The “factual allegations” within the federal lawsuit were, in part, false and made with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.
  • The Referee found also that “The letters to the BJS include the same complaints made within the federal lawsuit. As with the federal lawsuit, Respondent’s statements were false and made with a reckless disregard as to their truth or falsity.”
  • And finally, the referee writes: “Respondent’s on-going statements and “factual allegations” within the federal lawsuit’s Amended Complaint were false and in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity.”
  • Consequently, in a conclusion of law, the Referee claims: “The Director has proven by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent’s false statements made with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of those statements about Judge Knutson’s impartiality and integrity in multiple forums violated Rule 8.2(a) (MRPC) and Rule 8.4(d) (MRPC) “(82a)

The federal district court dismissed all of the claims in the complaint, describing them as “futile” and noting that “nothing in the record supports the[m].”

When asked at the disciplinary hearing about the basis for her allegations, MacDonald responded, “[t]he
record speaks for itself.”

From Montemayor’s Strib article, In 2014, the Minnesota Republican Party initially endorsed MacDonald’s high court bid. But the party distanced itself after it learned of a pending drunken driving case. She was eventually acquitted but convicted of refusing to submit to a breath test and obstructing the legal process during her traffic stop.

Michelle’s case was a traffic stop, and more accurately an unlawful pullover.  Michelle did not have any alcohol on the night she was stopped without probable cause.

  1. After dialogue with the officer about the reason for the stop, she was not asked to take a Breathalyzer or perform a field sobriety test.
  2. She asked to see a judge pursuant to Minnesota Statute 169.91 as it was obvious this officer was using questionable measures to fill his quota and was clearly abusing his power and authority. Any citizen can invoke this statute however, as can be seen from this incident, the system does not take kindly to exposing those who are not playing by the rules.
  3. Michelle was held and released from the Rosemount Police Station with NO CHARGES filed against her.
  4. On her own initiative, she went directly to a hospital for a drug and alcohol blood test to put to rest any questions about this incident. The tests came back zero alcohol and zero drugs. 
  5. Michelle filed an employee complaint against the Police Officer who unlawfully pulled her over.
  6. In response, she received a Citation in the mail with five criminal charges against her including charges for driving under the influence.
The Result: Jury convicts Michelle MacDonald of test refusal and resisting arrest.

MacDonald also filed a complaint against the GOP and several party leaders. She alleges the party threatened her and spread false information about her campaign in an effort to get her to exit the race. She said the party was in violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Shocker, the complaint was dismissed by a judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings.

In her 2016 run for MN Supreme Court, MacDonald was endorsed by the Republican Selection Committee but inadvertantly stated it was the Election Committee. For this she was also punished.

The Star Tribune stated that, “MacDonald’s bid is again seen as a long-shot by court watchers.” 

Clearly this race is not a long-shot or the Establishment wouldn’t be so intent on demonizing and discrediting MacDonald.

Michelle MacDonald for Minnesota Supreme Court


Board chief: Michelle MacDonald CLE expense looks legit

Dirt-Digging Journalism

Attorney Michelle MacDonald

Kevin Featherly is a journalist who covers the Minnesota State Capitol and the judiciary for Minnesota Lawyer. In reality, he’s just another hack writer that excels at molehill mountaineering.

Most readers are aware that Attorney Michelle MacDonald is running for MN Supreme Court. In a recent Minnesota Lawyer article, Featherly proclaims “Board to query Michelle MacDonald’s listing of CLE’s as campaign debt” (Excerpts Below)

There is a $525 bill for “Minnesota Continuing Education,” located at 2550 University Ave. W., St. Paul. Lawyers’ continuing legal education classes are taught at that address, though the institution’s proper name is “Minnesota Continuing Legal Education.”

Reached Wednesday, MacDonald said none of the unpaid obligations listed are actual debts. She has paid the expenses out of pocket, she said, so the listings are all money that she owes to herself.

“I am not in a big hurry to pay myself back and that is why the debts are still showing up,” she said. That includes the CLE credits, she said.

Jeff Sigurdson, the Campaign Finance Board’s executive director, said Wednesday that the CLE expense looks unusual.

It’s not a clear violation, he said, and it might be permissible if the course or courses taken relate directly to elections—a course on election law, for example.

“If it isn’t related to her campaign, then it’s not appropriate,” Sigurdson said. “I don’t know what that particular expense is for, but it is a question.

On Thursday morning, MacDonald sent an email to Minnesota Lawyer asserting that the CLE credits earned were legitimately election-related.    

“It was a class for the election law, a special class where all the judges running and their campaign committees were invited to attend,” she wrote. “I paid for it and have not been reimbursed.”  

In a follow-up email, MacDonald said the credits were earned “at a conference held on June 27, 2014, on Judicial Campaign Law” at Minnesota Continuing Legal Education. However, a source at Minnesota CLE said no such conference has been held there in the 11 years he has been an employee.

Sigurdson said Wednesday that the Campaign Finance Board will reach out to MacDonald’s campaign committee for an explanation.


Email exchange between Featherly and MacDonald after article was published.



On Oct 12, 2018, at 9:28 PM, Michelle Macdonald <michelle@macdonaldlawfirm.com> wrote:


Dug this up. Please correct your story.

Thank you.


On Oct 12, 2018 11:08 PM, Kevin Featherly <kfeatherly@minnlawyer.com> wrote:


Thanks for sending me this.

Unfortunately, you called it a “conference” in an email to me and that’s what I asked the institution about–whether they’d held that conference on the date you gave me. The guy there said that the institution’s electronic record system changed over in 2015, so he couldn’t trace their CLE class history back as far as 2014. But he said definitively that they don’t do conferences there. From memory, his approximate quote to me was, “We wouldn’t do that and we haven’t in the 11 years I’ve worked here.”)

What you’re saying now–accurately, it certainly appears to me–is that you attended a “special seminar,” not a conference. That suggests the meeting you attended was all about small-group instruction. By calling it a conference you left the impression that you attended a large gathering where part of the proceedings involved at least one big common-audience presentation and lots of structured breakout groups. That at least describes the conferences I’ve attended. That would be an event that Minnesota Lawyer likely would have covered–and of course, we didn’t. That impression of a “conference” is what the guy at Minnesota CLE was reacting to.

I can see how you could casually conflate those terms (“seminar” and “conference”), but I had no reason to guess that you might not mean exactly what you said. It’s too bad their computer record cut off one year too late or I probably would have learned of the special seminar on my own, because I did ask them about the event you described on the date you gave me. They just didn’t have that information accessible in that way.

I don’t think a “correction” is in order exactly, since I correctly reported what I knew based on the information you gave me in writing and what the institution told me based on that information.

However, I do agree that the record needs to be clarified based on these images you’ve sent. That seems pretty definitive evidence to me and I can’t imagine you’d have that stuff if you hadn’t actually been there. So I agree with you that we need to report that we have new information and that it appears to better bear you out.

It’s the weekend now and I don’t have access and am not authorized to publish directly to the website. And anyway, we might want to report this out as a short follow up story so I can ask Jeff Sigurdson if what we now know might not actually fill the bill as an acceptable campaign expense–as he suggested already in an interview that it might. In any case, this has to wait until Monday. But it will be job one when I get back to work after the weekend.

Thanks again for flagging down those images and sending them to me.


Hack Michael Brodkorb had to get in on the action too…


Image result for quotes about politics and media


Perplexing Blunders

Plain-spoken sheriff said he couldn’t ignore flaws in Jacob Wetterling case

Don Gudmundson stunned the state with a blunt critique of the 27-year child abduction investigation and its perplexing blunders.