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Important race on Minnesota ballot

ST. PAUL (AP) — Minnesota

voters may be fixated

on the presidential race or

other high-profile races, but

there’s an important race on

the back of the ballot.

Minnesota Supreme

Court Associate Justice Paul

Thissen is facing voters for

the first time since his appointment

in 2018. Challenging

him is frequent candidate

Michelle MacDonald, who is

making her fourth bid for a

seat on a court that has disciplined

her before over professional

conduct, and could

impose new restrictions on

her law license.

Both candidates are hoping

voters turn over their ballots

to the state’s nonpartisan

judicial races. In 2016, 26%

fewer votes were cast for Supreme

Court justice than for

president.

Thiseen, 53, of Minneapolis,

served 16 years in the

Minnesota House as a Democrat,

and was speaker from

2013 to 2015. He made brief

runs for governor in 2010

and 2018.

He also practiced law

for 25 years, arguing cases

before appellate courts as a

public defender, handling

complex litigation for large

and small businesses, advising

health care and longterm

care providers, and

providing free services for

victims of domestic abuse

and families with disabled

children.

Thissen told the St. Paul

Pioneer Press he views his

legislative experience as an

asset on the court.

“One of your jobs as

a judge is to step into the

shoes of the litigant, to hear

their views from their perspective,”

he said. “Having

traveled to all 87 counties

and talked to thousands and

thousands of people, I think

that experience… helps me

do that part of the job.”

MacDonald, 58, is a conservative

family law specialist

from West St. Paul who

gets more votes than challengers

in judicial races normally

do. She received 47%

in 2014 against Justice David

Lillehaug, 41% in 2016

against Justice Natalie Hudson

and 44% in 2018 against

Justice Margaret Churtich.

She said she’s running again

to “stop the corruption, the

legal tyranny which happens

with law enforcement, lawyers,

prosecutors and judges.

… The system is corrupt to

the core.”

MacDonald has been embroiled

in controversies. In

2014, she was acquitted of a

drunken driving charge but

later convicted of a misdemeanor

for obstruction of the

legal process. The Minnesota

Supreme Court suspended

her law license in 2018 for

60 days and placed her on

two years’ probation after

the Lawyers Professional

Responsibility Board determined

that she had committed

professional misconduct.

Last week, a court-appointed

referee recommended

to the Supreme

Court that she be placed on

supervised probation for a

year for causing “harm to

both the public and legal

profession.” The lawyers

board alleged she violated

her probation by again

falsely impugning Dakota

County Judge David Knutson.

He presided over the

2013 child-custody trial of

MacDonald’s client Sandra

Grazzini-Rucki, who was

herself later convicted of

hiding her two daughters

from their father for two

years.

“Can attorneys not talk

about bad judges? I guess we

can’t,” MacDonald told the

Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

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