Wanted: Judge for Faribault County
Who will be the next Faribault County District Court judge?
That is a very good question. The answer is, no one knows, yet, but the process for selecting the next judge is underway.
Current judge Douglas Richards retired as of last Wednesday. The day before, on Halloween, potential candidates for his position were being interviewed in Mankato.
“There is a group called the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection,” Judge Richards explained last week. “They solicit judicial candidates, interview and evaluate them, then make a recommendation to the governor for appointment.”
Richards says there are 49 members of the commission. There are 27 appointed by the governor, and 22 appointed by the Supreme Court. There are four from each of the 10 judicial districts in the state, and nine are at large. About half need to be attorneys while the other half cannot be.
Not all 49 commission members will be conducting the interview process for the open seat in Faribault County. Richards says he expects about 14 commission members conducted the interviews on Oct. 31 and will make the recommendation to the governor. Those 14 will be commission members mainly from the Fifth District. After a person is appointed by the governor to be a judge, they then must stand for election to the position at the next general election that is at least one year after the appointment. Then they must stand for re-election every six years after that.
The names of any applicants are not public information until they are sent to the governor, Richards says.
However, potential candidates do need to be graduates of a law university, be in good standing as a lawyer, and live somewhere in the Fifth Judicial District.
That means any attorney who lives in the 15 counties that comprise the Fifth Judicial District, could apply for the opening in Faribault County. Even if they, say, live in Marshall in Lyon County.
Judge Richards says that every time a sitting judge retires, the question of whether to replace that person is studied. It is possible that a judge would not be chambered in Blue Earth at the Faribault County Courthouse.
However, Richards continued, there will be a new judge chambered here. And that is good news.
“There are 15 counties in the Fifth District, but not every county has a judge chambered in it,” Richards explained. “There isn’t one in Lincoln County, for instance.”
While there are 17 judges in the 15 counties in the Fifth District, some counties have more than one, others have none, or share one with another county.
Richards is not sure when the governor will announce a new judge for Faribault County or the one in Watonwan County. Judge Bradley C. Walker there has decided to be chambered in Mankato, one of four judges there.
With Judge Richards retirement official as of Nov. 1, some of the other judges in the Fifth District will be filling in at the Faribault County Courthouse. At least for the month of November.
Richards is required to take a month off when he retires, but after that he can come back which is just what he will do.
“I will come in and work starting Dec. 4, if there is not a new judge appointed by then,” Richards says. “I’ll stay around until there is a new one here.”
And after that, his real retirement will begin in full force.