Denfeld News

August 1, 2010
Duluth News Tribune

Eight lawyers vie for 6th District judgeship
By Mark Stodghill

The field to become just the third judge in nearly 60 years to dispense justice from the Lake County Courthouse in Two Harbors and the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais includes two criminal prosecutors, a public defender and five lawyers with private practices.

One candidate has spent only $302 on his campaign and another has invested more than $22,000 to fill a judgeship that pays an annual salary of about $130,000.

The candidates in the Aug. 10 primary for 6th Judicial District judge are Russ Conrow, Lake County Attorney; Timothy Costley, a private attorney in Two Harbors; Mike Cuzzo, a private attorney in Duluth; Juhl Halvorson, a private attorney in Duluth; John Lind, a private attorney/public defender in Duluth and on the North Shore; Tim Little, a private attorney in Duluth; James Ross, assistant Carlton County Attorney; and Lawrence Ulanowski, a private attorney with offices in Brainerd, Duluth and Minneapolis.

The lawyers are vying to replace Judge Kenneth Sandvik, 62, who announced that he plans to retire at the end of the year after being appointed by former Gov. Rudy Perpich in 1984. Before Sandvik, Judge Walter Egeland settled legal disputes on the North Shore starting in 1952.

Because the 6th Judicial District includes St. Louis, Carlton, Lake and Cook counties and its judges can hear cases in all four counties, the candidates will be on the ballot in all four counties. Voters will pick one candidate and the two who receive the most votes will advance to the November general election.

Through July 19, the candidates reported to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board the following expenditures: Cuzzo, $22,269.93; Costley, $12,042.19; Halvorson, $4,777.74; Little, $4,247.41; Ulanowski, $3,288.36; Conrow, $1,054.38; and Lind, $302.06.

Lind said the money he raised in campaign contributions — about $600 — was donated to the Lifehouse for homeless children. Ross’s campaign finance information wasn’t available Friday.

All eight candidates cite their experience in law among the reasons to vote for them. How does a voter decide? Duluth attorney John Kelly, appointed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to sit on the Commission of Judicial Selection, provided an opinion when asked. Kelly said to contact a lawyer and ask about the candidates, not for recommendations, but to get insights into how respected they are in the legal community.

“What do you want to know?” Kelly asked. “You want to know if the person is a person of good character, if he or she is a person who has displayed good judgment in life. Is this a person who has exhibited a capacity to listen? That’s very important in a judge. They should have a character of even temperament and fair mindedness because we want people on the bench who are patient and civil and respectful and treat everybody who comes into the courtroom as a citizen and human being and get equal treatment under the law and really mean that.”

Sandvik, who has heard cases in all six courthouses in the judicial district, would like to see the winning candidate be someone who invests himself in the communities in which he serves. A judge can live in any part of the judicial district. Sandvik said it would be a good idea for the new judge to live in the Two Harbors area, where two-thirds of his cases will be heard. The judge will travel about 85 miles to Grand Marais six or seven times a month to hear the other third of his cases.

“I think that the people on the shore would be better off to have somebody up here,” Sandvik said. “People talk about going to the shore and how people like to recreate, hunt and fish and hike. From my perspective, this is our home. There’s a certain resentment of tourists and people who don’t put in their time up here and are not here.”

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