Denfeld News

Aug. 12, 2010
Duluth News Tribune

Cuzzo, Costley vie to be North Shore judge
By Mark Stodghill

Two Harbors lawyer Tim Costley said he remembers dozing off about
6:30 a.m. Wednesday with his laptop computer on his stomach and his wife, Chrystie, hitting the refresh button on the keyboard.

Costley eventually learned that he advanced to the November general election, where he will face Duluth lawyer Mike Cuzzo to determine which man will become just the third person to serve as the North Shore judge in nearly 60 years.

It would seem Costley has a huge hurdle ahead to assume a seat on the bench in Lake and Cook counties in courthouses in Two Harbors and Grand Marais. Cuzzo captured more than twice as many votes as Costley — 14,356 to 6,752 — in the 6th Judicial District judge primary race.

Costley doesn’t think the gap is insurmountable. He expects to gain some support from Lake County Attorney Russ Conrow’s supporters. Conrow garnered 4,731 votes for judge in the primary. He believes hard work will allow him to pick up votes from those who didn’t vote in the primary.

“I come from a family of hard workers,” Costley said. “Nobody is going to work harder than I do as a judge. I want people to be proud of their judge and think he’s going to be a good judge.”

Cuzzo and Costley exchanged congratulatory voice mail messages.

“I basically told Mike, ‘Thanks for running a clean and hard campaign,’” Costley said. “I look forward to going into the general election and handling it in a manner that will make our profession look good and make our fellow members of the bar proud of the way we conducted it.”

Cuzzo said he went to bed about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, got up at 3:30 a.m. to check vote totals and “felt pretty comfortable sleeping the next four hours.”

Cuzzo, 52, grew up in Duluth and graduated from Denfeld High School, the University of Minnesota Duluth and the University of Minnesota Law School. He has 26 years experience as a trial attorney.

Why does Cuzzo think he’s the person voters should make Northeastern Minnesota’s next judge?

“It’s the same message that we’ve been trying to get across prior to the primary,” he said. “I think I bring greater experience as a mediator and arbitrator to the table. I think people see me as fair, balanced and trusted. That’s why I am used in that capacity as a mediator, arbitrator and teacher.”

Costley, 42, was born and raised in Two Harbors. He has a law practice there with his father, Mitch, who is semiretired. He graduated from Two Harbors High School, the University of Minnesota Duluth and William Mitchell College of Law. He has 16 years experience as a lawyer.

Why does he think he’s the person most qualified to be the North Shore judge?

“Two things,” he said. “I have handled or litigated almost every kind of case that comes into a courtroom. I think you want in district court someone who understands the rules of evidence and procedure. And two, I think it’s important that the judge lives and works in the community that they are going to serve.
Because I think you are more accountable to the people that you serve. At the end of the day I don’t get in my truck and drive somewhere else. I’m in the grocery store. I’m part of this community. I know the people, families, law enforcement and the court staff. I think that helps you become a better district court judge.”

Cuzzo said he has ties to the North Shore. He has owned property in Tofte since 1987 and he and his wife, Diana, built their dream home in Lutsen five years ago.

“The North Shore has always been an important part of our lives,” Cuzzo said.
The final unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office showed Duluth lawyer Tim Little placing third with 5,606 votes, followed by Lake County Attorney Russ Conrow with 4,731.

Duluth lawyer Juhl Halvorson, 2,874; Northeastern Minnesota public defender John Lind, 2,219; Assistant Carlton County Attorney James Ross, 1,808; and Brainerd lawyer Lawrence Ulanowski, 1,165.

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

The judgeship pays a current annual salary of about $130,000. 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 November ballot in all four counties.

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