Aug. 12, 2010
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
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
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
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.