This is a state-wide race: it is on everyone’s ballot. I almost didn’t notice it was contested, because the challenger didn’t have a website up in time to get it linked from the voter info portal site I use to see what the races even are.
An appeals court judge doesn’t oversee trials; they oversee appeals (working with two other judges), and then not only make decisions but write an explanation over their thoughts about the case, the legal rationale for their decision, etc. (Writing duties are shared.) When Judge Jesson found out she was going to have an opponent, she set up a website and put up all her opinions. So you don’t have to rely on endorsements; you can sit down and read as many as you want to get a sense of her judicial philosophy and how she decides a case.
One thing to know going in, if you haven’t read a lot of legal opinions before, because this can be counterintuitive. If you read something that says, “Defendant Smith appeals his conviction, arguing that statements made to the jury at trial were prejudicial. We affirm,” this isn’t saying that the judge is agreeing with defendant Smith; it’s saying the opposite, that they’re affirming the previous verdict and rejecting the appeal. (I mention this because even though I know this I mis-read it, repeatedly.) “We reverse” means a previous decision is overturned. “We remand” means it’s being sent back to a lower court for reconsideration. It’s not uncommon for something to be reversed in part, remanded in part, and affirmed in part. (Okay, that one’s not common, but it’s also definitely not unheard of.)
I found these fascinating reading, but I’ll warn you that some are also really disturbing. State v. Guzman-Diaz, from the first page of decisions, is a child rape case. Further in, there’s a series of child protection cases where a parent is challenging termination of parental rights that make for heartbreakingly depressing reading.
If you’d like a sample that reflects a situation I find kind of hilarious rather than deeply depressing, though, have I got a pair of decisions for you! The late (recently late! she died very unexpectedly in January, of sepsis while on a trip to South America) Sarah Janecek, local political commentator, had a long-running feud with her next-door neighbor, Lee Rosenthal, with whom she shared a driveway. As relations deteriorated, Rosenthal put up a bunch of cameras. In 2013, Rosenthal caught her on video kicking over his garbage can. This apparently went to trial and she was acquitted of stalking and trespassing but convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. She appealed. Jesson affirmed. Janecek also at some point filed for a harassment restraining order against Rosenthal because of those cameras, which she said were pointed in her windows. The initial judge tossed this; she appealed. Jesson remanded that decision and said that the judge erred because if they actually were pointed in her windows that was in fact a major invasion of her privacy. Anyway, her obituaries suggested that she was generally a lovely woman, but both she and Rosenthal sound like incredibly annoying neighbors, and this feud was the essence of “rich people behaving badly” — this all took place five blocks from Lake of the Isles.
Anyway! I am not a lawyer, but my impression after having read Jesson’s opinions is that she’s fair, thoughtful, and smart.
Her website actually glosses over her resume in places. She has a really impressive resume, and you can see it laid out in more detail along with her responses to questions on the MN Bar site.
A.L. Brown does have a website, but in order to find it I had to hunt him down on Facebook, where he posted up a link to his website late last week, and Google still doesn’t find it when I search “Anthony L Brown for Judge” in an incognito window, so I’m pretty sure he really did just get this site up.
You can also watch a two-minute video of him talking about why he wants to be a judge, you can see his page at his law firm, and you can read his MN Bar Association questionnaire. This news article has a little coverage of each of them, including Brown saying he decided to run against Jesson because she has been on the bench for the least time.
I looked at all this stuff and was not impressed. If there’s one thing appellate judges are expected to do, it is write like they’re running out of time: “Almost every week on the Court of Appeals, a judge decides six cases, authoring two of those opinions,” Jesson said in the MNBA questionnaire. And you can see not only from her opinions but from her questionnaire and her website that she is someone who has the discipline to do that. Brown, on the other hand, did not get his website up until a month before the election.
And I am impressed by Lucinda Jesson, and will enthusiastically vote for her.