Revisiting the open seat now that we are down to two candidates. Here’s what I wrote back in August. Two candidates were eliminated in the primary.
On the ballot in November:
I met Scott Flaherty in August; I met Adam Yang last week. I really liked both of these people. I want judges to be smart, thoughtful, good listeners, fair. Both Adam and Scott are smart, thoughtful, good listeners; both are clearly committed to fairness and justice.
Scott does heavily intellectual property law. Adam was actually planning to do IP law when he went to law school (he also has a degree in Engineering) but then he did an internship at the Neighborhood Justice Project and found criminal defense so interesting he’s never wanted to do anything else. He works in the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office.
Adam emphasized his experience, and one of the things Scott noted when we were talking is that he’s on the young side for pursuing a judgeship. (He offered an answer to the question of “why now,” which included losing a parent very young, and feeling like he should pursue the things he really wants to do sooner, rather than later.) Adam is older than Scott, and a more typical age for a judge. (Judges in Minnesota are required to retire at 70. Typical young judges are in their late 40s or early 50s — that gives them a good 20 or so years of service before they have to retire. You want judges to be experienced coming in, but you don’t want someone who’s already so old that by the time they know the job, it’ll be time for them to go. I mean, there’s a window; both of them are in it; Scott’s more on the early end of the window, and Adam’s at closer to the midpoint.)
Adam is Hmong; his family arrived in the US in 1980. He remembers crossing the Mekong River. He commented at one point that he wished judge positions were done by district, like County Commissioners, because you see so many suburban judges who don’t have very much of a clue about what the defendants are dealing with. As a public defender, Adam works heavily with juveniles, and manages an extremely heavy caseload. His endorsements include former candidate Greg Egan; Ward 7 Councilwoman Jane Prince; author Kao Kalia Yang (…wait, I think they’re siblings? I hadn’t realized they were siblings); and a number of people from the Hennepin County Public Defender’s office, which not super surprising but is always a good sign. (It’s a red flag when your coworkers don’t like you — just look at Ted Cruz.)
Scott has done a lot of pro-bono work related to government transparency and free speech issues. His supporters include several former State Supreme Court justices; State Representatives Jamie Becker-Finn and Tim Mahoney; City Council members Amy Brendemoen and Mitra Jalali Nelson.
Anyway, I’m just going to say again that I really liked both of these men and I think they’d both make terrific judges. They’ve both also applied through the committee that makes recommendations to the governor, and I really hope that whichever one of them loses is appointed at a later date. I wanted to write this update post even though I’m going to have to mull over which to vote for a bit longer. The good news for Ramsey County on this race is that either way we will have an excellent judge.