The two candidates on the ballot:
DeAnne Hilgers is one of the newest judges on the court: she was appointed in 2017 by Governor Dayton. When I e-mailed Handley to ask if there was some particular reason he was running against Judge Hilgers, he sent me a badly-punctuated e-mail saying that she was incompetent and he thought she’d been given this job as a favor.
FYI, here’s how judges are chosen for appointment. If you want to be a judge, you apply to the Commission on Judicial Selection. Half the members of this committee are appointed by the governor; half are appointed by the State Supreme Court. To apply, you send a detailed resume, up to ten letters of recommendation, and give permission for them to see a bunch of things (including, I think, your tax returns). If you make it to semifinalist, you get interviewed. Finalists are put on a list forwarded to the governor for consideration.
This process has its faults. But no one who gets through it can be reasonably said to have been handed their job as a favor. (This is one of the reasons that I tend to just vote for incumbents: they’ve been heavily, heavily screened for temperament and capability by people who are in a much better position than I am to assess this stuff.)
Handley also claimed that “anyone who works in the Ramsey County Courts knows this and if they were telling the truth would have to concede that what I say is true. The Judges are afraid that if Judge Hilgers loses this election someone might run against them too. So they are hiding the truth from the public.”
Basically any claim that some enormous group is banding together to hide the truth from the public makes me deeply skeptical. Not just of the claims, but of the person making them.
DeAnne Hilgers was an immigration attorney before she became a judge, and worked in civil litigation. I sent her an e-mail to ask her about her process of learning to become a judge, and got a detailed reply:
At the beginning of my work as a judge, I was assigned like other new judges to shadow experienced judges on the criminal bench, then have them shadow me to ensure I was handling cases correctly. I also participated in new judge school, study regularly and have attended conferences for new judges as well as conferences for all state judges. I have purposefully sought out information and feedback from my colleagues and recently had a senior judge sit through four of my calendars as part of a new mentor program the court has started. It was affirming to get such positive feedback from her!
It’s honestly hard to assess an incompetence claim from outside the system but I will also note that Hilgers has a long list of endorsements and Handley has zero, and I don’t believe this is totally the result of people conspiring to hide the truth.
I am going to vote for DeAnne Hilgers.
Edited belatedly to add: a friend has a friend who works in the court system who also thinks that Hilgers is in over her head; someone who left a comment says that Handley opted to not seek or accept endorsements because he didn’t want to be beholden to anyone.
The problem with that approach is that (a) the vast majority of people voting in this race have zero inside information; endorsements are the only way to have any real sense of competence, and (b) not seeking/accepting endorsements really feels to me like applying for a job but refusing to provide references.