As far as attorney Greg Wersal is concerned, the Minnesota judicial election system has some major problems that can be attributed directly to judicial activism.


As far as attorney Greg Wersal is concerned, the Minnesota judicial election system has some major problems that can be attributed directly to judicial activism.

“Voters have no idea who the judicial candidates are,” said Wersal last week during a visit to the American-News office. “There are 106 candidates running this fall, and only eight are opposed. That’s a symptom of a dead election system. Actually, it’s been stolen.”

Wersal, who is running for the Minnesota Supreme Court against incumbent Helen Meyer this year, has been fighting since the late 1990s what he views as unconstitutional restrictions placed by the Minnesota Supreme Court on judicial candidates’ right to free speech.

“The justices have repeatedly violated candidates’ constitutional rights,” he said. “They have stolen an entire election system. It’s outrageous.”

His latest crusade is against a constitutional amendment being proposed that would eliminate judicial elections and create a system in which all judges would be appointed by the governor. Wersal says he has testified against this proposed amendment at numerous legislative hearings, calling it “constitutional malpractice.”

“The government has to be accountable to the public,” said Wersal. “If it isn’t, it becomes dangerous.”

Wersal is not averse to taking on the state Supreme Court in his crusade for free, open and competitive judicial elections.

He filed in federal court with the Republican Party in 1998 a lawsuit challenging rules created by the state Supreme Court that prohibited judicial candidates from attending and speaking at a political party gathering, and also prohibited them from seeking, using or accepting a political party endorsement.

In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the rule which prohibited judicial candidates from stating their views on legal issues. In 2005 the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the rules which prohibited judicial candidates from seeking a political party endorsement, attending political party gatherings, and personally soliciting campaign funds.

When asked whether accep­ting campaign funds for judicial races would taint the legal system, Wersal replied it would not because of the $2,000 limit placed on individual donations. He suggested another limitation was needed to prohibit lawyers from making contributions to judicial candidates.

Wersal further suggested it would be well to reduce the amounts raised and spent on judicial campaigns, and also to get public funding into the process.

Wersal is presently challenging in federal court the Minnesota law which places the word “incumbent” on the ballot next to the name of an incumbent judge. He argues the designation gives the incumbent an unfair advantage.

A hearing was scheduled before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last week.

Wersal grew up on a family farm near Redwood Falls. He has practiced law for the past 30 years in Golden Valley and Belle Plaine. He and his wife, Cheryl, moved to Belle Plaine two years ago.