Our Opinion: Judges set example by working together; Cooperation should be much more common

Published 10:23 am Monday, June 13, 2016

The Minnesota Judicial Branch deserves credit for how it worked together to bring a third chambered judge to Mower County.

When Judge Christa Daily was sworn in at the Mower County Jail and Justice Center, Third Judicial District Chief Judge Jeffrey Thompson presided over the proceedings and spoke a lot about the unconventional path to bring a third judge to Mower County.

The move addresses a need in the county and the Third Judicial District, but a lot could have happened to prevent the change.

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Traditionally, the state Legislature creates new judgeships, but Thompson noted such action is rare — the last new seat came to the Third District in 2002.

The Minnesota Judicial Branch traces workload and case needs for counties and districts, and Mower and the Third District have long been under judged.

Since Mower County Judges Jeffrey Kritzer and Kevin Siefken took the bench in June 2014, the judge need hasn’t dropped below 2.7 judges for a quarter, and it’s often been as high as three judges.

Thompson attributed the need to things like a growing population, the local economy and high case loads, while adding the Destination Medical Center in Rochester will likely drive the need throughout the Third Judicial District.

Instead of going to the Legislature for a new judge, the Second Judicial District unanimously voted to vacate retiring Referee JoAnne Yanish’s position in the Second District, move it to the Third Judicial District and convert it into a district court judgeship.

Thompson spoke about how other judicial districts could have made a case to receive a new judge, but in the end the judges and Minnesota Supreme Court worked together to bring it to Mower and the Third District.

“Never have I been more appreciative of the ability of the judicial branch to serve the people of Minnesota and the cause of justice,” Thompson said Friday.

Thompson described the change as an example of government working together for the betterment of the people instead of its own interests.

We couldn’t agree more.

Let’s face it: It’s a time when our government is deeply divided and rarely works together. In Minnesota, the Legislature’s disagreements and inability to compromise led to a state session that ended without a bonding bill, a transportation bill or a tax bill. Nationally, the 2016 election is winding up to be a bitter one as Washington, D.C., is bitterly divided over several issues.

That makes it all the more pleasant to see the good example set by the Minnesota Judicial Branch when it took some simple steps: People cooperated, work together and sacrificed for the greater good.

Such acts should be much more common in government.