An award-winning Anoka County judge is facing censure and a six-month suspension for residency violations and allegedly trying to conceal them.
A report, filed by a three-person panel for the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards, concluded that District Judge Alan F. Pendleton failed to live within his judicial district, as required by the state constitution, during several months last year when he lived at his wife’s house in Minnetonka.
The panel also found that Pendleton violated judicial conduct rules when he used an outdated address when filing for re-election in 2014.
The Minnesota Supreme Court will rule on the panel’s recommendations.
Pendleton, 60, who won an outstanding judge award from the state in 2012, has 60 days to appeal.
“I will recommend that he appeal this decision,” said Doug Kelley, Pendleton’s attorney. “He’s willing to be responsible for his mistakes, but the sanctions [six-month suspension without pay] are way out of bounds.”
Pendleton testified that he was “filling in a short-term gap” between Anoka County addresses while he dealt with pressing family issues, according to the report. After selling one home, his search for another residence in Anoka County was delayed while he and his first wife decided whether to transfer one of their sons to a different school, which would have required one of them to relocate to the attendance area for that school.
Pendleton admitted that using an out-of-date Anoka County address on his affidavit of candidacy was an “error of judgment,” but denied any “intent to deceive the electorate,” the report stated.
However, the panel concluded otherwise. “The panel finds Judge Pendleton’s testimony that he lacked any intent to deceive incredible when viewed in the context of the whole record,” the report stated.
Pendleton admitted from the beginning that he’d erred in using the outdated address, Kelley said. “He was willing to accept responsibility and a public reprimand for that.”
Pendleton, who currently rents an apartment in the 10th district, always intended to return to and reside in his judicial district, Kelley said. “A key piece of evidence” did not appear in the report, Kelley added, referring to a note produced by the manager of a storage facility Pendleton rented to store his furniture. The note said, “Client will call soon to move back to Anoka.” That note was written “before there was a hint of an investigation,” Kelley said.
Pendleton’s move back to Anoka was delayed by complicated circumstances. “He was dealing with a severe family emergency ... and he was all-consumed with getting that taken care of,” Kelley said.
Kelley also criticized the panel’s investigation. “There are real issues with how the board handled this case,” he said. During the inquiry, Pendleton was asked “out of bounds” questions, including “when he started having sex with his current wife.” The panel also introduced key evidence the night before the trial, Kelley said, giving Pendleton and his legal counsel no time to prepare.
Pendleton was appointed to the 10th Judicial District by former Gov. Jesse Ventura in 1999. His outstanding judge award cited his commitment to improving the judicial system and innovative use of technology to enhance judicial efficiency.
The judicial residency case has precedent. In 2011, Hennepin County District Judge Patricia Kerr Karasov was censured and suspended without pay for six months by the Minnesota Supreme Court for living full-time in a Chisago County lake home, then not cooperating with an investigation. She did not seek re-election and is no longer an active judge.
Staff writer David Chanen contributed to this report.