Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Natalie Hudson deserves election Nov. 8 to a full six-year term on the state’s highest court. More important, Minnesotans will be well-served by keeping this able and seasoned judge in her key post.
Voters are often puzzled by contests for judgeships. They typically have little information about the candidates, and aren’t certain how to measure judicial qualifications.
Our advice: Look for experience, intellect and independence of mind. These are qualities Justice Hudson has in abundance, making her race — the only statewide contest this year — a refreshingly simple one.
Hudson, 59, joined the state Supreme Court last year, appointed by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura had originally placed her on the bench when he named her to the state Court of Appeals in 2002. Those 14 years considering and deciding many hundreds of cases of every imaginable kind followed a lengthy and diverse career as a lawyer for the state attorney general’s office, as St. Paul’s city attorney, as a law school administrator and as a Legal Aid attorney representing needy clients.
Simply put, Hudson has surveyed the legal landscape from an exceptional range of vantage points. Her broad understanding of the stakes involved in a court’s work is evident in the emphasis she places on delivering not just a correct outcome but a fair and respectful process for all who come before the bench. And it shows in her thoughtful approach to what she calls a judge’s “tussle” between faithfully following the literal texts of laws and applying them flexibly to new situations.
Just last week, Hudson authored a decision for a 5-0 court that demonstrated some thoughtful tussle. Her carefully reasoned opinion overturned the conviction of a felon found in possession of a BB gun. Hudson explained that while the state may reasonably desire to forbid felons from possessing harmful devices like air rifles, such a “gun” is not currently what state law defines as a “firearm.” It is up to the Legislature, not the court, she said, to rewrite the law.
Hudson’s opponent on Nov. 8, Michelle MacDonald, 54, a private attorney, does not possess a background or temperament that stands up to comparison with the incumbent’s.
Voters should take care not to skip over this vitally important race. They should seize the chance to elect an extraordinarily well-qualified Supreme Court justice — Natalie Hudson.