ST. PAUL -- Gov. Jesse Ventura lashed out Thursday at the political parties that endorsed candidates for judicial races, saying the action threatens the fairness and impartiality of Minnesota courts.
''We're traveling down a very dangerous road,'' Ventura said. ''The judicial system should not have partisan party politics with it. It is the one place where you want people to come forward with decisions based on law, not based on what their personal feelings are towards political positions.''
The Independence Party governor joins a growing list of elected officials and people in the law community to criticize the Constitution, Reform and Republican parties for endorsing judicial candidates. Other high-profile opponents include House Speaker Steve Sviggum, a Republican, and Senate Majority Roger Moe, a DFLer.
Ventura made the remarks during an event to announce the appointments of Thomas Bibus, Nancy Logering, James Reuter and Mary Theisen as district judges.
The GOP was the first party to endorse judicial candidates, when it considered them for Court of Appeals and Supreme Court seats at the party convention in June. Supporters said the endorsements were intended to provide voters with more information about candidates they generally know little about.
''Until we have a different system, and as long as we have an election system, people have a right to know something about the people they're being asked to vote for,'' said Tony Sutton, executive director of the Republican Party. ''Just because they're endorsed by a political party does not mean they're going to be an unfair judge.''
Candidates for judicial posts are prohibited by a professional code of conduct from seeking, accepting or using endorsements on a ballot. But parties can express their preferences on sample ballots they distribute to voters.
The Constitution Party also backed candidates, and the Reform Party, which Ventura formerly affiliated with, plans to do so this year. But DFL and Independence Party leaders were most critical of Republicans, who were accused of trying to politicize the judiciary.
George Soule, chairman of the Commission on Judicial Selection, said partisan endorsements don't necessarily provide more information to voters. Soule, who calls himself a Republican who leans independent, said the GOP decisions prove that.
During the convention, abortion and gay rights were two prominent issues discussed while delegates were deliberating over endorsements. The convention refused to endorse any sitting Supreme Court justices and also rejected three of four appellate judges up for re-election.
''It was a partisan litmus test based on narrow interests,'' Soule said.
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