When Minnesota voters turn over their ballots in this election, they will find columns of court decisions from the district courts to the Circuit Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court.
But of the 105 judge seats up for election, only one is contested. It will be held by Scott County Judge Charles Webber, who was appointed by Gov. Tim Walz in May 2021 and faces his first election.
The seat is in the First Judicial District, which includes Carver, Dakota, Goodhue, Le Sueur, McLeod, Scott and Sibley counties in the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities. Judge candidates cannot speak on matters that might come up in court, but any attorney can run for office in the county in which they live, and that’s exactly what Matthew R. Hanson of Prior Lake is doing.
Webber, 56, said he sought an appointment at the bank so he could create the same nurturing, collaborative environment his mentors created for him. He described learning from “judges who wanted to get the right answer but also wanted to be warm and polite to one another”.
The judge was a partner at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath in Minneapolis, where he tried civil cases for three decades. His work has ranged from his first individual lawsuit involving a Renville County farmer whose heifers were stolen to an international tax dispute.
“I’ve done a nice variety of stuff that has given me a great background for what I know,” Webber said. He describes himself as “experienced and independent”. He’s trying to spread the word through his campaign website, online ads, lawn signs, and savvy friends.
Webber, a native of New Hope, earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Minnesota and his JD from the University of Chicago Law School.
His challenger grew up in Prior Lake, earned a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in St. Paul in 2018 and a JD from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law. Hanson, 31, said he campaigns full-time and doesn’t practice law. He said his legal work has included research, trusts, estates and commercial disputes.
He agreed to only answer questions via email and did not respond when asked if he had tried a case. Hanson’s campaign page is a Twitter account. He described his electoral strategy as “talking directly to voters”.
Hanson wrote that he ran against Webber because the judge studied law in Chicago and had “no apparent ties” to Scott County. “Justice is best served when judges live in the county and have a deep understanding of the people of the county in which they sit,” Hanson said.
In response, Webber said, “I think the folks in Scott County, which is a few hundred yards from mine [Lakeville] house, aren’t that different from the people I’ve met in this community, having lived here for the past 31 years.”