State of Minnesota v. Jaimiah Lamar Irby. MN judiciary
In 2011, the Minnesota Supreme Court suspended Hennepin County District Judge Patricia Kerr Karasov on the grounds that she had resided outside her district. In re Karasov, 805 N.W.2d 255 (Minn. 2011). In 2011, before the suspension took effect, but after the period when she had resided outside the district, Judge Karasov presided over the criminal trial of Jaimiah Lamar Irby. After his conviction, he appealed the conviction, and the case was ultimately heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
He argued that his conviction must be reversed under Minnesota Statutes 351.02 which provides that an office "shall become vacant on the happening of" certain events, including "the incumbent's ceasing to be an inhabitant of the state, or, if the office is local, of the district, county or city for which the incumbent was elected or appointed, or within which the duties of the office are required to be discharged."
Even though the suspension had not taken effect, Irby argued that Judge Karasov's office had become vacant immediately upon her ceasing to reside in Hennepin County. Since there was no judge presiding over his trial, the conviction cannot stand, so his reasoning went.
This is obviously a compelling argument, since Judge Karasov ceased to be a resident of the district for which she was elected, the district where her duties were required to be discharged.
To avoid this result, the high court seized upon the first portion of this sentence. Judge Karasov was unquestionably a resident of Minnesota, and the requirement to reside in the district applies only "if the office is local."
The Court pointed out that district judges apply state law, they are state employees, and they are appointed by the governor of the state. After some lengthy analysis, it concluded that a district judge is not a "local" official for purposes of this statute.
Justice Anderson authored the Court's opinion, and it provoked a dissenting opinion from Justice Page. He noted that the Constitution demands that a judge remain a resident of the district during his or her continuance in office. He would have reversed the case and remanded it for a trial "before a duly-authorized district court judge."
For a recent Iowa case discussing the de facto official doctrine, see Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, et al., v. Environmental Protection Commission, et al.. It's likely that the issue will come up in the federal context, given the U.S. Supreme Court holding in NLRB v. Canning. And for an interesting case on whether a district judge is a "state employee", see Egeland v. State, 408 N.W.2d 848 (Minn. 1987).
No. A11-1852 (Minn. July 2, 2014).
Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.
Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).
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