Governor Dayton Appoints Christina Wietzema to Fifth Judicial District

On 23rd October 2012, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced the appointment of Christina Wietzema as District Court Judge in the Fifth Judicial District. Ms. Wietzema will replace the Honorable Bruce F. Gross who retired on 3rd August 2012 but is still serving as the judge whilst his replacement is seated. Judge Gross served as the judge on the bench of the District Court for the County of Cottonwood for 23 years. Now that he has retired, the Fifth Judicial District has moved to merge the judgeship of the District Court for the County of Cottonwood with the District Court for the County of Murray. That the District Court did so raises important issues under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; however, those issues will not be addressed in this post. The seat of Judge Wietzema will be chambered in both Cottonwood County and Murray County.

Before her appointment, Ms. Wietzema worked as an Assistant Public Defender for the Fifth Judicial District where she represented indigent clients in all areas of public defense. As an Assistant Public Defender, her office was in Trimont, Minnesota, and she had her residence in Worthington, Minnesota, which is in Nobles County approximately 35 miles south of Windom, the county seat of Cottonwood County, and approximately 60 miles southeast of Slayton, the county seat of Murray County. Prior to becoming an Assistant Public Defender, Ms. Wietzema represented clients in family law, real property and criminal law as an associate attorney with Bernardy & Scholl. Wietzema is a member of the Rock Nobles Community Corrections Advisory Board and is a volunteer mock trial judge.

The Fifth Judicial District is comprised of the counties of Blue Earth, Brown, Cottonwood, Faribault, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock and Watonwan.

5 Responses to “Governor Dayton Appoints Christina Wietzema to Fifth Judicial District”

  1. Jacob Holck Says:

    Whilst I am disappointed you did not get the judgeship, I have done research on the new judge. She appears to be an outstanding jurist. I wanted to let you know that on PBS (the Pioneer Station) there was an excellent program on Judges in Minnesota and it specifically focused on a case involving Phillip Morris. MN Supreme Court Justices Helen Meyer, Alan Page, and Barry Anderson spoke on the program. If I can get ahold of a copy of it, would you like to view it? What are your plans now?

    • Jacob and my audience:

      The risk of using publicly available information to assess the qualities of any political appointee is that such information can easily be filtered and spun by political hacks to justify the appointment of individuals merely as a reward for being of service to the upper echelons of political power for a number of years.

      As to my future plans: It was my ambition to become the county attorney for the County of Cottonwood, so the appointment of Ms. Wietzema, whilst disappointing, did not present itself as an encumbrance to my long-term political plans.

  2. Jacob Holck Says:

    I am glad to see that you are still determined to seek the County Attorney position. And the people I have spoken with in truth, were probably political hacks. One included a member of the Board of Judicial Selection, who is a Legal Aid Attorney in Worthington. Unfortunately the crowd of people from Worthington in the public eye seem to be incompetent. The Mayor of Worthington who is running for State Senate, looks like a member of ZZ Top and has long been a thorn in the sides of the citizens of Worthington and the Candidate for State Rep is at best a frigid woman whose only purpose of running for office is because she seems to have an axe to grind with Rod Hamilton. Earlier this year you and I had a discussion about the DFL Party and I am wondering why you think they are having a hard time finding decent candidates to run. (the exceptions being Amy Klobuchar, Collin Petersen, and Tim Walz) Do you think ONoodle will pull it off tomorrow?

    • Jacob and my audience:

      Thank you for your comments. Whilst I recognize that hazards that lie before me, I have chosen to speak out about our judicial system because I have a deep abiding respect for the law and believe that the judicial system should exist only to protect society both from extremist within and the tyranny that may rise from above. It is my position that the judiciary is no place for political patronage. It is no secret that our country has lost a considerable amount of faith in the judicial system; by speaking out, it is my hope that others will learn about what is happening and lend their vote to restore the faith of all americans in our bench.

      I find it extraordinarily reprehensible that the Legal Aid Attorney from Worthington, whom you stated that you had spoken with about the candidates, related any position whatsoever about the candidate, the process, or the merits of any of the nominees. I call on that individual to immediately resign from the Judicial Selection Commission for breach of duty to the Commission and to the judiciary and, failing that, the governor must immediately terminate the service of that individual.

      I went through the process with the Judicial Selection Commission and now have first hand experience and knowledge as to what happens in the interview room. One could say that I am bitter about not being appointed. Certainly, I was disappointed but I am certainly not bitter. As I have already stated, it has been, and always will be, my ambition to be the county attorney. During the process of collecting the paperwork necessary for my application, a voter in Cottonwood County, who did not want Nick Anderson to become the judge, raised a petition on my behalf. He suggested raising the petition and asked whether there could be any adverse effect on my candidacy or law license. I answered that the petition would be far more important than either my candidacy or my law license. I am aware of only a few signatories to that petition; however, it seems that several hundred people had signed it. During the interview session with the Judicial Selection Commission, one of the interviewers asked a question about that petition that I interpreted as being an attempt to find a reason for ignoring the stated will of the sample of the voters in Southwest Minnesota. He seemed to not be too happy when I answered, honestly, that I did not know who signed the petition save for a small handful of individuals. As history has recorded, I was not nominated to be on the shortlist to be sent to the governor.

      When the individual who raised the petition found out that that document had been ignored by the Judicial Selection Commission, he stated that: “that is just not right.” Upon his own initiative, he raised a letter, which was signed by a considerable number of people who signed the petition, that was sent to the governor. That letter expressed the frustration of the voters that their voices had been ignored by the Judicial Selection Commission and that the governor would be making a decision without the benefit of ever having seen the original petition. It is not at all clear as to whether the governor ever saw the original petition or read the subsequent letter.

      Upon inspection of the shortlist for the judgeship, it is readily apparent that the primary qualification for the position, in the eyes of the Judicial Selection Commission and the governor, appears to be that the candidate served as either a public defender or a county attorney. Such service indicates neither competence as an attorney nor the possession of sufficient analytical and executory skills to be a good judge. Let us face the facts about the counties of Cottonwood and Murray: very few items on the docket of the court pertain to criminal matters; rather, the docket is densely populated with divorce cases, child custody matters, probate cases, protection of abused children and vulnerable adults, and minor and major civil disputes. The skills necessary to render sound and just decisions in such cases are not gained by being a county attorney and certainly not by being a public defender. There is a further matter that I consider to be of paramount import amongst the qualities possessed by a judge: the persistent drive to obtain an increasingly deep understanding of the law pertaining to matters before the court. From my own personal experience and observation and from the multitude of stories related to be me by parties in matters before the various courts, this skill is woefully lacking amongst practitioners.

      This brings me to the thoughts and feelings expressed by those that signed the petition and those that also signed the letter. There is a growing perception that the political powers that be are willfully ignorant of both the wishes of the voters and of the frustration of the voters that the judiciary is not populated by highly skilled judges. One may dispute these two views, but that the view exists is a signal that our system for selecting judges based upon whether the candidate served as either a public defender or a county attorney is broken. That the people have lost faith in the judicial system is a strong indicator that our democracy is in peril.

      I hope that this helps.

      Nathan A. Busch

  3. Jacob Holck Says:

    I agree with your statement about the Legal Aid Attorney and her need to resign. I serve with her on a Board of Directors position and she continually stands in the way of the board firing an imcompetent employee. It is indeed sad that one of the people the Governor has placed his trust in is in my view, a seeming know it all who can’t seem to embrace change when it is needed. I have more details about this selection committee which I can confer with you in private that disturbs me. There is a book I am reading called “The Oath” by Jeffrey Toobin about Obama and the US Supreme Court. I think you would find it most enjoyable. It seems that at all levels there is a lot of incompetence in the judiciary and it is filled with political hacks. I want to thank you for helping open my eyes to the fraud in government and I have to say that I can no longer align myself with the Democratic party which seems to be almost as corrupt as the GOP. What do you think would be a good solution to getting a good solid justice system down here. I would like you to tour the Nobles County Courthouse (the Prairie Justice Center) in Worthington sometime. The law library is excellent, though I do believe that they care a bit more than Cottonwood County about their law library,

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