News

Questions about the courts for candidates

Rhonda Silence

Russ Conrow, Two Harbors: I was an enlisted Marine and Navy JAG officer. I graduated from the University of Minnesota and Willamette University Law School. My wife Lisa and I have four children, Reese, Cory, Mack and Keller. We live outside Two Harbors. Russ Conrow, Two Harbors: I was an enlisted Marine and Navy JAG officer. I graduated from the University of Minnesota and Willamette University Law School. My wife Lisa and I have four children, Reese, Cory, Mack and Keller. We live outside Two Harbors. One of the most interesting political races of this election year is the contest for the Sixth Judicial seat currently held by Judge Kenneth Sandvik. Eight candidates with ties to the North Shore are campaigning for this post. Theyall meet the Minnesota state statutes to serve as judge. According to Cook County Auditor-Treasurer Braidy Powers, they must be eligible to vote in Minnesota; must be 21 years of age or older; must be licensed to practice law in the state of Minnesota; and must be residents of the state of Minnesota for at least 30 days before November 2, 2010.

An additional attribute that Judge Sandvik would like to see is a determination to keep rural courtrooms open. When asked what he wished to see in a judge who would serve in Cook County, County Attorney Tim Scannell echoed Sandvik regarding the importance of keeping rural courtrooms open and added that he would like to see a judge with criminal law experience.

Timothy A. Costley, Two Harbors: I am married with three children and have had a private law practice for 15 years. I live and work in my hometown of Two Harbors. I handle a broad range of cases involving civil, family and juvenile matters on the North Shore. I have handled almost every type of matter that comes before a district court judge. Timothy A. Costley, Two Harbors: I am married with three children and have had a private law practice for 15 years. I live and work in my hometown of Two Harbors. I handle a broad range of cases involving civil, family and juvenile matters on the North Shore. I have handled almost every type of matter that comes before a district court judge. To help the public decide whom to vote for to fill this important position, we asked each of the judicial candidates a few questions. We asked them to provide a photo of themselves and to keep their answers brief. Their replies follow, in alphabetical order.

Q. Please provide biographical information (whatever you would like voters to know – education, experience, family information)

Mike Cuzzo, Duluth: I was born and raised in Duluth, then graduated with honors from both UMD and the U. of MN Law School. My family, wife, Diana, son Alex, and I, share our time between Duluth and our cabin on the Caribou Trail. I have had the privilege of serving as a trial attorney, arbitrator and mediator for residents throughout the region for almost 27 years. Mike Cuzzo, Duluth: I was born and raised in Duluth, then graduated with honors from both UMD and the U. of MN Law School. My family, wife, Diana, son Alex, and I, share our time between Duluth and our cabin on the Caribou Trail. I have had the privilege of serving as a trial attorney, arbitrator and mediator for residents throughout the region for almost 27 years. Q. An attorney in private practice can make a great deal more money than a judge— why are you willing to take a reduction in pay to serve as judge?

Conrow: I don’t want to be “a” judge. I want to be the Lake/Cook County judge. I currently serve the people of Lake County as their elected county attorney. I have 21 years experience as a lawyer, four in private practice. I am giving up my current office to run because I know how important this judgeship is to our communities.

Juhl Halvorson, Duluth: Juhl Halvorson was born and raised in Buffalo, Minnesota. Juhl currently lives in Duluth with his wife and two daughters. Juhl graduated from St. Olaf College (B.A., Political Science) and William Mitchell College of Law (with honors). Juhl has been selected by community members as a leader with a demonstrated passion for helping children. He is a volunteer on the board of directors for Northwood Children’s Services where he was chair for two terms. He has also been the president of the Robert Herman’s Scholarship for five years, granting scholarships based upon academic achievement and community service to students from Duluth and Silver Bay. Juhl currently volunteers as a youth softball coach and is the president of the Duluth Harbortown Rotary Club. Juhl owns his own law office in Duluth. His legal experience includes civil matters such as employment law, real estate, probate, estate planning, business, family law and criminal matters. He has argued cases at both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court. Juhl also works as an assistant professor of Business Law at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he has taught over 600 students in the last five years about legal procedure, laws relating to individuals and businesses, and ethics. Juhl Halvorson, Duluth: Juhl Halvorson was born and raised in Buffalo, Minnesota. Juhl currently lives in Duluth with his wife and two daughters. Juhl graduated from St. Olaf College (B.A., Political Science) and William Mitchell College of Law (with honors). Juhl has been selected by community members as a leader with a demonstrated passion for helping children. He is a volunteer on the board of directors for Northwood Children’s Services where he was chair for two terms. He has also been the president of the Robert Herman’s Scholarship for five years, granting scholarships based upon academic achievement and community service to students from Duluth and Silver Bay. Juhl currently volunteers as a youth softball coach and is the president of the Duluth Harbortown Rotary Club. Juhl owns his own law office in Duluth. His legal experience includes civil matters such as employment law, real estate, probate, estate planning, business, family law and criminal matters. He has argued cases at both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court. Juhl also works as an assistant professor of Business Law at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he has taught over 600 students in the last five years about legal procedure, laws relating to individuals and businesses, and ethics. Costley: It is something I have always wanted to do. I know the importance of having a local person as judge to protect our courthouses. I would bring a sense of confidence to the people that their judge is fair, hard-working and committed to keeping the independence of the North Shore.

John Steven Lind, Duluth: John is a Duluth lawyer, born in Minnesota. He graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1981 and the University of Puget Sound Law School on 1984. He was licensed in 1985 and worked for five years as a lawyer for Native Americans. He has worked in private practice and as part-time Public Defender since 1992. He is a union steward for Public Defenders. John was married in a canoe in the BWCA, to lovely Di, by Judge Frank in 1993. John Steven Lind, Duluth: John is a Duluth lawyer, born in Minnesota. He graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1981 and the University of Puget Sound Law School on 1984. He was licensed in 1985 and worked for five years as a lawyer for Native Americans. He has worked in private practice and as part-time Public Defender since 1992. He is a union steward for Public Defenders. John was married in a canoe in the BWCA, to lovely Di, by Judge Frank in 1993. Cuzzo: My life has been dedicated to serving people, and I am committed to continuing to put my skills to work for area residents as a judge. Judges are fairly compensated; the level of pay is not a concern to me.

Tim Little, Duluth: I graduated from Duluth Central High School, 1987; University of Minnesota Duluth, 1991; and University of North Dakota School of Law, 1994. I have a general practice and handle primarily family, employment, contract, and general civil litigation cases. I started as a criminal prosecutor and have since handled many different types of cases. Tim Little, Duluth: I graduated from Duluth Central High School, 1987; University of Minnesota Duluth, 1991; and University of North Dakota School of Law, 1994. I have a general practice and handle primarily family, employment, contract, and general civil litigation cases. I started as a criminal prosecutor and have since handled many different types of cases. Halvorson: Professional satisfaction has more components than compensation. It would be a great honor and responsibility to serve the public as a district court judge.

James Ross, Duluth: James M. Ross has been married 22 years. He has three children, ages 8, 14, and 17 years. He graduated from Holy Rosary Catholic School in Duluth; Concordia College, in Moorhead MN; and the University of South Dakota School of Law. James Ross, Duluth: James M. Ross has been married 22 years. He has three children, ages 8, 14, and 17 years. He graduated from Holy Rosary Catholic School in Duluth; Concordia College, in Moorhead MN; and the University of South Dakota School of Law. Lind: As solo practitioner and part-time public defender, generally, i earned less than district judges. My humble goal, in seeking to become a judge - to use lengthy experience to provide equal justice to all citizens. To quote late lawyer friend Douglas Merritt, a courtroom is a place where there should always be “justice with dignity!”

Lawrence W. Ulanowski, Brainerd: I am a father of seven- and nine-year old daughters. I have obtained a bachelor of science and masters of science in mechanical engineering. I have a minor in industrial engineering and I have a Juris Doctor degree. I am currently a licensed attorney and a licensed real estate broker in the state of Minnesota. I was previously a licensed professional engineer and a licensed daycare provider. Lawrence W. Ulanowski, Brainerd: I am a father of seven- and nine-year old daughters. I have obtained a bachelor of science and masters of science in mechanical engineering. I have a minor in industrial engineering and I have a Juris Doctor degree. I am currently a licensed attorney and a licensed real estate broker in the state of Minnesota. I was previously a licensed professional engineer and a licensed daycare provider. Little: There are certainly pros and cons to private practice. My desire to serve as a judge stems from my interest in public service as well as my passion for helping people.

Ross: Salary is not the reason I am running. I became a candidate to improve the community and serve the people of North Shore. Experience matters.

Ulanowski: My financial compensation is not important, however, my career path desire is to advocate for Minnesota laws and to continue to uphold the professionalism of the courts. The privilege to be able to return home to the North Shore community is priceless.

Q. Each North Shore community and court has its own idiosyncrasies. How familiar are you with the people of the Arrowhead?

Conrow: My wife and I honeymooned in Cook County 25 years ago. We have lived and worked on the North Shore for the past 12 years. We are involved in the community. Our children have been involved with school and sports on the North Shore. I have been working on North Shore land use and criminal matters for 10 years as Lake County attorney and as special assistant attorney before I was elected.

Costley: Unlike the other candidates, I was born and raised in Two Harbors, where my family has lived for 152 years. I worked my way through college driving a delivery truck on the North Shore. I have worked, fished, hunted, snowmobiled and four-wheeled all over Lake and Cook Counties. I live, work and have invested my career here.

Cuzzo: Very familiar. I have represented hundreds of people from Grand Portage to Duluth. I hunt, fish and buy goods in the area. I have owned a hunting shack in Tofte since 1987, and Diana and I consider the cabin we built in Lutsen as our second home.

Halvorson: I have represented and worked with clients in all counties in the judicial district. I have the necessary exposure to the North Shore community but have the advantage of not having the potential bias of knowing people too well. The law should apply equally to everyone and I intend to be fair and unbiased in each and every case, no matter who the participants are.

Lind: Very familiar. Married in BWCA. Hiked most of Superior Hiking Trail. Have cabin in Isabella. Assigned to North Shore as part-time public defender for the last three years. I travel “up the Shore” monthly and meet often with law enforcement, court administrators, prosecutors, and Native American community. High praise for unique and interesting people I encounter in Arrowhead region.

Little: I am a Duluth native and have lived all but a few years in Duluth. Like most people, I have spent a great amount of time in the BWCA, on the Gunflint Trail, skiing at Lutsen and just being on the North Shore. I am looking forward to this opportunity to gain a greater familiarity with the North Shore communities.

Ross: Everyone loves the North Shore, including the Ross Family. I was born and raised on the North Shore. My grandmother and grandfather came to Lake Superior in early 1900s from Scotland. My grandfather worked along the North Shore as stonemason on many WPA projects including North Shore bridges and the old Gooseberry Falls Info Center.

Ulanowski: I am a 1982 Silver Bay High School graduate. I was previously employed with LaBounty Manufacturing in Two Harbors, MN. I have spent a considerable amount of time along the Gunflint Trail and in the BWCA. I was employed in Duluth and attended part of my college education at the University of Minnesota, Duluth (UMD). I have also resided in Cloquet and Barnum/ Mahtowa.

Q. Because of budget issues and declining court resources, the State of Minnesota is considering consolidating courts. What are your feelings on potential court closures?

Conrow: Justice should be local. As a board member for the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, I have participated in meetings with the State Judicial Council. We actively oppose court closures, while looking for ways to better serve our rural communities. I am running to keep the North Shore courts open and a North Shore judge on the bench.

Costley: The citizens have a right to appear in a courthouse in the county in which they live. The pressure to close the Two Harbors and Grand Marais courthouses is real. My pledge is that I will fight very hard to keep our courthouses open. I know what it means to the independence of our communities.

Cuzzo: I understand the need for efficiencies, but too much consolidation could seriously impact the state’s judicial system and the citizens it serves. I have and will continue to fight declining funding of the judicial system to save every courthouse in the judicial district.

Halvorson: Access to courts is extremely important. A key component to that is location, particularly in more remote areas where public transportation is not available. I would be strongly against any potential court closures.

Lind: As a lawyer actively practicing in the local courthouses, I strongly oppose any policy that would consider consolidating the courts. The travel requirements of people in Lake and Cook counties are already dramatic even without -20 or a lake-effect snow. Any court consolidation is horribly unwise and would penalize good citizens on the Shore.

Little: The courthouses of Grand Marais and Two Harbors are vital to the residents of Cook and Lake counties. Consolidation and/or closures of these courthouses would significantly affect access to the courts and should be avoided.

Ross: I do not see district court consolidating. As a county prosecutor, I see the ever-increasing caseloads in each district court. Each district is special and unique. Justice needs to flow from where people live, not in Duluth.

Ulanowski: This is a budget and legislative issue. A judge needs to be neutral and unbiased, thus, my opinion is not appropriate.

Q. Why should voters select you over the other candidates?

Conrow: County Attorneys are charged to make sure justice is done, not just represent a client. I have demonstrated my fairness, my integrity, my ability to deal with every individual and situation with respect and my willingness to make the tough decisions. County attorneys handle almost every type of case the court sees, especially criminal, which makes up most of the court’s cases. Therefore I have the most relevant experience. I know the people, the organizations, the churches, the schools and the businesses of the North Shore. When people in Lake and Cook counties give their important issues to be decided by the rule of law, it should be with someone they can trust. It should be Russ Conrow.

Costley: I have the broadest range of courtroom experience of any candidate. I know the court employees and law enforcement officers. This is my home and I will work very hard to bring fairness, respect and justice to our courts. I will not disappoint you or forget where I came from. I do not think a lawyer from Duluth should serve as the North Shore judge. Nor do I think a North Shore attorney should be a Duluth judge. I want, and need, your support at the primary of Tuesday, August 10th.

Cuzzo: Experience counts! I have handled the broad variety of cases commonly handled by judges. My service as an arbitrator and mediator has earned me a reputation as a trusted, confident decision maker. I have earned Martindale-Hubbell’s (nationally recognized lawyer rating service) top rating for legal ability and ethical standards. I’ve been selected as a “superlawyer” by the Minnesota Journal of Law and Politics over a dozen times, and have been selected to Best Lawyers in America. I was listed this spring in Minnesota Monthly as one of the “State’s Most Respected Attorneys.”

I’d be honored to put my broad experience, combined with my deep knowledge of the North Shore and its people, to work as the district’s next judge.

Halvorson: I have the breadth of relevant experience that prepares me for the position. My knowledge of family law, real estate, probate, business matters and criminal law will allow me to efficiently work as a judge.

Lind: Three reasons: First, I’ve tirelessly sought justice in every courthouse in the four-county judicial district and have been involved in jury trials in every courthouse, which involved interacting with court staff and countless citizen jurors. Second, my lengthy history of involvement in the federal court system (licensed federally in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota since 1992). I believe federal legal experience is essential to understand complicated federal legal rulings that permeate down to state courts. Finally, I spend most leisure time locally on the shore, at our cabin in Isabella, or deep in the BWCA/Quetico wilderness.

Please vote on August 10, 2010.

Little: All of the candidates would serve this area well. I believe my broad base of legal experience especially in the areas of criminal and family law would be most beneficial. I served on the Duluth City Council where I respectfully listened to constituents voice their concerns, weighed the information and cast my vote based on all the facts presented. As a result I have gained support from many people with vastly different backgrounds.

Ross: Courtroom experience is necessary to be a judge. I have prosecuted crime five days a week, 52 weeks a year for the last 22 years. The North Shore deserves a qualified candidate. Jamey Ross is most qualified. Do not vote for another politician with an overbearing political campaign with campaign signs littered all over yards and roads. Vote for a lawyer who is busy working in the courtroom for the citizens every day, not someone out being a politician.

Ulanowski: Voters should select me over any other candidate because of my wide variety of legal experience, trial experience and my wide range of previous corporate experience.

Upon graduating law school I chose to start my own law officeand currently have offices in Duluth, Minneapolis and Brainerd. Prior to graduating, I worked for a military defense contractor, Tetra Pak, Inc., a food-packaging manufacturer requiring me to reside for a period of time in Sweden. I also spent time working in the medical device industry (cardiology) at SCIMED/Boston Scientific and resided in Ireland and Israel for a period of time. Furthermore, I have also taught college classes to pre-engineering students.

I would truly be honored to be able to return home and represent the citizens of the North Shore. In addition to these candidate interviews, the Cook County News-Herald is working with our news partners, WTIP Community Radio and Cook County Community Education, to present a county commissioner election forum at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20. Join us, or tune in to WTIP Radio at 90.7 FM.

Questions for the commissioner candidates? E-mail them to: starnews@boreal.org.


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