Candidate profile - Larry Clark, challenger
Residence: Red Wing,
Family: Wife, Colleen; daughter Allison and husband, Mike, grandson, Dylan (20 months); daughter Erin; daughter Kelly and husband, Luis.
Public Involvement: 1) Red Wing Human Rights Commission (six years - vice chair); 2) moderator and organizing committee for series of community forums (USA Patriot Act, Immigration, Indian Land Rights, Civil Rights and the Criminal Justice System, NAFTA & Latin America); 3) St. Joseph's Catholic Church (cantor, lector, Eucharistic minister); 4) instructor/presenter annual law enforcement training, correctional officers, sexual assault nurses, victim advocates; 5) president, Dakota County Attorney Employees Association
Education: B.A. political science, University of Minnesota, and J.D. William Mitchell College of Law
Work: Nine years of private legal practice in Ellsworth and Red Wing; 21 years at the Dakota County Attorney's Office.
Q: The judicial system is facing increasing cost pressures. Other than increased funding, what steps can be taken to increase efficiency in the courts and still afford individuals due process under the law?
A: The judiciary is suffering budget constraints, just like everyone else, and we must continue to search for ways to live within those constraints. One way is to reduce unnecessary court hearings. This can be accomplished by increased use of mediation, mandatory settlement conferences and strictly enforcing the rules of civil and criminal procedure. We also need to take advantage of available technologies, such as remote conferencing and continued expansion of electronic filings. The bottom line, however, is that we cannot put a price on justice. While we strive to employ as many cost-savings devices as practical, we must not compromise the service we deliver to the community.
Q: Do you support the judicial retention election system as recommended by the Quie Commission?
A: Historically, very little media attention has been focused on judicial campaigns, and the voters learn very little about the candidates. We now face the potential for very significant change in this regard, due to recent court rulings, which have allowed partisan politics to become a part of some judicial races. This has resulted in nightmare scenarios in other states, where big money and political parties have taken over the campaigns. The retention election proposal is designed to avoid that, but it disenfranchises voters and is contrary to constitutional principles. I believe some portions of the retention proposal can be implemented to better inform voters, without depriving them of their right to vote for this important position.
Q: Do you intend to seek endorsement and/or financial contributions from political parties and other special-interest groups? If so, which organizations/individuals have endorsed you?
A: I feel very strongly that the judiciary must remain impartial and nonpartisan. I will not accept endorsements from any political organizations. Political parties have their place, but it is not in the judiciary. Judicial candidates should be elected based on their qualifications and their performance, and they should not be tied to any party platform or agenda. To do otherwise, would threaten the impartiality of our judges and the confidence the electorate has in the judicial system.
Q: Why are you running for office? What are your personal priorities?
A: I never imagined myself running against a sitting judge, but the actions of the incumbent have compelled me to do so. As an attorney and as a citizen of Goodhue County and the First Judicial District, I am aghast and offended that a sitting judge would order people who live in Goodhue County to travel to an expensive law firm in St. Paul for mediation, while that judge receives a $64,000 reduction in fees owed to the same law firm. At a minimum, the judge had an obligation to disclose that relationship to the people appearing before him, but this judge continues to deny that he did anything wrong. I have 30 years of courtroom experience and I am respected by my colleagues. More importantly, however, I promise that I will never place my own personal interests above those who appear before me in court.
Q: Briefly summarize your personal background and qualifications.
A: I have been an attorney for 30 years. For the first 8 1/2 years I was in private practice, where I engaged a number areas of law, including family law, real estate, taxes, criminal defense, personal injury and general civil practice. For the past 21-plus years I have been a prosecutor with the Dakota County Attorney's Office, prosecuting major felony cases. I have handled numerous appeals to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, as well as federal courts. I have been married to my wife Colleen for 37 years, and we have lived in Red Wing for over 25 years.