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Gilbert running hard to hold Supreme Court seat

In his bid to keep his seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, Jim Gilbert has an impressive list of endorsements. He was appointed to the state's high court in 1998 by Gov. Arne Carlson. Now Carlson, Gov. Jesse Ventura and all of the other ...

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In his bid to keep his seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, Jim Gilbert has an impressive list of endorsements.
He was appointed to the state's high court in 1998 by Gov. Arne Carlson. Now Carlson, Gov. Jesse Ventura and all of the other still living former governors are backing Gilbert for a six-year term.
In addition to Ventura, Gilbert even has Skip Humphrey and Norm Coleman as endorsers.
Adding interest to the race is Gilbert's opponent. The incumbent is being challenged by Greg Carlson Wersal.
Wersal attracted considerable policy concerns when he filed to run adding Carlson, his wife's maiden name, for use on the ballot. It was a move upheld by Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer.
But it's a move that Gilbert backers claim was to attract more voters by plugging in a popular Minnesota name. Wersal also has the backing of the Republican Party, in what has traditionally been a nonpartisan race.
Gilbert himself points out that Minnesotans have prided themselves on a long-standing tradition of nonpartisan judges.
The affable justice was in Duluth Wednesday, and faced his opponent for the first time in a candidate debate.
Gilbert thought the debate went well, and controversy aside, he is running on his record.
"I think you should look at my experience," he said. In addition to his lengthy legal credentials, there's the business of managing the state's court system and, of course, hearing cases.
The court rules on about 125-135 cases a year and issues about 40 orders. It goes through about 800 petitions a year.
It's a busy full-time job.
"I put in at least 60 hours every week," Gilbert said. "I feel like I'm on call at all times, I'll read every night when I come home -- every Saturday and Sunday, a couple hours.
"I love it! It's exhilarating, but it's a lot of work."
His schedule includes even more hours, with about 50 to 60 outreach speeches a year to civic groups and schools.
It's life he wants to continue for another six years.
"I don't plan on staying forever, I believe in term limits. I would like to serve one more term," he said. "Maybe two."
I believe in sharing the power. I believe it's important to get new people in and younger people in."
To balance his work life, Gilbert, 53, like to exercise and workout. He also enjoys seasonal outdoor activities such as golf, tennis, hunting, snowmobiling and downhill skiing.
Then there is important family time, too, with his wife and three daughters. However, Gilbert admitted the campaign, which he does on vacation time, has cut into that.
Unlike some other elected offices, justices can't stop the process to campaign.
"I've got a very serious job," he said. "You've got to be on, you've got be there, and you've got to be with it. And you've got to pace yourself."
Gilbert said he will not go to campaign events if thinks they will interfere with his strength or his concentration.
On the advantage of experience, Gilbert said all the court decisions are significant in that they become binding law.
In the coming year, Gilbert sees technology having a wider use in the court and advances like DNA analysis making an impact. Court opinions are already released weekly over the Internet.
"One thing about our work, it's all published," he said. "Everyone knows where we stand and how we got there."

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