Judge candidate: Russ ConrowAs county attorney, I know how important the office of judge is to this community.
1 My name is Russ Conrow, and I’m the Lake County Attorney. My wife, Lisa, and I have lived in the Two Harbors area for 12 years with our children, Reese, Cory, Mack and Keller. I attended undergraduate school at the University of Minnesota and law school at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and was an enlisted Marine and Naval officer, retiring after 22 years of service.
2 As county attorney, I know how important the office of judge is to this community. Most of the court’s work involves adult criminal and juvenile matters that affect public safety. The other matters affect children, families, businesses, organizations and the local government. It is important to have the right person as judge to face the challenges of the future. I feel it is my responsibility and privilege as a member of this community to run for this office.
3 I am inspired by former Lake County Attorney Bruce Anderson, who wrote great letters, and by Robert Jones, Federal Judge of Oregon, Supreme Court Justice and former prosecutor. Jones treated everyone with respect, visited the prisoners he convicted, and always wanted me to bring my son Reese along to meetings in the Supreme Court offices.
4 As an elected official, or someone running in an election, situations always come up where if I do something that I believe is right or say something that is true, it may be misinterpreted by most people and I will lose votes or support. But I am morally compelled to do what is right and say what is true. The quote that scrolls for my computer screensaver is “People of character do the right thing even if no one else is, not because they think it will change the world, but because they refuse to be changed by the world.”
5 Foremost, I am a patient person. Marine Corps boot camp helped with that. People can be difficult when they are irate, irrational or intentionally trying to intimidate. I do not take it personally, and I persistently try to bring them back to the real issues that are causing the conflict, to work out the parties’ interests without getting caught up in a shouting match.
6 The case involving the off-duty police officer at the Holiday station charged with second degree assault shows that it does not matter to me who is the accused or the victim in a case – every person gets treated the same. In the BWCA terroristic threats case, some people thought I was too soft while others thought I blew the case out of proportion. I believe we worked hard to hold individuals accountable according to their level of responsibility for the trauma suffered by the victims.
7 Being elected Lake County Attorney. We had only been in the community for four years at the time I was elected. It is still an honor to carry the responsibility of the trust of this community. I am only willing to give it up because I think this judgeship is so important.
8 I have more than 21 years experience in criminal law. I started arguing criminal cases to the Oregon Court of Appeals as a third-year law student. When I entered the Navy in 1990, my first case was successfully defending a sailor accused of rape. When I opened an office here, I prosecuted for the city of Two Harbors and have been handling the criminal prosecutions for Lake County for eight years. As County Attorney I have handled child protection, child support and juvenile cases. I have also been involved in the civil matters of the county before this court, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and Federal District Court.
9 I have been in countries where the rule of law is not respected and judges do not follow the law for a number of reasons, and thus, the people do not trust their leaders. They settle their disputes on their own, usually by force. Here, the Courts should make decisions by applying the law to the facts. They should not substitute their judgment for the laws established by the legislature. Citizens need to trust their leaders to do the job they were elected to do.
10 Sentences should be based on restoring the victim, punishing the convicted, deterring other potential criminals and rehabilitation to prevent more crimes. The sentencing guidelines allow for lesser sentences for a number of reasons, such as when the defendant had a minor role in the crime, or the defendant did not have much judgment because of mental or physical issues when the crime was committed. The guidelines also allow for harsher sentences when the victim was particularly vulnerable, or the defendant was particularly cruel, or there was a large number of victims, or a number of other reasons.
11 Everyone is entitled to bail under the Minnesota Constitution. Public safety and ensuring that the defendant appears are the two factors the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure allow for setting bail. These two factors have to be balanced against the defendant’s constitutional right to bail.
12 The biggest challenge facing the judicial process right now is resources and with those limited resources, ensuring each Minnesotan receives the same level of justice no matter where they live. In order to accomplish this we will have to reduce and improve the time spent in courtrooms. The Eighth andNinth Judicial Districts have been using methods like interactive television effectively to manage cases. These and other methods can be used in Lake and Cook Counties to cut time and costs.
13 There is always room for improvement. There is a big movement today toward specialty courts, which require a lot of time and money. These models do not necessarily fit into Lake and Cook counties, but those successful principles can be applied here. Also, there is a trend to replace people with technology in the system. The challenge is to use technology to improve efficiency while maintaining personal service, because justice is about people and should not come out of a vending machine.
14 It is actually the county’s courthouse and I have not heard the county board talking about closing it. But I will fight to keep the state district courtrooms open in Two Harbors and Grand Marais. The judiciary is considering a number of cost saving measures from reducing the number of judicial districts to reducing the number of courtrooms. Trying to conduct trials in Virginia for citizens of Silver Bay or Two Harbors would be extremely difficult, shifting the cost to counties and litigants, which then places justice out of reach for some people. None of the proposed solutions should be considered at the cost of local justice.
15 Yes, they are obligated. Part of being a lawyer is educating juries, judges and the public. That should continue as a judge. I take every opportunity I can to speak publicly at schools, meetings, public events or even in private conversations. Lately I have been trying to explain to people in St. Louis and Carlton counties why they are voting for a judge in Lake and Cook counties.
16 I’ll learn another language.
17 The different water; the big lake, the rivers and the inland lakes.
18 I was on the University of Minnesota rodeo and rugby teams. I have played some touch rugby lately at Park Point but haven’t found any safe rodeos for old cowboys.