*We are continuing our Meet the Candidates conversations for the November 3rd, 2020 elections. We recently talked with Michelle MacDonald candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court. You can see her facebook page here.
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*KAXE/KBXE News and Public Affairs Director Heidi Holtan recently spoke with Michelle MacDonald. The following transcript has been edited for clarity. The audio of this interview is available at the top of this page.
(Heidi Holtan) Q: Michelle MacDonald is a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court. Since 1987, she's managed her own law and mediation firm, and for 22 years, she was an adjunct Hennepin County family court referee and small claims conciliation court judge. She's also the founder of Family Innocence. It's a non-profit keeping families out of court. Michelle MacDonald joins us now on KAXE/KBXE. Thanks for being here.
(Michelle MacDonald) A: Hi, thank you for having me.
Q: You're welcome. So why do you want to run for the Minnesota Supreme Court? Why do you want to be a justice?
A: Well, as you might know, the Supreme Court is an appellate court. I've been explaining [that] to people, and it's a court where the judges get to judge the laws and the constitutionality of the laws, and judge the judges in our lower courts and their behaviors, and how they're treating people with their ruling. And I am running because I've been convinced that we have corruption in our courts. I'm running to stop corruption, legal tyranny, and to restore justice.
Q: Can you explain, because no one, of course, wants any of those things, but what does that mean to you? How have you seen corruption in the courts?
A: Well, I think that court orders are damaging people and families more than they're helping them. And by corruption, it's just very systematic. It's systemic, I should say. For instance, let me give you a good example. The family laws that exist [are] about as thick as a phone book, and they only apply to you when you break up. And so to me, there's something wrong with that, particularly when our Supreme Court jurisprudence, our U.S. Supreme court jurisprudence, is that the court should not be involved in the realm of family, unless there's some type of abuse going on.
Q: Let's talk a little bit about this election process and how Supreme Court justices are appointed. Tell us a little bit about your desire to run in this election, and then what you know about the appointment process and what has happened before.
A: Okay, here is a good education for you and your listeners. In Minnesota, we have a constitutional right to vote for our judges. You look at your ballot, and somebody explained it to me. I usually say, "Oh, there's so many judges running unopposed." And what they said was, "Oh, they're alone on the ballot." And that's probably a better way to say it. They're alone on the ballot, and this year, I'm giving everyone a statewide candidate. So I'm giving everyone in the state a choice, and there are, this year, 128 judges across the state...district courts in different locations that are running, and only four of them have opposition out of all the judges. So the reason for that is that there's a sleight of hand that's going on, and it's been going on for years.
Recently, with Justice Ginsburg's death, that there was an appointment, or there's proposing to be an appointment. Well, in Minnesota, you don't have to die to vacate your seat. Judges have had this custom, and it's on purpose, where they step down. They could either be in trouble. They could be retiring, they could get sick. They could feel like not being a judge anymore. They dedicate their seat by stepping down before an election. And the governor has an opportunity to appoint a judge. So that's the appointment process. It's fabricated in a way. It's not supposed to be there.
Q: We're talking with Michelle MacDonald. She's a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court. Let's talk a little bit about how you describe yourself. You say you're an originalist. What does that mean?
A: That's a good question too. An originalist is...what I believe is the constitution doesn't give us our rights, like we don't read it and kind of extrapolate from it and say here's what it means. What it does is protect rights that already exist - our fundamental rights, like the air that we breathe. That's the easiest way to describe what an originalist is. So, we have these fundamental rights that our constitution protects and defends.
Q: Judge and judge elections are nonpartisan in Minnesota. Do you think this is important to the process? And is this something you believe in?
A: I think nonpartisan is the way to go. I think we have too much divide in our country. You either have to be Democratic or Republican, and what I've told people, and it just came to me pretty naturally, is I'm myself. I'm going to be myself. I don't think anybody out there is purely Republican or purely Democratic. And a lot of people don't know this, but there are many people running for president on your ballot. So you'll see not just Trump or Biden, but you'll see a number of other people running for president across our country. And so I think we're very much divided, and I like the nonpartisan aspect.
Q: I'm not someone who knows much about the court system. And I suspect a lot of people aren't. If you don't know much about it, you're kind of lucky. You haven't had to spend a lot of time in court as an individual, but on your website, as I looked through it, I saw this term "restorative justice." What does that mean?
A: Restorative services are all over the state, country, and the world. And so I first learned about restorative circles, and restorative circle practices when I was about 25 years into my practice, and I was enamored with it. I went out and studied with one of the world's foremost peacemakers. We came together. I brought people from Family Innocence, actually, because I wanted to learn. It isn't exactly a mediation, but it's a form of mediation. And it's where people come together that are involved in the conflict. So it could be two people, it could be several people that are impacted by the harm. They come together and they talk to each other in a circle process until they're fully heard by one another. And it's amazing how conflict can disappear when people actually are able to speak until fully heard, rather than arguing.
Q: It sounds like it'd be a really good thing for the people to be heard. How would that benefit the court system?
A: Well, I learned, as we went, that the Supreme Court, which I hope to be on, actually handles the budget and asks the legislature for all the money, all the millions of dollars that run all of our courts throughout the state of Minnesota. So my intention and my belief is that the Supreme Court has an obligation to involve itself in community and restorative circles and other practices. They don't only just make the rules and allocate the budget. So the budget could be used for more mediation. Right now, you have to pay for mediation, and restorative circles is just the way to go, when you can bring people together. The thing about bringing people together is most people just run away from conflict. They have a lot of fear and when you can move towards the conflict, and you actually have the conflict, it's amazing how people can really operate in love and not fear.
Q: Because this is such a big election...all the legislators in Minnesota are up for reelection, it's a presidential election year, so a lot of times people aren't paying as much attention to the judicial races. What would you like people to know about you?
A: Well, I'd like them to know that I'm the best candidate, because I'm not afraid to speak out about the corruption in our court system, and the need to end legal tyranny, and restore justice for all. I also advocate a unitive system that is equal and voluntary, where those in conflict meet in a safe place, hear each other out, decide what to do about their conflict. And all members of the community are empowered to address the conflict. And we can have a unitive system, rather than the punitive system that we have in our court.
Q: You can find more information at macdonaldforjustice.com. That is Michelle MacDonald. She is running for the Minnesota Supreme Court. Thank you for your time.
A: Thank you so much.