First-term Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd, a Detroit Lakes attorney and a Todd County prosecutor are the three finalists to fill a judicial vacancy in Minnesota's Seventh Judicial District that covers 10 counties in the northwest and north-central part of the state.
Simon George is a solo practitioner and part-time public defender in Detroit Lakes, and Heidi Schultz, assistant Todd County attorney, has also served in Douglas Count y and has ties to Alexandria.
The new district court judge will be appointed by Gov. Tim Walz, who will interview the finalists and then make an announcement.
A timeline for his selection was not provided. Whomever is selected would have their chambers and courtrooms in Fergus Falls.
The appointed judge must stand for election districtwide in the next general election in 2022. The Seventh District includes the counties of Becker, Benton, Clay, Douglas, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Otter Tail, Stearns, Todd and Wadena.
George represents clients in criminal defense cases, estate planning, divorces, child custody, and real estate matters, as well as litigants in the White Earth Tribal Court. He also served as a White Earth Tribal Defender and was involved in the White Earth Juvenile Healing to Wellness Court.
George’s community involvement includes serving on the Frazee-Vergas School Board, the Detroit Lakes Rotary, Jaycees, and Shriners clubs. Mr. George also volunteers with local high schools and mentors students and attorneys.
Schultz is the assistant Todd County attorney, where she prosecutes adult criminal cases of all levels. Previously, she was a partner at Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz Cass, P.A. Schultz has also served as an Assistant County Attorney in Douglas, Olmsted, and St. Louis counties. She clerked for the Honorable Mark A. Munger.
Schultz serves on the Board of Directors of Alexandria Dollars for Scholars and the Alexandria Figure Skating Club. She is a prior board member of the United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties and a past member of the Douglas County Domestic Violence Task Force. Schultz has also served on the Minnesota Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Judd, who was elected mayor of the city of 42,400 in 2018 and began his term on Jan. 7, 2019, would have to step down if he is selected to fill the judgeship.
The mayor is also director of equity and inclusion at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead and an adjunct instructor at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Judd previously served as an assistant public defender in the judicial district, as an assistant Clay County Attorney and had his own firm called Judd Law.
Those positions gave him experience in handling criminal, juvenile and child protection cases, said a news release announcing the three finalists on Wednesday, Dec. 23.
Judd, a former Fargo resident, also served on the North Dakota Federal District Court Criminal Justice Act Panel where he represented indigent federal clients. Judd's community involvement includes serving on the board of directors of West Central Initiative, Fercho Fargo-Moorhead YMCA, Scott Tobolt Foundation and Spuds TV. He also is a volunteer football coach for F-M Athletics Youth Football and a fellow in the Minnesota Education Policy Fellowship.
Moorhead City Manager Dan Mahli said it's his understanding that Judd would have to step down as mayor if he receives the appointment. The City Council would then likely appoint an interim mayor until a special election could be held.
The three candidates were recommended by the Minnesota Commission on Judicial Selection that selects finalists for vacancies in all of the state's 10 judicial districts.
The Seventh District vacancy occurred in mid-November when the announcement was made of the retirement of Judge Barbara Hanson, who also had her chambers in Fergus Falls.
Applications to replace her were due by Dec. 7. The selection commission stated that when filling vacancies it looks for attorneys to apply who are "fair, experienced and civic-minded."
Qualifications, by law according to the commission, call for integrity, maturity, health, judicial temperament, legal knowledge, ability, experience and community service.