Longtime judge says county attorney should apply ‘colorblind law enforcement’

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Longtime Justice Tad Jude’s career in public service began with a historic moment when he was the youngest elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives at age 20. Fifty years later, he is considering the position of Hennepin County attorney.

Jude, 70, served as a Washington County District Court judge from 2010 until January, when he announced his candidacy for the Minnesota attorney general’s office. Jude left the race after failing to receive an endorsement from the Minnesota Republican Party during its caucus in May.

“My main priority is a safer Hennepin County,” Jude told the Sahan Journal. “It would involve safer neighborhoods, safer streets, holding criminals accountable and focusing on the victim. Beyond that, a number of employees encouraged me to come forward because they would like to have professional office management.

As a judge, Jude has presided over criminal, civil, family and juvenile cases, among others.

In 1972, 20-year-old Jude became the youngest person elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives at the time. Jude moved from the DFL party to the Republican party in 1992. He served five terms in the House and an additional six years in the state Senate.

As a legislator, Jude chaired the Hennepin County Legislative Delegation and the House Judiciary Committee, which deals with civil and criminal bills. He also led a project to convert Hennepin County’s abandoned railroad tracks into trails and was instrumental in creating a waste-to-energy composting system in Hennepin County.

Jude also served as Hennepin County Commissioner for four years in 1989. He practiced law in Osseo and St. Boniface.

Sahan Journal spoke with Jude to find out more about his campaign. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What should people, especially immigrants and people of color, know about the Hennepin County District Attorney and the impact of his role on them? What about young people going through either the juvenile justice process or child protection cases?

The county job description is to enforce the constitution and laws of our country and state in Hennepin County. It is essential to do this in a very impartial and independent way. It is being color blind, disregarding someone’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender or age. None of these factors should be taken into account.

The Hennepin County District Attorney’s decisions must be based on people’s behavior in terms of enforcing the criminal law and must be color blind, so to speak. That’s the ideal I would bring to the office, and I hope county prosecutors across the state do.

How do you plan to address racial equity issues in prosecutions?

All races would be treated equally. That would be color blind law enforcement. You wouldn’t have one law depending on whether you were a man or a woman.

People complained to me when I was a judge saying, “Women aren’t in jail as much as men. Well, it’s behavior-based. It’s not based on whether they’re female or male. We do not make these distinctions based on a person’s religion, ethnicity or gender. It’s behavior-based.

If Roe v. Wade is canceled, do you plan to pursue abortion cases in Hennepin County?

We should follow the law, whatever it is. We are under oath to enforce the law. It is not a political position from this point of view.

To be a county attorney is to administer the constitution and the law, and I don’t expect the law to change in Minnesota in the next four years.

How do you plan to address the rise in violent crime while implementing criminal justice reform measures, since many people think it’s one or the other?

The reform measures are determined by the legislator. Certainly, any reforms put in place under Minnesota law would be implemented by the Hennepin County prosecutor. I would work on and implement all reform measures adopted by the legislature.

As a judge, I have always tried to make a good distinction between people who have a good chance of rehabilitation and treatment, and people who may have made a mistake but who have a good future compared to others who are incorrigible and are not are able to be rehabilitated and create a substantial risk to public safety. This is something I would try to do in a fair and unbiased way.

What role should the Hennepin County District Attorney’s Office play in investigating and prosecuting officer-involved murders?

The Hennepin County prosecutor would often have a conflict if it was a Hennepin County police department, so it would have to be referred, I believe, to an independent agency. If there is definitely a conflict that I would see in any case, I would entrust it to an independent and impartial agency to deal with it.

How will you review police testimony and evidence in cases presented by Minneapolis police in light of the Jaleel Stallings case?

The testimony of a police officer should be considered like any other testimony of a witness in a case. There is no special treatment for witnesses, whether they are police officers or not.

In court, you look at the credibility of a witness and you take a number of factors into consideration, and that’s what I would do as a county prosecutor. I would consider the credibility of the testimony and treat these factors the same for the police as for any other witness.

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