Choosing a judge in Ramsey County


Voters in Ramsey County will decide two contested judicial races when they go to the polls next month — one for an open judicial seat held by retiring District Court Judge M. Michael Monahan, and one a contest between a sitting judge and a public defender. 

Gloria Bogen and Mark Ireland advanced from a crowded nine-candidate primary in August to be on the final ballot to replace Monahan, who is retiring after 19 years on the bench.

Meanwhile, Judge William H. Leary, a 2002 Ventura appointee, faces a challenge from Connie S. Iverson, a Ramsey County public defender, in what appears to be a continuation of a dust-up between Leary and the Public Defenders office than began last year.

The eventual winners will take their place alongside 27 other judges, four referees and two magistrates who represent Minnesota’s 2nd Judicial District from courts in St. Paul and Maplewood.

Twelve of those other judges are also on the Nov. 2 ballot, but all of those races are uncontested.


Gloria Bogen

Bogen, who serves as executive director of the nonprofit Legal Assistance of Washington County since 1997, emerged with almost 23 percent of the vote in the August primary to lead the field in replacing Monahan..

The St. Paul resident claims 28 years as a practicing courtroom lawyer, as well as 16 years on the city of St. Paul’s Board of Zoning Appeals. She also served as co-chair on the committee that recommended hiring former St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington.

Among her endorsements, she counts St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Maplewood Mayor Will Rossbach, former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Esther Tomljanovich, Washington County Attorney Douglas Johnson, Ramsey County Commissioners Rafael Ortega and Victoria Reinhardt, St. Paul NAACP Chapter President Nathaniel Khaliq and former St. Paul Mayor and Dean of Hamline Law School George Latimer.

She is a 1982 William Mitchell College of Law graduate and a Minnesota, Washington County, Ramsey County and 19th District Bar member who has served on the 19th District’s ethics committee.

Bogen touts her courtroom experience and service to individual clients as assets that set her apart from her opponent.

“I have legal experience, as well as life experience, from which I have developed the wisdom and patience needed to hear all sides of a case and all legal arguments in order to make well thought-out rulings,” she said.I have the temperament and integrity to be independent and impartial when weighing the facts of a case and can guarantee that I will give all parties appearing before me the respect and attention that they deserve.”


Mark Ireland

Ireland emerged in second place in the August primary with 19 percent of the vote, just ahead of criminal defense and personal injury lawyer Tom Plunkett.

His 10-year legal career includes six years as assistant Attorney General under Mike Hatch, handling fraud and consumer cases.

The St. Paul resident went on to found the Foreclosure Relief Law Project, where he is supervising attorney. He is also a special counsel to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, prosecuting mortgage fraud racketeering schemes.

His endorsements include Freeman, St. Paul City Council President Kathy Lantry and Council member Russ Stark, Falcon Heights Mayor Peter Lindstrom and Ramsey County DFL legislators including Mindy Greiling, Alice Hausman and Steve Simon.

Ireland, who is an adjunct professor of law at Hamline University, said his education and communications background set him apart from his opponent.

“The citizens of Ramsey County deserve a judge who understands the law and can clearly explain the outcome of each case,” he said on his Web site. “Mark Ireland’s diverse background provides him with the tools and experience needed to manage a courtroom, instruct jurors, and reach a fair result based on the law.”

He graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2000 and serves on the board for Hamline Midway Elders.


Leary vs. Iversen

Leary, who won election in 2004 after his appointment, presided in 2006 over the Minnesota personal injury and wrongful death cases against Guidant involving the company’s implantable pacemakers.

The St. Paul resident recently accepted voluntary assignment to preside over all Ramsey County cases involving the reliability of Intoxylizer breath test results.

Prior to his appointment to the bench, Leary was a private civil litigation attorney from 1980 to 2002, specializing in health care, professional liability and workplace discrimination.

Iversen, a Roseville resident, has been an attorney since 1992 and has served much of that time in the Ramsey County Public Defender’s Office, where she has clerked, tried cases and supervised fellow attorneys.

She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

On the front page of her Web site, Iversen said she is running in part because “(t)he citizens of Ramsey County deserve a judge … who treats all persons who appear before him with respect, integrity and professionalism — rising above personality differences.”

In 2009, Leary found Ramsey County Public Defender Marilyn Boyd Knudsen to be in contempt of court for failing to comply with his orders to appear before him on behalf of two clients. Knudsen appealed the ruling and the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed that she is entitled to a jury trial on the contempt charge.

Leary lists endorsements from the Academy of Certified Trial Lawyers of Minnesota, former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz and Vice President Walter Mondale, among other attorneys. Iversen does not list any endorsements on her Web site.