Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

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Longtime judge Tad Jude’s career in public service began with a history-making moment when he was the youngest person elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives at the age of 20. Fifty years later, he’s eyeing the Hennepin County attorney position. 

Jude, 70, served as a district court judge in Washington County from 2010 until January when he announced his candidacy for the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. Jude left the race after failing to receive the Minnesota Republican Party’s endorsement during its caucus in May.

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

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

In 1972, a 20-year-old Jude became the youngest person elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives at the time. Jude switched 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 lawmaker, Jude chaired the Hennepin County Legislative Delegation and the House Judiciary Committee, which handles civil and criminal bills. He also spearheaded a project to convert abandoned railroads in Hennepin County to trails, and was a key player in creating a waste-to-energy composting system in Hennepin County. 

Jude also served as a Hennepin County commissioner for four years in 1989. He practiced law in Osseo and St. Bonifacius. 

Sahan Journal spoke with Jude to learn 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 attorney and how the role impacts them? What about young people going through either the juvenile justice process or child protection cases?

The county job description is to carry out the constitution and the laws of our country and state in Hennepin County. It’s essential to do that in a very unbiased and independent fashion. It is to be color-blind, to not consider someone’s race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or their age. Any of those factors should not be considered.

Decisions by the Hennepin County attorney should be based upon the behavior of people in terms of enforcing criminal law and should be color blind, so to speak. That’s the ideal I would bring to the office, and I would hope county attorneys throughout the state would do that.

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

All races would be treated the same. It would be a color blind application of the law. You wouldn’t have one law depending on if you’re a man or woman.

People have complained to me when I was a judge saying, “Women aren’t in prison as much as men.” Well, that’s based on behavior. That’s not based on them being a woman or a man. We don’t make those distinctions based on someone’s religion, ethnicity, or sex. It’s based on behavior. 

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

We would have to follow the law–whatever the law is. We’re under oath to administer the law. It’s not a policy-setting position from that standpoint.

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

How do you plan to address rising violent crime while also implementing criminal justice reform measures, since a lot of people think of it as one or the other?

The reform measures are determined by the legislature. Certainly any reforms that are put in place under Minnesota law would be implemented by the Hennepin County attorney. I would work and implement any and all reform measures that are passed by the legislature. 

As a judge, I’ve always tried to make a good distinction between people who have a good chance at rehabilitation and treatment, and people who may have made one mistake but have a good prospect for the future versus others that are incorrigible and are not in a position to be rehabilitated and are creating a substantial public safety risk. That’s something I would try to do in a fair and unbiased manner.

What role should the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office play in reviewing and prosecuting officer-involved killings?

The Hennepin County attorney would oftentimes have a conflict if it involved a police department in Hennepin County, so it would have to be referred, I believe, to an independent agency. If there’s certainly a conflict that I would see in any case, I would refer it to an independent, unbiased agency to handle.

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

The testimony given by a police officer should be considered the same as any other testimony of a witness in a case. There’s no special treatment for witnesses, whether or not they’re a police officer.

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 attorney. I would look at the credibility of the testimony and treat those factors the same for police as any other witness.

Hibah Ansari is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.