Four Judges Within Minnesota Seventh Judicial District Set To Retire
by law, any judge in the state must retire on the last day of the month in which he or she turns 70
Minnesota — Four judges within Minnesota’s Seventh Judicial District are about to leave their chambers for good.
Now a commission is trying to fill those seats as soon as possible.
Clay County Judge Galen Vaa has looked at this plaque in his office every day for the last 18 years.
That means he’s read it more than 6,500 times over the course of his career.
“My eye is to only tend to the trepidations of the balance. Try to be fair to both sides,” Vaa said.
His daily routine of reading the passage will end when he retires from the bench.
But he’s not the only one leaving the courtroom.
Judge Steven Cahill in Clay County, Judge Sally Robertson in Wadena County and Judge Waldemar Senyk in Otter Tail County are also retiring.
“This may be unprecedented. Generally it is more likely that there is one judge every three or four years that may retire and maybe longer,” said Jay Carlson, Chief Judge of the Minnesota Seventh Judicial District.
Cahill, Vaa and Robertson are leaving because state law requires judges to retire when they turn 70.
Vaa tried to file a lawsuit two years ago claiming the law was unconstitutional but he lost.
Now that four seats will be open, some judges say they hope the next person just has all the right qualities.
“Good judgement and understanding and some feeling for people because we have a lot of people that come before us for many different reasons,” Cahill said.
A Commission of Judicial Selection will choose who fills the vacancies in March.
Vaa says he hopes there will be at least one person with some experience in civil law taking over.
Aside from practicing civil law, some judges say the biggest quality for anyone aspiring to become a judge must remember a few things.
“Develop a reputation for being honest and fair and getting along with people,” Cahill said. “A lot of lawyers get criticized for being hard to deal with, hardnosed and things like that. But as my dad always taught me, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar and if you treat people right, they’ll treat you right.”
Which is something Vaa always tried to do when he began the day by looking at his plaque.
“I’ve tried to apply that saying there and I hope I did a good job.”
Now he says he just hopes to continue doing so in his legal work after retirement.
Vaa will do senior judge work part time during the week, while Cahill plans to travel Europe with his wife.