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Editorial: It's time for Blakely to go

Tim Blakely will face the ultimate jury of his peers Tuesday, when voters will decide whether his unethical behavior warrants removal from the First Judicial District bench.

We believe he must go.

We say that not only because he's an embarrassment and hasn't been seen in his chambers for months, but because a better man is challenging him.

Larry Clark has had an exemplary private and public 30-year legal career, serving the past couple decades as a Dakota County prosecutor. He has tried and won difficult cases, proving he understands both justice and the law.

He also has the backing of the region's legal community, having won the endorsements of most attorneys -- and particularly elected county attorneys -- in this seven-county district. Clearly, he's earned their respect.

This newspaper believes Blakely should have stepped down 18 months ago. Resigning would be the appropriate and honorable thing to do after the Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards recommended the state Supreme Court remove him.

Blakely declined. That was disappointing but not surprising given that he still doesn't think he did anything wrong -- even after the Supreme Court suspended him without pay for six months.

Indeed, he acted inappropriately and unprofessionally when he received a $63,500 discount on his $109,000 divorce bill by directing mediation business to the lawyer who handled his case.

When confronted, he testified, "I had the right and the duty for my family to have this bill dealt with in the only way I knew how and the only thing I had."

People should not re-elect a judge who puts his self-claimed right and duty above of the legal rights of people appearing in his courtroom.

Blakely now enters the court of public opinion.

Let's judge his recent behavior. He has avoided public forums and debates -- perhaps believing voter ignorance and indifference will keep him in office. He has been scarce in his usual chambers since his suspension, volunteering to fill in elsewhere. We contend that's because he realizes the local community doesn't respect him, which then begs the question whether he'd actually serve here even if re-elected.

We agree with Blakely on one important point. "The preference of voters must be paramount in deciding how judges are selected." he wrote in a questionnaire that appeared in last week's Town Pages.

Those voters would best serve themselves, the community and justice by electing a man of integrity. That person is Larry Clark.