WILLMAR -- Judge Kathryn N. Smith is seeking re-election to the District 8 judge seat she has held for the past 13 years.
Smith is chambered in Kandiyohi County and also hears cases in Meeker County. She was appointed in 1997 by Gov. Arne Carlson and re-elected in 1998 and 2004. She is challenged in the Nov. 2 election by Glen Jacobsen, assistant county attorney in Renville County. Voters in the entire 8th Judicial District will vote in the election. The district includes 13 counties from Wilkin County to Renville County.
"It has been an honor and privilege to serve my community as a district court judge for the past thirteen years and I want to continue my public service," Smith wrote to an e-mail inquiry by the Tribune.
Smith sees the key issues as improving equal access to the courts and the timely resolution of cases and controversies, continued improvement of court operations without sacrificing the court's mission, a continued commitment to justice and addressing children's justice issues, including timely, safe, stable and permanent homes for abused and neglected children, first through reunification with the child's parents if that is safe, or if not, through another permanent placement option.
The judge will continue to work to improve the court management in the wake of reduced state funding for the court system, she said. The 8th District judges have already reduced personnel expenses by reducing court administrators, combining district administration with the 7th District and by serving as test pilot locations for the centralized fine payment center, centralized collections, in-court updating of court files, electronic filing of complaints and citations and standardized sentencing orders.
Smith serves on the Judicial Council's Racial Fairness Committee, which works to ensure that all people have equal access to the courts and equitable treatment by judges and court staff. As a local judge, she works with the court administrators and justice partners to process cases in a timely and meaningful manner, reducing scheduling conflicts for attorneys and meaningless hearings.
The judge began working on children's justice issues soon after she was appointed to the bench, organizing representatives involved in child protection and delinquency cases. When Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz started the Children's Justice Initiative project with the Commissioner of Human Services, she appointed Smith as the lead judge for the Kandiyohi County Children's Justice Initiative Team in 2002. Since then, the county team has developed training for child protection participants and improved handling of cases to keep the focus on "through the eyes of the children" in the system, Smith said.
Smith has served on multiple state judicial committees, including as chair of the Juvenile Delinquency Rules Committee for six years, a member of the Racial Fairness Committee and was selected by the chief justice to participate in a workgroup to define the mission and membership of the Supreme Court's new Equality and Justice Committee.
Prior to serving as a judge, she was a private attorney working in civil litigation and family law. Prior to law school and her legal career, she taught chemistry and physical science at Willmar Community College, worked as a medical technologist and managed a large community hospital laboratory.