Trials & Litigation

Did judge take oath on time? Refused a recusal, divorce litigant gets issue to state's top court

What John Myser originally wanted was a recusal from the judge hearing his Minnesota divorce case.

But when Scott County District Judge Caroline Lennon refused to step down, he began researching rules that applied to jurists. He discovered that judges are supposed to take—and file with the secretary of state—an oath of office, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. When he checked with the secretary of state’s office, it said no oath for Lennon could be found.

Myser again sought a recusal and Lennon again refused. Meanwhile, she filed her oath with the secretary of state’s office.

Myser began complaining to higher officials about the delayed filing, contending that the lack of a prior copy of the oath on file meant Lennon was unauthorized to work on his case.

Chief Judge Edward Lynch of the First Judicial District last year denied Myser’s petition to remove Lennon from his divorce case, explaining that case law shows that “any judge who fails to file an oath of office but who is otherwise lawfully acting under color of a known appointment or election is a de facto judge.”

Through his attorney, Michelle MacDonald, Myser appealed and lost, then asked the state supreme court to reverse the lower court rulings. A hearing is expected soon.

Also pending before the state’s top court is a case questioning whether Hennepin District Judge Patricia Kerr Karasov had the power to hear cases while living outside her district.

Updated on March 5 to correct a typo.

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