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Court of Appeals denies Interchange owner’s petition to remove judge

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has denied the petition of The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro’s owner to remove the judge presiding over the two criminal cases against her.

In an order dated Tuesday, the Appeals Court stated a judge is disqualified for lack of impartiality if a reasonable objective examiner with full knowledge of the case would question the impartiality.

“Because no reasonable examiner would question the assigned judge’s impartiality, the chief judge did not abuse her discretion by denying petitioner’s motion to remove the assigned judge,” the court stated.

Restaurant owner Lisa Hanson asked the court to review the case after 3rd Judicial District Chief Judge Jodi Williamson last month denied Hanson’s request to remove Judge Joseph Bueltel from her cases.

Bueltel is the third judge assigned to the case. Hanson faces nine misdemeanor criminal charges, including violating emergency powers and public nuisance, after she reopened her business in December in violation of state executive orders banning in-person dining to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Hanson argued Bueltel violated her due process rights and questioned him not dismissing the criminal charges for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. She also questioned how he can proceed as judge for her criminal files when she has taken legal action against him.

In Minnesota, parties in court cases can each remove one judge as a matter of right, but if they seek to disqualify the substitute judge, they must show prejudice and the case must go before the chief judge to review the request.

“Viewing the record of the proceedings as a whole, including the civil actions petitioner initiated against the assigned judge, petitioner’s claims of impartiality are really dissatisfaction or disagreement with the judge’s decisions and are not sufficient claims for establishing judicial bias,” the Appeals Court stated.