Weather Forecast


Carter challenges incumbent Judge Benshoof

Bemidji attorney Darrell Carter is challenging incumbent Judge Paul Benshoof for a seat on the bench of the Ninth Judicial District Court.

Benshoof has served as Ninth Judicial District judge since 1997. He was appointed by Gov. Arne Carlson to fill the position vacated by the late Judge James Preece's retirement, then elected twice, running unopposed. Before becoming a judge, he spent 20 years as a trial attorney.

He is a graduate of Detroit Lakes High School as valedictorian in 1970, Carleton College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1974 and the University of Minnesota Law School in 1978. He is based in Bemidji.

Carter has worked as an attorney since 1987, practicing in Bemidji since 1992. He is a graduate of Bemidji High School ans attended Bemidji State University for one year before entering the U.S. Navy. After his discharge, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree, with a concentration in accounting, from BSU, and his law degree from the University of Tulsa in May 1987.

The candidates answered the following questions:


Why are you running for the judgeship?

"The responsibility to judge others is one of the greatest honors a community could ever bestow on someone, as well as one of its most humbling and serious of duties. For anyone preparing to uphold these responsibilities, experience is the greatest of teachers. And from experience comes wisdom 'the daughter of experience.' Without experience, there is little wisdom.

"I have learned that law as enforced in the courtroom is a living, breathing reality where lawbreakers meet swift and sure punishment. Where rights are respected. Where disputes between neighbors are resolved peaceably. Where decisions affecting the custody of children in broken marriages are made with compassion and understanding. Where a gentle word of praise to a child in juvenile court is remembered for years. In the end, where the community is kept whole."

How do you study cases?

"I read everything in the file before hearings and then again before I make my decision. It is exhaustive work sometimes, but people need to know that the judge cares enough about their case to be fully informed."

What qualities do you bring to the judgeship?

"Experience, fairness, integrity. I have the experience, the wisdom and the good judgment to continue serving as your judge.

"I have the experience, the wisdom and the good judgment to continue serving as your judge. With your help I will continue to do so to the best of my ability."

What are your specialties?

"We judges in out-state Minnesota are expected to handle everything that comes before us ... that varies from routine traffic tickets to murders, from $100 conciliation claims to medical malpractice lawsuits. But if I had to choose a particular area for which I have the most passion, it would be child protection cases. Those are by far the most difficult emotionally for me, but also the most important in my opinion. It is where I truly believe I make a difference in the lives of children That is why I volunteered to become the lead judge in Beltrami County for the Child Justice Initiative some years ago."


Why are you running for the judgeship?

"I have a strong desire to help people, and secondly to see justice done. The greatest satisfaction that I get from life is helping other people. As a judge, one has the opportunity to help a greater number of people who find themselves in the midst of the tragedies of life; be it divorce, real estate problems, victims of crime, injury and the like."

How do you study cases?

"Legal research has evolved greatly since my years in law school. Now with the advancement of computer hardware and software, the task of legal research has been made far more effective in finding the answer to a particular question. Cases are studied for two purposes: to find the law and the reason for the law; to compare facts within the case to the facts in the issue at hand. The law has a consistent theory or rule or principle of law. But the application of these principles or rules may vary and be distinguished depending upon the particular facts in the circumstances that are being analyzed."

What qualities do you bring to the judgeship?

"I have been involved in resolving thousands of disputes for clients since I became a lawyer. I have the ability to help opposing parties come to a resolution after listening to each of the party's arguments and positions. As a business consultant and counselor I have a keen ability to listen and discern important elements of issues and how these elements relate to the law.

"As a public defender representing clients with chemical dependency problems and mental health issues, I have an understanding of people who are different than those without disabilities. As a current and former legal counsel to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, I have a deep understanding of the Native American culture and the issues the Court needs to address with Band members of our local reservations.

"As a judge I will be personable while maintaining the dignity of the office of judge. I will be fair and impartial in my rulings, treat each matter with the seriousness it deserves and listen intently to all parties involved. I will treat litigants and attorneys with respect and require everyone in the courtroom to treat each other respectfully.

"I will be strong in enforcing criminal sanctions on behalf of victims who are awarded restitution in criminal matters. I will insist that custody and visitation orders are complied with to ensure that non-custodial parents receive visitation with their children. I will insist on parents of children to provide support through court-ordered child support and sanctions of incarceration for those who fail to pay, shifting the burden of supporting their children to the taxpayer. I will not tolerate genuine acts of domestic abuse against women or men in our community. I support the installation of the interlock automobile devices for DWI offenders to ensure they do not drive after having consumed alcohol."

What are your specialties?

"After having been licensed and practicing law in three states for nearly 25 years, I have been involved with virtually every type of case that could possibly come before a district court judge."