Panel Recommends That Justice Be Removed From Office
ST. PAUL (AP) _ A special panel of judges concluded today that Minnesota Supreme Court Justice John Todd cheated on a bar examination and should be removed from office.
The panel said Todd is ″guilty of conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice or conduct unbecoming a judicial officer...″
No member of the Minnesota Supreme Court has ever been removed from office.
The panel’s recommendations go to the state Court of Appeals, which makes the final decision on the matter. The Appeals Court is serving as the state Supreme Court in the disciplinary proceedings against Todd, who has served on the high court since 1972.
The Appeals Court appointed the special three-judge panel comprised of retired District Court Judge Nicholas Chanak of Hibbing, 10th District Judge Esther Tomljanovich of Lake Elmo and Ramsey County District Judge Bertrand Poritsky.
Todd, 57, said he had not seen the recommendations and would not comment on the matter until he read the report.
″I was aware it was coming, but it’s pretty difficult too ask for comment on something you haven’t seen,″ Todd said.
The panel was appointed last November after the appeals court, in a 4-1 decision, rejected an agreement in which Todd agreed to accept public censure for using reference books during a multi-state bar examination in July 1983.
In that agreement, Todd denied he intended to cheat or take unfair advantage of other people in using the books. He took the test in the office of the director of the state bar eximinations.
The panel concluded that Todd knew that the multi-state bar examination was a closed-book test. The exam helps attorneys qualify to practice law outside Minnesota.
Todd, who was admitted to practice law in Minnesota in January 1951, has said he took the additional bar exam because he was considering practicing in Florida when he retires. He owns vacation property in that state.
Todd maintained that he had received special permission from Richard E. Klein, director of the bar exam, to use reference material during the test.
But the three-judge panel found that Todd’s telephone conversation with Klein prior to taking the test ″furnished no rational or reasonable basis for Justice Todd to conclude that there was an absolute expression of permission, nor that there was an implied permission to use the books, nor even a remote basis for an ‘impression’ of permission...″
The panel, in its 37-page decision, said that Todd ″allowed his personal motive of achieving a higher grade to dictate the conditions of his test taking.″
Minnesota has never provided for an open-book type of bar examination where reference materials are allowed to be used by applicants or examinees, the panel noted.
The panel said Todd knew that Klein had no authority to change the rule and make the state bar examination an open book test.
Todd held the part-time position of judge on the Minnesota Tax Court from 1965 until he was appointed to the high court 13 years ago by Gov. Wendell Anderson.
He was elected to six-year terms in 1974 and 1980. His current term on the nine-member court expires in January 1987.