Judge Tanya Bransford knew in junior high school that she wanted to follow a career path that would help make this world a better place for all people regard less of their color or ethnicity. Judge Tanya Bransford knew in junior high school that she wanted to follow a career path that would help make this world a better place for all people regardless of their color or ethnicity. In college, she found that path through pursuing a career in law. Today, Bransford has over 20 years of law experience, including 15 years as a judicial officer for Hennepin County.
“I wanted to be a lawyer to help people on an individual basis with their immediate problems, in addition to using the law to change the system for the better and make institutional change,” said Bransford, a Hennepin County District Court Judge since 1994.
Bransford was appointed by Governor Arne Carlson in 1994 and elected in an uncontested election in 1996. This November, Bransford says she is facing a contested election for the first time since she was elected to the student government at North St. Paul High School. Bransford’s opponent is Joseph McCormick, owner of SourceOne Asset Management Corporation and a sole practitioner with an emphasis in business, real estate, family, and elder law. Bransford says her opponent, to the best of her knowledge, has very little if any litigation experience.
Bransford says the only court experience she has with McCormick was when he lost a case before her in a $1,000 heating/plumbing civil dispute involving his real estate company. A Hennepin County Bar Association preference poll of its members gave Bransford 86 percent of the vote compared to McCormick’s 14 percent.
The Minnesota Women Lawyers, the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, the Minnesota Teamsters Joint Council 32, the Star Tribune, the Minnesota DRIVE (Democrat Republican Independent Voters Education), and the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council, AFL-CIO have all endorsed Bransford.
While Bransford says she enjoys all aspects of her work, she says she is especially interested in her work as a member of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Multicultural Diversity and Racial Fairness in the Courts Committee that seeks to end race bias in the courts.
“Unfortunately the bias and racism we find in society also becomes a part of the legal system. We have not made very good progress in the prison system,” said Bransford, who sees the racial disparity in the criminal justice system as the most critical issue facing the Minnesota legal system today.
However, she says they have made progress in the areas of helping people who do not speak English as a first language and in collecting race based data.
“Ten years ago, there were no certified interpreters in the courts helping to translate legal terms for people who did not understand English,” said Bransford. She says there are dozens today. “We are also working on gathering information to isolate where the problems with disparities are actually occurring.”
Bransford also recognizes how important it is to have people of color working in the system—especially at the judicial level.
“It is absolutely critical that we have African Americans on the District Court,” said Bransford. She is one of four African American District Court judges out of a total of 61. African American Judges Harry Crump and Pamela Alexander are both up for election in 2002 also.
Bransford has presided over thousands of criminal, traffic and juvenile cases and served as a District Court Referee in the Juvenile Division for nearly five years where she did a lot of work with the truancy program.
“It makes much more sense and is more cost effective to invest the money and time on the front end to help juveniles remain out of the system,” said Bransford. “There are indicators and factors like truancy that let you know children are at risk of becoming delinquents.”
Bransford is helping to change people’s lives and the system for the better. She says