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Commission recommends candidates

WORTHINGTON -- The Commission on Judicial Selection announced Thursday it is recommending four candidates to Gov. Mark Dayton for consideration to fill two judgeship vacancies in the Fifth Judicial District.

Out of approximately a dozen who applied for the vacancies left by Judge Timothy Connell and Judge Jeffrey Flynn, the applications of Gordon Moore, Michael Trushenski, Terry Vajgrt and Christina Wietzema were selected to recommend to the governor.

Moore, the current Nobles County Attorney, is chief prosecutor and legal advisor for the county. He previously was an assistant city attorney for Worthington and a special assistant attorney in the Transportation and Employment divisions of the Minnesota Attorney General's Office. Moore is a member of the Nobles County Child Protection team and a former chairman of the Independent School District 518 Board of Directors.

Trushenski currently serves as Assistant Martin County Attorney and works as an associate attorney with Viesselman & Barke, P.A., where he practices in family and bankruptcy law, personal injury and probate matters. Trushenski is a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Fairmont, and is president of the Martin County Law Library Committee. He is a past president of the 17th District Bar Association.

Vajgrt is an Assistant Public Defender for the state of Minnesota and maintains a private practice focusing on criminal defense work. He previously worked as a partner in the law firm of Klosterbuer and Vajgrt, and is a former Assistant Rock County Attorney. Vajgrt is a member of the Southwestern Mental Health Center Board of Directors and chairman of the Nobles-Rock Community Corrections Advisory Board.

Wietzema currently works as an Assistant Public Defender for the Fifth Judicial District, where she represents indigent clients in all areas of public defense. Prior to this, she represented clients in family law, real property and criminal law as an associate attorney with Bernardy & Scholl, P.A. Wietzema is an active volunteer with St. Mary's Catholic Church in Worthington.

According to information released by the commission, an announcement of the appointments will be made following an interview process over the next few weeks.

Those vying for the position were interviewed earlier this week after meeting a Dec. 5 application deadline. All candidates were required to submit a six-page application with a letter of interest, resume and letters of recommendation.

According to the state application procedure for a district court judge, the commission personally interviewed each semi-finalist, then voted by secret ballot on three to five finalists. A representative from the Office of the Governor Communications Department said Dayton will conduct a 30- to 45- minute interview with each finalist at the Capitol in St. Paul, getting to know each candidate.

"It is essentially a job interview," the representative, Blake Chaffee, stated.

A decision will be made in the next few weeks, Chaffee said.

Connell retired in October, and Flynn will retire in mid-January. Another judge in the Fifth Judicial District, Bruce Gross, who has chambers in Cottonwood County, will retire this summer.