On Wednesday, July 3, 2024, Minnesota Lawyer reported that the Minnesota Supreme Court had appointed a three-judge panel to conduct a public hearing regarding an amended formal complaint filed against 10th Judicial District Judge John Dehen by the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards.

The article detailed that Judge Dehen, who was first elected to the bench in 2010, had previously received a private admonition in 2022 for violating rules related to the abuse of his judicial prestige stemming from a dispute over a Facebook marketplace sale. In April 2024, the Board had initially filed a complaint against Judge Dehen related to allegations that he violated judicial conduct rules in his handling of attempts to rehire his former court reporter.

However, the Board has since amended the formal complaint to include additional allegations of bias and lack of impartiality in several at-risk juvenile guardianship cases that Judge Dehen presided over in 2022 and 2023. Specifically, the amended complaint alleged that Judge Dehen had demonstrated a pattern of prejudice against parties in these cases based on their national origin, ethnicity, language abilities, and perceived immigration statuses.

As evidence, the article outlined comments and findings Judge Dehen had made in five separate juvenile cases – In re Ahmed, In re Marmol Ayala, In re Varela Lopez, In re Castro Lazo, and In re Lemus Corpeno. In the Ahmed case, Judge Dehen had apparently asked questions implying consideration of the juvenile’s actual or perceived immigration status, including how they arrived in the US, who paid for travel, and the travel route into the country.

More broadly, the Board asserted that Judge Dehen has a history across these types of cases of both explicitly and implicitly inquiring about parties’ immigration statuses. In at least one instance, he directly asked a petitioner if they were “here legally or illegally.” Additionally, in one case, Judge Dehen found that a juvenile’s inability to speak English indicated it was not in their best interest to remain in the US.

In another case summarized in the article, Judge Dehen denied a guardianship petition finding the proposed guardian was insufficient due to an inability to speak English, which the Board argued demonstrated bias given the judge’s broader immigration-focused questioning. Taken together, the Board asserted this conduct warrants questioning of Judge Dehen’s impartiality and whether biases could impair his ability to fairly determine cases.

As a further and separate allegation, the article stated the Board accused Judge Dehen of failing to maintain proper judicial decorum and dignity by reportedly presiding over a court calendar from his vehicle while traveling out of town on November 4, 2022. In total, the Board charged Judge Dehen with violating fourteen separate rules of the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct related to issues like compliance with the law, promoting public confidence, impartiality, bias, remaining competent and diligent, and prohibitions against improper ex parte communications or independent investigations.

In response, the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed a three-judge panel to conduct a public hearing to address the amended formal complaint. Following the hearing, the panel will have the option to either dismiss the case or recommend the Supreme Court issue an order for censure, suspension, or other sanctions against Judge Dehen.

 

 

Source: Minnesota Lawyer