Assistant Polk County attorney among three candidate for Ninth Judicial bench vacancy

Times Report

An assistant Polk County attorney is among three candidates being considered to fill a vacancy on the bench in the Ninth Judicial District. Judge Paul T. Benshoof is retiring and his Beltrami County judgeship chambered in Bemidji needs to be filled.

Among the candidates forwarded for consideration by the Commission on Judicial Selection is Clifford Wardlaw, an assistant Polk County attorney. Wardlaw handles criminal prosecution including narcotics, domestic violence, child abuse and criminal sexual conduct offenses. Previously, he was an assistant United States attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, where he prosecuted violent crimes in American Indian country. Wardlaw’s community involvement includes volunteering as a recreation coach for youth basketball and softball and as a mock trial judge. Wardlaw is also a founding member of the board of directors for the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association, and an honorary member of the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association.

The other two candidates are Jeanine Brand, an assistant Cass County attorney, and Tom Kuesel, who operates his own private practice in northern Minnesota. 

 Minnesota’s Ninth Judicial District consists of 17 counties in northwest Minnesota, including Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, and Roseau.

For more information about the judicial selection process, visit