Three candidates selected to replace Beltrami County Judge Benshoof

The Commission on Judicial Selection announced three candidates for consideration to fill the Ninth Judicial District vacancy upon the retirement of the Honorable Paul T. Benshoof in Beltrami County.

Assistant Cass County Attorney Jeanine Brand is one of the three being considered. Ms. Brand currently serves as an Assistant Cass County Attorney. In her role, Ms. Brand primarily handles prosecution of sexual assault, domestic assault, child endangerment, protective order violation, and controlled substance cases. Previously, Ms. Brand served as Clearwater County Attorney, Assistant Clearwater County Attorney, Assistant Bemidji City Attorney, and Assistant Clay County Attorney. Ms. Brand is actively involved in collaborative committees to address justice in the legal system and develop protocols with partnering service program, tribal, and governmental agencies. Previously, Ms. Brand taught Business Law at Bemidji State University and Criminal Law & Procedure at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Ms. Brand’s community involvement includes serving as the First Vice-President of Girl Scouts of America, Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines Council, Chairperson of the Board of Directors for Support Within Reach, and President of the Clearwater Library Foundation.

Tom Keusel, attorney, is another candidate for consideration. Mr. Kuesel currently operates his own law firm in Northern Minnesota, where his practice focuses on criminal defense and personal injury matters. He is certified as a Criminal Law Specialist by the Minnesota State Bar Association. Previously, Mr. Kuesel has served as a part time Assistant Public Defender in the Ninth Judicial District, law clerk in the Eighth Judicial District, and student attorney for the Anoka County Attorney’s Office. Mr. Kuesel’s community involvement includes serving on the board of the Northwest Indian Community Development Center and serving as the chairman of Bemidji’s Hockey Day Minnesota 2019 Local Organizing Committee. Mr. Kuesel also volunteers as an assistant coach with the Bemidji High School Mock Trial Team.

Clifford Wardlaw is the third candidate being considered. Mr. Wardlaw serves as an Assistant Polk County Attorney, where he 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 Indian country. His community involvement includes volunteering as a recreation coach for youth basketball and softball and as a mock trial judge. Mr. 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.

Judge Benshoof is anticipated to retire in July.


Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers events and issues in north central Minnesota, which include local government, crime, courts, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University and received her degree in 2018. Larissa, native to the great state of New York, grew up in Bemidji, and enjoys spending her spare time with her family and pet cat. She also loves Star Trek, punk rock music and the theater.


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