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Friday, January 07, 2011

Hennepin County judge testifies in her residency dispute

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Anonymous Pioneer Press said...

Karasov says Chisago City living arrangement temporary
By David Hanners
dhanners@pioneerpress.com
Updated: 01/06/2011 11:48:23 PM CST


Hennepin County District Judge Patricia Kerr Karasov got the chance Thursday she had been waiting for since the letter landed on her desk on a September day in 2009.

The letter was from the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards, telling her she was under investigation for allegedly not living in her judicial district, violating Article VI, Section 4 of the Minnesota Constitution — the document she had sworn to uphold.

In two hours of narrative testimony and sometimes-contentious cross-examination Thursday, Karasov said that while she did live at her Chisago City home for nearly three months in 2009, it was just a temporary arrangement while she was searching for a permanent place to live in Hennepin County.

"I deny that I did not maintain a legal residence" in Hennepin County, she said. "I maintained a legal residence at Falcon Court (in Edina), with a temporary absence."

She said she has been cagey about revealing her address in the past because an "obsessed" former boyfriend stalked her in 2001. But when board attorney Doug Kelley pointed out that she had failed to name the man — stifling the board's attempt to corroborate her story — she bristled.

"Do you believe that is cooperating with the board?" Kelley asked.

"I believe it is an invasion of my privacy," she shot back.

Kelley asked her if she had the right to decide her privacy trumped her obligation to cooperate with a board investigation.

"The board doesn't have the
right to delve into the personal life of every judge and make it public," she said in an incensed tone.

Karasov's testimony ended a three-day hearing in St. Paul into her alleged personal misconduct; aside from claims she lived outside her district and failed to cooperate with the board inquiry, she also is accused of claiming a homestead tax credit for which she wasn't eligible.

Retired Winona County District Judge Lawrence Collins, who presided over the three-member panel conducting the hearing, told Kelley and Karasov to submit by Feb. 3 their versions of how they think the board should rule.

Sometime after that — Collins gave no indication of when — the panel will rule. If the board finds Karasov acted improperly, it could warn or reprimand her. If it rules the wrongdoing was more serious, it could recommend to the Minnesota Supreme Court that she be censured or removed from office.

Testimony on Thursday indicated the 59-year-old judge planned to retire next year. She originally had planned to retire to the home in Chisago County that got her in trouble in the first place.

After the hearing, Karasov was asked if she was satisfied with the proceedings.

She thought a moment while gathering up her papers. "No comment," she finally replied.

Karasov, who was first elected to the bench in 1994, represented herself during the hearing. At times, the proceedings featured uncomfortable insights into family dirty laundry with testimony from her two daughters, as well as her ex-husband, Fred Karasov — also a Hennepin County district judge — and his current wife.

In her formal reply to the board's complaint, the judge had said the evidence "is made up of hearsay upon hearsay, gossip, innuendo, and rumor, repeated by an ex-husband's wife, whose motivations are unknown." In that regard, the testimony often lived up to the judge's advance billing.

Most of the testimony Patricia Karasov presented in her defense came in the form of affidavits from various people, but she also called five witnesses to the stand, including herself.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous story continued said...

One of her key witnesses was Catherine Christman, the Hennepin County sheriff's deputy who, in January 2007, bought a three-bedroom, two-bath house with Karasov on Lyman Lane next to Chisago Lake. The asking price had been $350,000 but the buyer accepted $292,000, and the two women split the cost.

Under questioning by Karasov, Christman, 53, explained in a matter-of-fact monotone how the two had gotten to know each other.

"I was working in your courtroom one day and struck up a conversation," the witness said. "We became friends."

The two soon grew close and engaged in a range of activities together, including golfing, boating, vacationing and snowmobiling — and sometimes bringing along their daughters, who were a year apart in age.

"We took them golfing. It was pretty aggravating, but we did," Christman said without elaboration.

She said they began looking for a house together in the summer of 2006, "for an investment, to have fun on the lake." Christman said that while she believed they got a good deal on the property, the house "was falling apart" and they wound up taking "two or three dump trucks of garbage out of the yard."

She said she and Karasov each put down $10,000 and financed $140,000 to buy the house, then each contributed $1,200 monthly toward the mortgage. They would share or trade other expenses, she said.

"It all worked out in the wash," Christman said. "It was, 'I'll take this debt, you take that debt, and we're even.' "

The judicial standards board claims that after buying the home in Chisago County, Karasov began slowly moving her furniture there and spending more time there, while also trying to sell her house on Falcon Court in Edina. The board maintains that all the while, she took steps to maintain a "front" address to make it appear she was living in her district.

Among the evidence Kelley introduced were charts showing that for several months in 2008 and 2009, most of the judge's credit card charges were made in the Chisago City area.

Karasov didn't deny spending plenty of time up there. But she maintained it was so she could care for her ailing father, cartoonist Richard Kerr. He had been severely injured in a car wreck in April 2007, and when he got out of the hospital, Karasov decided it would be cheaper to have him live outside the metro area.

"I made a point to see my dad every weekend," she said. "I spent a lot of time up there with my dad, and I can't say they I regret any minute of it."

Richard Kerr died in September. And that, Christman testified, is the last time Karasov was at the house. Two days before he died — and less than two weeks before Karasov was officially notified of the board inquiry — the judge signed over her half of the home to Christman.

Kelley argued that while Karasov was living in Chisago City, she was making attempts to get an address in Hennepin County so it would appear she was living in the district. Within a day or so of getting the board's letter informing her she was under investigation, she took steps to have her name added to the lease of the apartment on Fremont Avenue South in Minneapolis that her daughter was renting.

Five days after that, on Oct. 6, 2009, Karasov replied to the board's letter, telling them that the Fremont Avenue apartment was her "current address" and that she was renting it with two roommates. She also said she owned a home in the 6300 block of Falcon Court in Edina, which she had been unsuccessful in selling.

When she testified Thursday, she told the panel that the Falcon Court home was her permanent address, "and I do live in the Fourth Judicial District."

David Hanners can be reached at 612-338-6516.

1:30 PM  

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