ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Freeborn County restaurant owner has lost her bid to remove the judge in her criminal case for allegedly violating the state’s COVID safety rules.
Melissa Lynn Hanson, 57 of Hayward, was charged with seven misdemeanor violations of emergency orders and one misdemeanor count of public nuisance. Authorities say Hanson opened her business, The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro in Albert Lea, despite the coronavirus restrictions ordered by Governor Tim Walz.
Hanson was arrested on those charges in Clear Lake, Iowa in April. She then filed a motion to replace the judge in her case. Court records state Hanson claimed the judge violated her due process rights, should have dismissed the charges against her over lack of jurisdiction, and that the judge is a defendant in a civil lawsuit Hanson has filed over Minnesota’s COVID restrictions.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has now rejected Hanson’s attempt to replace her judge, stating “petitioner’s claims of impartiality are really dissatisfaction or disagreement with the judge’s decisions." The Court says that is not enough to support a claim of judicial bias but Hanson could raise the issue again in any appeal of a judgment against her.
The criminal prosecution of Hanson has been on hold while awaiting this ruling.