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Dakota County District Judge Michael V. Sovis hasn't spent a day in his chambers since he was arrested for driving drunk in St. Paul last Christmas Eve.

He has asked Gov. Mark Dayton for a medical disability retirement, his attorney said Thursday, the day after Sovis pleaded guilty in Ramsey County District Court to one gross-misdemeanor count of drunken driving.

"I think it's important to know that this incident is totally inconsistent with Judge Sovis' character," his attorney, David L. Ayers, said. "He's a very honorable man who has been humiliated by this incident, but he also knows, of course, that he has no one to blame but himself."

Sovis, 64, of Apple Valley, who has been on the bench since 1988, was arrested shortly before 8 p.m. Dec. 24 after hitting several parked cars in the 1200 block of St. Clair Avenue. He and his wife, who was in the passenger seat, were not injured. Sovis told an officer that he had six drinks with vodka that evening, according to court documents.

A breath test showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.28 percent about an hour after the incident, the documents said.

In court Wednesday, Ayers read a letter Sovis has sent to Gov. Mark Dayton asking for a medical retirement. Ayers said the judge has a medical condition "that makes it appropriate for him to make that request and for that request to be honored." He did not elaborate.

The mandatory retirement age for state judges is 70. A medical disability retirement would allow Sovis to get an additional full year's pay before he collects his regular pension. District judges make $129,124 a year and contribute 8 percent of their salary to a retirement plan. Their pension is about $99,000 a year.

He had been charged in Ramsey County District Court with two counts of third-degree drunken driving. After his guilty plea Wednesday, one of the counts was dismissed.

District Judge Marybeth Dorn sentenced him to two years on probation and gave him credit for two days he served in jail. He was ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, abstain from alcohol and nonprescription drugs, and undergo random drug testing.

Ayers said Sovis has completed a 33-day inpatient treatment program at Hazelden.

Pat Pheifer