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Monday, March 10, 2008

Help wanted -- 'Judicial activists' need not apply

Governor Tim Pawlenty is currently looking for a new chief justice for the Minnesota Supreme Court. While I obviously don't know who will be picked yet, I can take a pretty good stab at what that person’s background will include:

-- impeccable conservative credentials;
-- well known to Gov. Pawlenty (a/k/a “a friend of Tim”);
-- with a “strict constructionist” judicial outlook.

With just two woman and one minority on the high court, diversity is likely to be a factor the governor considers, although, as he showed with his last high court pick, not necessarily a decisive one.

One option for Pawlenty would be to elevate an associate justice to the chief’s spot and then to appoint a replacement for the associate justice. (This is what the governor did when he selected then-associate Justice Russell Anderson as chief two years ago.) If Pawlenty goes this route, one of three justices would likely become the new chief – G. Barry Anderson, Lorie Gildea or Christopher Dietzen.

On the other hand, Pawlenty could tap a well-regarded lawyer without prior judicial experience, in which case longtime friend and colleague Eric Magnuson would be a clear favorite.

With this next appointment, the court will officially be a Pawlenty court, with four of the seven justices owing their seats to the governor. The three remaining justices not appointed by Pawlenty are: Paul Anderson (appointed by Arne Carlson), Helen Meyer (appointed by Jesse Ventura) and Justice Alan Page (who was elected to his seat and is the most senior justice on the court).


Anonymous said...

The smart money should be on Barry Anderson as the new chief.

Mark Cohen, editor said...

Barry Anderson would probably be the favorite of the associate justices for elevation -- he has been on the court the longest of the three Pawlenty appointments, and he has served on both the state's appellate courts. Chris Dietzen has served on both as well, but only joined the high court last month.

Barry Anderson fits all the criteria I outlined above, is smart and has a good sense of humor to boot. Not a bad choice all-in-all if the governor decides to go "in-house" with his chief justice choice. Plus, as an added benefit, the folks at the Supreme Court wouldn't have to change any of the signs or letterhead that say, "Chief Justice Anderson." With a deficit looming, those sorts of cost savings cannot be overlooked ... ;0)