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Minnesota Supreme Court

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Minnesota Supreme Court
Seal of Minnesota-alt.png
EstablishedMay 24, 1858 (1858-05-24)
LocationSaint Paul
Composition methodNonpartisan election, appointment by the governor if filling midterm vacancy
Authorized byMinnesota Constitution
Judge term length6 years (mandatory retirement at the age of 70)
Number of positions7
WebsiteOfficial website
Chief Justice
CurrentlyLorie Skjerven Gildea
SinceJuly 1, 2010
Jurist term endsJanuary 6, 2025
Seal of Minnesota-alt.png
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

The Minnesota Supreme Court is the highest court in the U.S. state of Minnesota. The court hears cases in the Supreme Court chamber in the Minnesota State Capitol or in the nearby Minnesota Judicial Center.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Law School 2015 Commencement Address by Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan C. Page (’78)


>> Dean Wippman, Regent Rosha, family and friends of the graduates, the Class of 2015, thank you for the warmth of your welcome, and thank you also for allowing me to share my thoughts with you this morning. Certainly, 37 years ago when I was sitting as a graduate, it wouldn't have exactly occurred to anybody that one day I might be the commencement speaker at this great law school. But like the path that brought me to this moment, the path that each of you take will provide an opportunity for you to accomplish that which no one thought possible. The key to whatever success I've had can be found in the unwillingness to be satisfied with playing to the level of the competition. A willingness to push beyond my own self-perceived limitations. A willingness to be involved in the community around me, and in preparation. Now thinking about preparation, I'm reminded of my law school experience during which I learned some pretty important lessons about preparation in my first year of contracts class. Now I will tell you that that class was not here at the University, I was, I spent a little time my first summer of law school at the University of Texas, and I had this professor who, instead of lecturing, believed strongly in the Socratic method, which as you graduates know, entails asking questions of those of us who are under-enlightened to help lead us to a little bit of enlightenment, and includes maybe just a little bit of intimidation along the way. I have vivid memories of one of the guys in the class being brought to tears. Now, even though I always came to class relatively well-prepared, and had performed as a football player in front of hundreds of thousands of people, I was panicked that the professor would call on me. Making myself small and inconspicuous, however, was not one of the choices. What could I do? Well, after surviving the first few days without being called on, I noticed that the professor only called on those who looked afraid. And he never called on anyone who raised their hand. So, I started raising my hand. And for a while that tactic was rewarded. But then, eventually, one day I raised my hand and as luck would have it, he called on me. Without thinking, I stood up to answer the question, and my mind went blank. And it stayed blank. As I scrambled for a cohesive thought, I had momentary empathy for all those quarterbacks I'd been chasing for a living. Then, somehow it hit me. I had to say something. That anything, anything was better than silence. So I started speaking. And, whatever I said must have been okay. But the experience taught me three important lessons. First, that preparation is critical to success. And while good preparation in that context meant coming to class with my assignments done, it also means being able to size up a situation and respond appropriately. Second, I learned that we sometimes create our own greatest obstacles, that our fears rather than the actual situation is what limits us. And third, and maybe most important, that even when our fears cause us to stumble, good preparation will allow us to pick ourselves back up. To the class of 2015 let me say congratulations for a job well done. Your preparation and hard work have paid off and you should be proud. What a wonderful gift you have given yourselves. I can appreciate the conflicting emotions that you may be feeling at the moment. From the relief of having no more lectures, finals, or tuition, to the anticipation coupled with, I suspect, a little fear, that comes with new beginnings. To the sense of accomplishment and pride that we all feel here this morning, and the fear that your graduation speaker will drone on forever, say nothing of particular relevance, and prolonging the moment until the real celebration begins. Indeed, it occurs to me that some of you may be asking yourselves, wait a minute, what's wrong with this picture? After all that tuition, I've got a football player as a commencement speaker. How is it that this football player is our commencement speaker? After all, we know that football players are really nothing more than dumb jocks and that defensive linemen have all been hit in the head at least one too many times. The simple fact is that long before I was a football player, my parents who knew and understood the importance of education made sure that I understood it. I was lucky. They made it clear to me by word and deed that if I was going to have a better life than they had, I would have to be educated and also be a good citizen. They also instilled in me the notion of seeking excellence in all that you do. I can hear their voices even now saying whatever you do in life, do it as well as you can. If you're going to be a garbage collector, be the best garbage collector you can be. If you're going to be a lawyer, be the best lawyer that you can be. Now I took that to mean more than simply being better than the competition or scoring more points than the opponent. I took it to mean that, if you hope to achieve your highest potential, you have to push beyond your perceived limitations and others limited expectations and seek to find your highest self. If you do, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Now, recognizing that what I say this morning may well not be long remembered, what I would like to do is talk, at least for a moment, about the future, about hope, and ultimately the role that each of us can play in making the future better and brighter. Important to that discussion are issues of character and issues of race. As you leave this great law school traveling your chosen paths, your character will be challenged. Now the American Heritage Dictionary defines character as moral or ethical strength, integrity, fortitude. In a sense, character is who we are at our core. It's what determines what we believe and how we choose to respond to a given situation. Character is not something that we are born with, nor does it develop automatically. It must be consciously developed. Nor is it something that is static, whether we're 50 or 15, 5 or 75, whether we're a graduate of the law school, a graduate's family member, or friend, or a Supreme Court Justice, we will be forced to reevaluate and renew our character again and again. To resist the pressures and temptations that seduce us to make the easy choices rather than the right choices, to be a person of character takes a strong person. Now, I don't mean strong in the physical sense where physical stature really has nothing to do with character. I do mean strong in the sense of believing that each one of us has an obligation to act in ways that builds rather than diminishes our character and the character of those around us. That means we must be honest and trustworthy, saying what we mean and meaning what we say. It means keeping our promises. It means avoiding the arrogance of power, playing fairly, telling the truth, making decisions with others in mind, always treating people with respect, and respecting ourselves. It means working to figure out the difference between right and wrong and then acting accordingly. The fact that I was once considered to be a great football player, or that I am a Supreme Court Justice, doesn't by itself mean that I am a man of good character. The fact that the color of my skin may be different from yours doesn't mean that I'm not a man of good character. The fact that your language or religion may be different from mine doesn't make either one of our characters better or worse. The outward differences that identify us as individuals do not define the content of our character. Along life's path, you will also be confronted with issues of race. Now, I recognize that discussions of race can be extremely uncomfortable and are never easy. That is so in part because what some, one person sees as innocent conduct, another may see as racially motivated. Moreover, even innocent conduct can have a negative effect when it comes to issues of race. Sometimes the race card is openly and blatantly played. Sometimes its use is more subtle. And sometimes, the card being played isn't the race card at all, but the effect is such that there is a racial impact. Clearly things have changed for the better since the civil rights movement of the '60s. We have done away with the whites only and colored only signs, which were once clear symbols of state sponsored apartheid. The Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown versus the Board of Education which was issued 61 years ago announced the death nail for segregation as we knew it. Yet, in many respects, we are still a segregated society. An area of particular concern to me is our criminal justice system which at times seems more interested in putting people of color in jail than in helping them succeed. Shortly after I was sworn into the Court, our Court issued a report from a task force examining racial bias in our judicial system. The task force found that everything else being equal, people of color are arrested more often, charged more often, given higher bail, tougher plea bargains, less fair trials, and far longer sentences. These findings were consistent with the findings of the 30 or so other states that conducted such studies. They are also consistent, sadly, with the findings of the Kerner report issued in 1968. Unfortunately, in my time on the Court, we have not eliminated those disparities. Emma Lazarus, the poet who penned the words, "give me your tired, your poor, your, your huddled masses yearning to be free," also wrote these words, "until we are all free, we are none of us free." I would simply say with apologies to Emma Lazarus, until we all, until we all receive justice, we will none of us receive justice. There is something fundamentally wrong when our judicial system, the one branch of our government designed to protect individual rights, consistently denies equal justice to our communities of color. Now, given the disparities that we see in ours and other criminal justice systems across the country, we should not be particularly surprised that there appears to be a disparity in the number of unarmed people of color who end up dying in police custody. What I find both surprising, and also a little disturbing, is the suggestion that comes from some quarters that simply because these people allegedly committed some crime, they somehow deserved what happened to them, and that those who protest what happened to them, support crime and criminals. The lack of empathy and understanding embodied in those views is dangerous to our democracy because those who hold such views do not believe in equal justice under law. Moreover, as Thomas Payne once said, "an avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression, for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself." Now does all this mean that there is active prejudice at work? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Some of the policies and practices that lead to our over-representation, lead to over-representation in our criminal justice, prison system, and under-representation virtually everywhere else for people of color, stem from well-intentioned, if naive, efforts to demonstrate that our society is color blind. Other policies and practices seem to result more from indifference than from outright prejudice. But whatever the reason, the outcome remains the same. While we may be better at covering up our biases, making bias harder to detect is not the same as making it go away. And living in a color blind society should not require that we live in a society that is blind to racial injustice. But what, you know, what can we do to address the issues of race that confront us? Identifying the problem and complaining about it is not enough. Rhetoric without action is self-defeating. Lashing out in anger in the streets is both ineffective and counter-productive. But one thing we can all do is examine our own biases and set aside our prejudices based on stereo-typical views of people who are different from us. In the, in the context of race, too often the word different is really just a euphemism for inferior. We see people who are different, who are like us as good, and who are different from us as bad. We need to make sure that our feelings about other people are based on the individual rather than some perceived characteristic of a disfavored racial group. In the end, what does all this mean to you, the graduates? As graduates of this great law school, we are among the privileged few. As such, I believe we have some obligation to work to improve the lot of others who are less fortunate. Grabbing what we want for ourselves and ignoring everyone else is simply not acceptable. I believe we have an obligation to use that privilege to do good. For me, that has meant assisting children and understanding the importance of education, motivating in them in their educational pursuits and working to provide educational opportunity. But what can you, aspiring future lawyers with crushing student loan debt and uncertain job prospects do? Because of the problems facing us are complex, we tend to think in terms of complex solutions, or think it's someone else's problem. As a result, individual effort seems insignificant. But I believe that the steps we take individually are significant. Ultimately, the problems we face and the solutions, the problems we face are people problems, and the solutions will be found in people like you and people like me. Whether it's providing pro bono legal services for those in need and for which there is a great need or spending time working with children as I do, whatever it may be, you have the power to change the future. Our destiny is inextricably linked with your willingness to give of yourselves. Some would say, no, the problems that we face are too big, too complex for one person to impact. I believe that those people are wrong. You don't need to be a hero or even a Supreme Court Justice to make change happen. Everyone here, and I emphasize everyone here, has the ability, the opportunity, and I believe the obligation to make this world a better place. All we have to do is act and act we must. When we put our hearts, our minds, and our bodies to the task; when we act, we can improve the lives of those less fortunate, change our character in ways that make us better individually and collectively, and begin to address the seemingly intractable problems of race. In the process, we can change the future. As Dr. Seuss said in the [indecipherable], "unless someone like your cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it is not." Thank you. [Applause] And again, congratulations.



The court was first assembled as a three-judge panel in 1849 when Minnesota was still a territory. The first members were lawyers from outside the region who were appointed by President Zachary Taylor. The state court system was rearranged in 1858 when Minnesota became a state.

Appeals from the Minnesota District Courts went directly to the Minnesota Supreme Court until the Minnesota Court of Appeals, an intermediate appellate court, was created in 1983 to handle most of those cases. The court now considers about 900 appeals per year and the court accepts review in about one in eight cases.[1] Before the Court of Appeals was created, the number of cases handled by the Minnesota Supreme Court amounted to about 1800. Certain types of appeals can go directly to the Supreme Court, such as those involving taxes, first degree murder, and workers' compensation.


The seven justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court are elected to renewable six-year terms.[2] When a midterm vacancy occurs, the governor of Minnesota appoints a replacement to a term that ends after the general election occurring more than one year after the appointment.[3] Most vacancies occur during a term. The most recent election to an open seat on the court was in 1992, when former Minnesota Vikings player Alan Page was elected. Judges in Minnesota have a mandatory retirement age of 70.[4][5]

Anne McKeig, a descendant of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, became the first Native American justice in 2016. Her appointment also marked the second time the court had a majority of women since 1991.[6]


Seat Name Born Appointed by Age at appointment Appointment begin date Length of service Current term end date Mandatory retirement date
Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea October 6, 1961 (age 58) Tim Pawlenty 44 (as an associate justice) January 11, 2006 (as an associate justice) 13 years, 11 months
(4 years, 5 months as an associate justice)
(9 years, 5 months as chief justice)
January 6, 2025 October 31, 2031
48 (as chief justice) July 1, 2010 (as chief justice)
1 Barry Anderson October 24, 1954 (age 65) Tim Pawlenty 49 October 13, 2004 15 years, 2 months January 6, 2025 October 31, 2024
3 David Lillehaug May 22, 1954 (age 65) Mark Dayton 58 June 3, 2013 6 years, 6 months January 4, 2021 May 31, 2024
6 Natalie Hudson January 13, 1957 (age 62) Mark Dayton 58 October 26, 2015 4 years, 1 month January 2, 2023 January 31, 2027
2 Margaret Chutich June 18, 1958 (age 61) Mark Dayton 57 March 17, 2016 3 years, 9 months January 6, 2025 June 30, 2028
5 Anne McKeig February 9, 1967 (age 52) Mark Dayton 49 August 31, 2016 3 years, 3 months January 6, 2025 February 28, 2037
4 Paul Thissen December 10, 1966 (age 53) Mark Dayton 51 May 14, 2018 1 year, 7 months January 4, 2021 December 31, 2036

Sources: [7][8]


See also


  1. ^ "Supreme Court" (PDF). Minnesota Judicial Branch. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  2. ^ "Minn. Const. art. VI, sec. 7". Minnesota Constitution. Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  3. ^ "Minn. Const. art. VI, sec. 8". Minnesota Constitution. Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  4. ^ "Minnesota Statutes 2013, section 490.121, subdivision 21d". Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  5. ^ "Minnesota Statutes 2013, section 490.121, subdivision 1". Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  6. ^ Lopez, Ricardo (June 28, 2016). "Dayton selects McKeig as next Supreme Court justice". Star Tribune. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  7. ^ "State Judiciary" (PDF). 2017–2018 Minnesota Legislative Manual (Blue Book). Minnesota Secretary of State. pp. 369–70. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  8. ^ "Supreme Court Justices". Minnesota Judicial Branch. Retrieved January 11, 2019.

External links

This page was last edited on 11 January 2019, at 22:53
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