All DFL-appointed MN Supreme Court will give party a ‘quad-fecta’
(KSTP) – Gov. Tim Walz will get the chance to appoint two more members to the Minnesota Supreme Court in the next six months, which will mean four of the seven members will be his appointees. The other three were appointed by his predecessor.
Justice Margaret Chutich announced this week she’ll retire July 31 after seven years on the court, but several years before her mandatory retirement age of 70. Last week, Justice G. Barry Anderson announced he’ll step down as the last Republican appointee on the court.
“This is pretty significant,” says Hamline University Law Professor David Schultz, coming as it does on the heels of the DFL Party already winning control of the governor’s office, House and Senate. “If one is concerned about some type of checks and balances that come with party competition that’s essentially disappearing in the state of Minnesota and disappearing potentially with the court.”
Schultz acknowledges the Minnesota Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court are supposed to be politically “colorblind,” but that’s not the reality.
“You hate to say that the courts are political institutions, but they are political institutions in many ways and they do sometimes look at the law from that partisan lens,” he says.
Minnesota does use a Commission on Judicial Selection to guide the search for potential appointees on a variety of merit-based factors but the commission is appointed by the governor and the Minnesota Supreme Court, which will soon be all Democratic-appointees.
Schultz says future court decisions on partisan issues like abortion, guns and elections could be impacted by not having dissenting voices. “Having dissenters is important to force people out of that group think, out of that collective mentality, and have to maybe respond to objections or criticism regarding arguments they want to make.”
According to his research, Schultz says the last time all court members were appointed by governors of the same party was in the mid-1950s when all were Republican appointees.