Pawlenty appoints U law prof to Minn. Supreme Court

U law professor David Stras will take the place of Associate Justice Lorie Gildea, who will become chief justice June 30.

by Associated Press

Gov. Tim Pawlenty on June 13 named a sitting Supreme Court Justice to lead the state’s high court and a fresh-faced newcomer to fill her spot, deepening his imprint on Minnesota’s judiciary. Associate Justice Lorie Gildea will become chief justice on June 30. Taking her place will be David Stras, a law professor who described U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as “my mentor in the law.” Gildea, 48, will replace Eric Magnuson, another Pawlenty appointee who is stepping down. She dissented from a 4-3 ruling last week that overturned budget cuts the governor made last year. Pawlenty has appointed five Supreme Court justices in his two terms, though as Magnuson leaves his appointees will hold only four of the court’s seven seats. The pick of Stras âÄî who clerked for Thomas and is a member of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group âÄî fit into what the Republican governor described as a philosophy of judicial restraint. “I want to try to encourage people to apply and to appoint people as best I can who interpret the law as written and use restraint when the law may be unclear as to how far they want to insert themselves into disputes with their own personal views,” Pawlenty said at a Capitol news conference at which he introduced the appointments. State court records show that Stras, 35, got his license to practice law in Minnesota slightly more than eight months ago. He has been on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Law School since 2004. He teaches and writes on federal courts and jurisdiction, constitutional law, criminal law, law and politics, and law and economics. Stras was asked about how closely his legal views hew to Thomas’ at the news conference. “I have tremendous respect for Justice Thomas,” he said. “He was really my mentor in the law. But there certainly are a great deal of differences in the way we approach cases and the way we approach legal questions.” Gildea has served on the Minnesota Supreme Court since Pawlenty appointed her in 2006. She was previously a Hennepin County District Court judge and an assistant Hennepin County attorney.