Minnesota Supreme Court

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Minnesota Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1858
Location:   Saint Paul, Minnesota
Chief:  $167,000
Associates:  $152,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Nonpartisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Active justices

Alan Page  •  Lorie Gildea  •  Barry Anderson (Minnesota)  •  Christopher Dietzen  •  Wilhelmina Wright  •  David Stras  •  David Lillehaug  •  

Seal of Minnesota.png

The Minnesota Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the state of Minnesota. It consists of seven justices who are elected to the court in nonpartisan elections for six-year terms. The court sits in the supreme court's chamber located in the Minnesota State Capitol or in the Minnesota Judicial Center.[1]


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Justice Alan Page1993-2016Elected
Chief justice Lorie Gildea2006-2018Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Justice Barry Anderson (Minnesota)2004-2018Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Justice Christopher Dietzen2008-2016Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Justice Wilhelmina Wright2012-2020Gov. Mark Dayton
Justice David Stras2010-2018Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Justice David Lillehaug2013-2020Gov. Mark Dayton
Justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court

Judicial selection

Justices are elected in nonpartisan elections for terms of six years. If a vacancy occurs, the governor of Minnesota appoints a replacement.[1]


According to the constitution of Minnesota, "[j]udges of the supreme court, the court of appeals and the district court shall be learned in the law. The qualifications of all other judges and judicial officers shall be prescribed by law."[2]

Chief justice

The chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court is directly chosen by voters in a nonpartisan election. He or she serves in that capacity for a full six-year term.[3]

See also: Judicial selection in Minnesota.


The state supreme court hears appeals from the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Minnesota Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals, and Minnesota Tax Court. The court also takes direct appeals for first degree murder, election matters, and attorney or judge disciplinary cases. Additionally, the supreme court has jurisdiction over the administration of the state's judicial system.[1]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 115 99
2013 107 142
2012 135 104
2011 122 95
2010 98 114
2009 111 127
2008 148 126
2007 132 126





See also: Minnesota judicial elections, 2014
For more in-depth information, see: Minnesota Supreme Court elections, 2014
Seat 2
CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
WrightWilhelmina WrightApprovedAYes56.8%   ApprovedA
HancockJohn Hancock No42.9%   DefeatedD
Seat 3
CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
LillehaugDavid LillehaugApprovedAYes53.2%   ApprovedA
MacDonaldMichelle L. MacDonald No46.5%   DefeatedD

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Minnesota was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Minnesota received a score of -0.07. Based on the justices selected, Minnesota was the 22nd most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[6]


Judicial conduct

The Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct was most recently amended in 2009. It is composed of four canons, with sub-rules under each canon. The four canons are:

  1. A Judge Shall Uphold and Promote the Independence, Integrity, and Impartiality of the Judiciary, and Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety
  2. A Judge Shall Perform the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially, Competently, and Diligently
  3. A Judge Shall Conduct the Judge's Personal and Extrajudicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict with the Obligations of Judicial Office
  4. A Judge or Candidate for Judicial Office Shall Not Engage in Political or Campaign Activity that is Inconsistent with the Independence, Integrity, or Impartiality of the Judiciary[7][8]

Read the code in its entirety here.

Removal of justices

Justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court can be removed from the bench by impeachment with a majority vote of the state house of representatives and a two-thirds vote of the state senate. They may also be subjected to a recall election.[9]

Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Minnesota earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[10]

Notable cases


Interior of the Minnesota Supreme Court courtroom

Notable firsts

  • 1977: Rosalie Wahl became the first female justice to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court.[13]
  • 1992: The first black justice to serve on the supreme court, Alan Page, was elected in 1992, and took office in January 1993.[14]
  • 2012: Wilhelmina M. Wright became the first black female on the court following her appointment by Governor Mark Dayton on August 20, 2012.[15]

Former justices

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Minnesota Judicial Branch, "Minnesota Supreme Court," accessed December 18, 2014
  2. Minnesota Legislature, "Minnesota Constitution: Article VI, Section 5," accessed December 18, 2014
  3. American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Minnesota," archived October 2, 2014
  4. Minnesota Judicial Branch, "2014 Annual Report," accessed April 7, 2015
  5. Minnesota Judicial Branch, "Publications and Reports"
  6. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  7. Minnesota Legislature, "Minnesota Court Rules: Code of Judicial Conduct," accessed December 18, 2014
  8. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  9. American Judicature Society, "Methods of Selection: Removal of Judges"
  10. Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
  11. MPR News, "Minn. Supreme Court limits property seizures," August 21, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 Star Tribune, "Minnesota Supreme Court rulings curb search and seizure authority," August 20, 2014
  13. Twin Cities, "Rosalie Wahl, first woman on Minnesota Supreme Court, dies," July 22, 2013
  14. University of Mount Union, "Alan Page," accessed December 18, 2014
  15. The Uptake, "First African American Woman On MN Supreme Court," August 20, 2012
  16. Minnesota Judicial Branch, "Chronological Listing of Judges and Justices of the Minnesota Appellate Courts," accessed December 18, 2014
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