Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

Good News in New Jersey and Minnesota


When it comes to state supreme courts, governors are giving us plenty to talk about.

In late March, I brought attention to the Minnesota Supreme Court and the fact that Governor Pawlenty would be filling a vacancy created by the retirement of Chief Justice Eric Magnuson. As I said then, “With his retirement, the court is evenly divided (3–3) between conservatives and liberals, so whoever Gov. Tim Pawlenty appoints to replace Justice Magnuson will be a key vote.”

Yesterday, Pawlenty announced that he had appointed David Stras to the seat. Conservatives in the state tell us that Stras is an eminently qualified appointee who will make Minnesotans proud by relying on text and the original meaning of the law and the Constitution. Stras is currently a law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas and clerked for Justice Thomas on the Supreme Court and Judge Michael Luttig on the 4th Circuit. He is a contributor to the popular, and a frequent commentator for Federalist Society debates. Samples of his scholarly work can be accessed on his official bio.

In New Jersey, Governor Christie invited himself to a fistfight with the state Bar and legal establishment by deciding not to reappoint sitting Justice John Wallace. Instead, Christie has nominated Anne Patterson, an experienced and highly regarded lawyer with a judicial philosophy more in line with the governor’s. As Robby George has already argued, Christie’s decision is simply the first step in fulfilling his promise to remake New Jersey’s Supreme Court. He will have the opportunity to replace four of the seven Justices during his term, and of course that is not sitting well with those who were perfectly happy with the activist status quo.

Then there’s Governor Crist, who announced that he supports Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I’m not surprised, given Crist’s shabby record of appointments to the Florida Supreme Court.

So, congratulations to Stras and Patterson, and kudos to Pawlenty and Christie.


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