Earlier this month, Minnesota Chief Justice Eric Magnuson announced that he would be stepping down from the Minnesota Supreme Court in June. 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.
According to court watchers in the state, Governor Pawlenty’s appointments to the narrowly divided court have been good so far, moving it in a conservative direction. As the Star Tribune put it, “The Minnesota Supreme Court — once known as a moderate to liberal body — has shifted rightward with four appointments by Gov. Tim Pawlenty over the past seven years.”
Governor Pawlenty is widely expected to run for president in 2012. Naturally, conservatives are keeping notes on his administration and looking for more clues indicating how he might perform at the highest level. Conservatives have reason to be pleased with his judicial appointments so far, but that should not diminish their expectations for the Magnuson vacancy.
– Gary Marx is executive director of the Judicial Crisis Network.