Bench Memos

Justice David Stras

One of the Pawlenty appointees mentioned in my previous post is Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, a friend I met through U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for whom we both clerked. Justice Stras was initially appointed to the Minnesota supreme court by Governor Pawlenty in 2010, but this November voters will decide whether he gets to remain on the court or whether his challenger will take his place. Justice Stras is an intelligent, thoughtful, and down-to-earth person whose record demonstrates a commitment to limited, constitutional government and the notion that judges should decide cases based on the Constitution and its original meaning. As his website states, that judicial philosophy “results in unbiased, even-handed justice for all, without favor toward any political party, power broker, or special-interest group.” According to his online biography:

Justice Stras grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas. He now lives in Wayzata with his wife Heather and his two sons. He and his family are members of Bet Shalom Congregation.

He attended college and law school at the University of Kansas, then earned three prestigious federal clerkships: first with Judge Melvin Brunetti of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, then with Judge J. Michael Luttig of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and finally with Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court.

Before his appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court, Justice Stras was both a law professor and a practicing lawyer. He joined the University of Minnesota Law School faculty in 2004, and only two years later was named the Teacher of the Year. Before that, Justice Stras practiced law in Washington, D.C. with the firm of Sidley Austin. While a professor, Justice Stras also practiced with the Minneapolis law firm of Faegre & Benson as a member of its appellate litigation group.

Justice Stras was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2010, and he asks for your vote in November so he can continue to serve the people of Minnesota by doing a job that he truly loves and does very well. His diverse background, integrity, and work ethic make him the kind of person we can trust to make important decisions about the law in Minnesota.

I don’t know much about his challenger, Tim Tingelstad.  According to a Minnesota Lawyer blog entry from 2010, when Tingelstad was previously running for a seat on the state supreme court:

Tingelstad, on the other hand, is pretty much unknown outside his district and runs low-budget campaigns. He runs something of religiously themed campaign complete with a website that has biblical quotes.  Tingelstad squared off against Page in 2004, the last time the justice was up for election, and suffered the biggest loss of anyone seeking a judicial seat that year. Page got 72 percent of the vote to Tingelstad’s 28 percent.  Since losing to Page, Tingelstad has unsuccessfully run for two other judgeships. In 2008, he ran against Justice Paul Anderson and lost by a 2-1 margin.  In 2006, Tingelstad finished third in a field of three for a seat on the District Court bench in the 9th District.

Justice Stras should win this race, but it is worth keeping an eye on. If he does win, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him develop a reputation as one of the best state supreme court justices in the country, or to see his name mentioned in the context of future federal judicial vacancies. 

Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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