ST. PAUL, Minn. — The recent appointment of Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David Stras to the United States Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Donald Trump begs the question, how will his seat be filled?
There are two scenarios. In the case Stras is not confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will remain in his position on the bench.
However, should Stras take the bench in St. Louis, Minnesota will be a justice short. The Minnesota Supreme Court is made up of seven justices, one Chief Justice and six Associate Justices.
A vacancy left by Stras for an indeterminate amount of time could lead to an even split, a situation that the United States Supreme Court faced for more than a year following the death of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
However, past precedent to fill vacant seats on the bench give a clear idea of what will happen. Stras’ own appointment to Minnesota’s highest court was at the behest of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
“I congratulate Justice Stras, and thank him for his service to the people of Minnesota on Minnesota’s highest Court,” Governor Mark Dayton told Alpha News in a statement. Dayton will most likely appoint someone to replace Stras if he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The last vacancy on the Minnesota Supreme Court bench was in March 2016, when Associate Justice Christopher J. Dietzen retired.
In a press release from 2016, Dayton asked for the Commission on Judicial Selection to help in the process of selecting a replacement for Dietzen.
“At-large members of the Commission will consider applicants and offer recommendations to Governor Dayton,” the release states. “The Commission on Judicial Selection and Governor Dayton are committed to seeking out individuals who possess great integrity, extensive legal knowledge, broad experience, and a commitment to fairness.”
Applications for Dietzen’s replacement were taken for a little more than one month. Dayton announced his pick at the end of June 2016.
Expect Dayton’s pick to have a more liberal jurisprudence. Though Dayton’s last pick, Justice Anne McKeig was originally a Pawlenty appointment, the Minnesota Supreme Court sets precedent for future state law. Stras, who is known for his more conservative standpoints on the bench, was appointed by Pawlenty.