Walz appointments give the Minnesota Supreme Court its first female majority in decades

Governor Walz announce justices ,Sarah Hennesy and, Theodora Gaitas to the Minnesota Supreme Court at the state Capitol on Monday, April 22, 2024, in St. Paul, Minn. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)

By STEVE KARNOWSKI Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz named two women to the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday, which will give the state’s highest court its first female majority in three decades. When they take their seats in the coming months, all seven justices will have been appointed by Democratic governors.

Walz elevated Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Theodora Gaïtas to replace Associate Justice Margaret Chutich, and 7th District Chief Judge Sarah Hennesy to replace Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson. Both Chutich and Anderson announced their retirements in January.

Chief Justice Natalie Hudson welcomed both Hennesy and Gaïtas to the Supreme Court.

“Both are experienced, well-respected jurists who bring exceptional intellectual gifts and a deep commitment to serving the people of Minnesota,” Hudson said in a statement. “This is a great day for Minnesota.”

Gaïtas has been on the Court of Appeals since Walz appointed her in 2020. She previously served as a district judge in Hennepin County.

Hennesy is chief judge of the 7th Judicial District in central and western Minnesota and is based in St. Cloud. She’s been on the bench since 2012.

Chutich, the first gay justice on court, was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2016. She plans to step down July 31.

Anderson, the longest-serving justice on the court, plans to retire May 10. He is the sole remaining appointee on the court of a Republican governor. He was named in 2004 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the state’s last GOP governor.

Even though Democratic appointees have long been in the majority, Minnesota’s Supreme Court is known for being nonpartisan — especially compared with neighboring Wisconsin’s divided state Supreme Court and an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court. Judicial appointees in Minnesota do not need confirmation but must periodically go before the voters. Gaïtas and Hennesy will have to stand for election in 2026.