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New Minnesota Supreme Court appointments to usher return to female-majority bench

Minnesota Supreme Court returns to female majority
Minnesota Supreme Court returns to female majority 00:47

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Supreme Court is expected to return to being represented by more women than men, after Gov. Tim Walz announced on Monday the appointments of Judge Theodora Gaïtas and Chief Judge Sarah Hennesy to the high court as associate justices.

Gaïtas is a Minnesota Court of Appeals judge and Hennesy is the chief judge of the Seventh Judicial District.

Walz calls Gaïtas "a remarkable jurist," hailing her "understanding of the complexities of our judicial system." Walz also says Hennesy has "a brilliant legal mind," and "knows how to move the needle towards justice."

Gaïtas will replace Associate Justice Barry Anderson, and Hennesy will replace Associate Justice Margaret Chutich. Anderson, appointed to the court in 2004, will retire in May. Chutich, appointed in 2014, will retire in July.

Chief Justice Natalie Hudson, sworn in last November as the court's first chief justice of color, says Monday is a "great day for Minnesota."

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Judge Theodora Gaïtas and Chief Judge Sarah Hennesy Minnesota 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.

Gaïtas, a University of Minnesota Law School graduate, was previously a Fourth Judicial District judge, where she co-chaired the Domestic Violence Steering Committee. She currently co-chairs the Tribal Court State Court Forum and the Court of Appeals' Equal Justice Committee.

"As an associate justice, I will strive to apply the law fairly and justly for all Minnesotans," Gaïtas said in a statement released Monday.

Hennesy, a Drake Law School graduate, worked as an Iowa appellate public defender for years, as well as a criminal defense attorney in Washington D.C. and Virginia. She currently chairs the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the General Rules of Practice.

"As a justice of this Court, I will work collaboratively with my colleagues to interpret the law faithfully, uphold the Constitution, and ensure that justice is accessible to all Minnesotans," Hennesy said.

In 1991, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to have a female-majority Supreme Court after Gov. Rudy Perpich appointed Justice Sandra Gardebring. She joined the court's first-ever female justice, the late Rosalie Wahl, whose 1994 retirement ended that historic era.

NOTE: This story has been corrected to clarify that the state's highest court will soon return to a female-majority bench. A previous version incorrectly reported that this would be the first female-majority court in decades.

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