Pawlenty names appeals judge to state Supreme Courtby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Gov. Pawlenty has appointed an appeals court judge, who earlier served as his personal attorney, to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Pawlenty named Christopher Dietzen to replace Justice Sam Hanson, who is leaving his post at the end of the year to go back into private practice.
St. Paul, Minn. — Dietzen has served on the Minnesota Court of Appeals since 2004. Before that he worked for 25 years at the Bloomington-based law firm of Larkin, Hoffman, Daly and Lindgren.
Dietzen said he contacted the judicial selection committee about three weeks ago to tell them he was interested in the high court opening. He said he will work to be a fair and impartial judge.
Dietzen says voters told him that was most important when he was campainging for re-election to the Court of Appeals in 2006.
"What I heard over and over and over again was that the Minnesota voters want a judiciary -- and they want judges -- that will render fair and impartial decisions," said Dietzen. "For me, and being on the Supreme Court, my pledge will be the same no matter what case it is."
Dietzen was the final appointment on a day when Pawlenty announced five judicial selections, including Republican State Sen. Tom Neuville to serve on the Rice County Bench.
The governor said he knew Dietzen well and said picking him was an "easy selection."
Pawlenty first met Dietzen in the 1990s, when Pawlenty worked in the Ryder Bennett law firm. Dietzen also served as Pawlenty's lawyer during Pawlenty's 2002 campaign for governor.
Dietzen defended Pawlenty when Democrats complained that Pawlenty's campaign improperly worked with the Minnesota Republican Party on some television ads.
Pawlenty said Dietzen's litigation experience, along with his experience as a judge, make him well suited for the Minnesota Supreme Court. He said Dietzen's political work should not disqualify him for the position.
"Whether you're Chris Dietzen, Tom Neuville or someone else, we need to make sure that they have merit in their own right. As to their previous political involvement as a legislator or any other walk of life, we don't believe that it's a value-add, or should be the subject of a penalty," said Pawlenty.
This is Pawlenty's third pick for the seven-member court. Judges don't require legislative confirmation in Minnesota, but do have to stand for election. Supreme Court Justices serve six-year terms, and are required to retire when they become 70.
No other justices will reach the mandatory retirement age before the governor's term expires in 2010. Chief Justice Russell Anderson will turn 70 in 2012.
- All Things Considered, 11/27/2007, 5:20 p.m.