Dayton picks Thissen for Minnesota high court

Rep. Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, during a state House session Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 at the Capitol in St. Paul. Jennifer Simonson | MPR News
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    April 17, 2018

Former House Speaker Paul Thissen will take a seat on Minnesota’s Supreme Court as Gov. Mark Dayton’s probable final selection to the state’s highest judicial body.

Dayton named Thissen on Tuesday, calling him “a committed public servant and one of the sharpest legal minds in our state.” Thissen, a lawyer and DFL state legislator from Minneapolis, previously said he would step down after this term in the Legislature. He ended a second campaign for Minnesota governor after a disappointing showing in the February precinct caucuses.

For Dayton, it was his sixth pick to the Supreme Court. One justice left for a federal appointment, so that means Dayton’s appointments occupy five of the seven seats. Thissen, who is 51, could potentially serve for almost two decades before reaching the mandatory retirement age.

The seat came open when Justice David Stras, an appointee of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, was confirmed for a U.S. Court of Appeals post.

Thissen has served 16 years in the Minnesota House, including two as House speaker.

In a prepared statement, Thissen said he has spent his career working to promote fairness, accountability and individual dignity.

“I thank Governor Dayton for the honor and opportunity to continue serving the people of our state on the Minnesota Supreme Court,” Thissen said. “I will work hard to ensure Minnesota’s justice system better sees, hears and works for all people in our state.”

Other finalists were Court of Appeals Judge Lucinda Jesson, Tax Court Judge Bradford Delapena and District Court Judge Jeffrey Bryan.

In Minnesota, justices aren’t subject to legislative confirmation. But they must periodically stand for elections though they are seldom competitive.

Thissen plans to resign his House seat Friday. He said he will take no further votes as a representative.

Dayton said he will not call a special election to fill the District 61B vacancy, because one could not be scheduled before the end of the legislative session. It will be filled in the November general election.