Minnesota’s top judge sees bench turnover as challenge

Minnesota’s chief justice sees high turnover on the bench is the biggest challenge for the state’s judicial branch.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea assessed the judicial branch as strong and getting stronger during a speech delivered last week to the Minnesota State Bar Association’s convention.

But Gildea says the courts are having to accomplish their work with plenty of new faces. In the past six years, there have been 135 new district court judges out of 293 positions at that level. Eleven of 19 Court of Appeals seats have turned over. And six new justices have come onto the seven-member high court in that time.

“Despite this high level of turnover, the foundation of the justice system in Minnesota is presently very stable,” Gildea said, according to text of her speech released Monday.

Gildea said more than half of current court staff is new since 2012 as well.

Still, Gildea says the judicial branch finances have improved in recent years.

“Our advocacy, combined with a governor who has championed justice system funding and strong legislative support, has helped bring our courts back from the brink,” she told the lawyer’s association.  

Gildea also highlighted efforts by the court system to make more records electronic, which eases filing and improves accessibility for the public.