Lawyer chosen to screen possible Walz judicial picks

Lola Velazquez-Aguili was named chair of the Commission on Judicial Selection by Gov. Tim Walz. She’ll be involved in vetting applicants to the bench. Brian Bakst | MPR News

A former federal prosecutor who handles litigation and investigations at Medtronic will lead the judicial selection process under Gov. Tim Walz.

Walz named Lola Velazquez-Aguili chairwoman of the Commission on Judicial Selection. That’s the volunteer panel that searches for, screens and narrows the list of potential trial court judges. The DFL governor has yet to choose his other appointments to the commission; the Supreme Court also chooses some members.

Walz called his pick “a self-driven and dedicated public servant and accomplished attorney.” Velazquez-Aguili has been on the commission since 2016. The new role is unpaid and she’ll remain at Medtronic.

She’s a past clerk for state Supreme Court Justice Alan Page and federal judge Ann Montgomery, and is active in the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association.

“There is a deep pool of potential applicants from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all sectors of the profession and all corners of this great state who are today ready to become judges,” she said. “But they may not know it yet. So it is incumbent upon all of us to tell them.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea said the chair is “one of the most important but least-noticed appointments the governor makes.”

“The commission acts as the hiring committee,” Gildea said.

Walz said he intends to choose judges from the recommendations assembled by the panel even though he isn’t legally required to do so.

“I think what you’ll see is that there will be a pattern of most, if not all of the time, that we will follow that recommendation,” Walz said.

Governors typically employ a separate process for picking members of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.

In Minnesota, judges aren’t subject to legislative confirmation although they must periodically stand for election.

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