Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday appointed three people to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, including one who was a colleague at his former Minneapolis law firm.

The three new judges, one of whom has not sat on the bench before, will fill vacancies created by two retirements and the promotion of Christopher Dietzen from the appellate bench to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The appointees are:

Louise Dovre Bjorkman, a former Ramsey County judge and partner in the law firm of Rider, Bennett, Egan & Arundel, Pawlenty's former firm. Bjorkman, 48, now in private practice with the St. Paul firm of Larson King, will fill a vacancy resulting from the retirement of Bruce Willis in September.

Michelle Larkin, a judge in Wright County who was appointed by Pawlenty in 2005, will succeed Dietzen. Before being appointed to the bench, Larkin, 41, was a senior attorney and trial team supervisor in the Hennepin County public defender's office.

Lawrence Stauber will fill a vacancy caused by the retirement in April of R.A. (Jim) Randall from the Eighth Congressional District. Stauber, 61, was in private practice in Duluth.

Although Bjorkman and Pawlenty worked in the same law firm in the 1990s, the governor said they had little interaction with each other and never worked substantively on a case together.

The selection of Stauber, who has not previously been a judge, reflected an interest in providing diverse backgrounds and life experiences on the court, Pawlenty said.

"We look at things like temperament, we look at things like legal abilities and background, other life experience, making sure the person has the requisite ability to find and reasonably apply and articulate the law," Pawlenty said. "Hopefully, they won't get so-called black robes disease, so we look at their level of self-awareness and their ability to keep those issues in proper check."

The judges were selected from among 81 at-large candidates and 11 from the Eighth Congressional District.

The Appeals Court consists of 19 judges, 11 of whom are at-large and eight of whom are appointed from the state's congressional districts.

Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636