A federal prosecutor, three civil lawyers at private firms and a public defender turned nonprofit director were named to the Hennepin County District Court bench Monday by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Dayton called the nominees “highly accomplished legal professionals.” He chose the five from a pool of 70 applicants to fill the vacancies left by five retired judges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Engisch is a longtime prosecutor and senior manager in the federal office. She has a law degree from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. from Rutgers. Engisch previously worked at Leonard, Street and Deinard law firm as a commercial litigator.
Marta Chou serves as counsel in the litigation department at Barnes & Thornburg, representing individuals in “complex litigation matters,” the governor’s news release said. She previously worked at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. She earned her law degree from the University of Wisconsin and her B.A. from Michigan State.
Thomas Fraser, a shareholder at Fredrikson & Byron, is a civil litigator who also works as an arbitrator, mediator and special master. He previously worked as a special assistant in the state attorney general’s solicitor general and torts claims divisions. He earned his law degree at Harvard and his B.A. from the University of Minnesota. He is the son of former Minneapolis Mayor Don Fraser.
Bruce Manning practices commercial civil litigation at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. He’s also an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School. He earned his law degree from the University of Michigan and his B.A. from Carleton College in Northfield. He also has a master’s degree in public policy from Michigan.
Carolina Lamas is the executive director and chief attorney for the Neighborhood Justice Center Inc. She manages the community nonprofit while representing low-income defendants charged with felonies, misdemeanors and probation violations. She previously was a public defender in the Second Judicial District of Minnesota. She earned her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Minnesota.
The five are expected to take the bench early next year with a formal swearing-in ceremony in February. Courts administrator Mark Thompson said the addition of the judges will bring the total number on the bench to 62.
“We told the [judicial selection] commission and the governor’s office that we needed balance in the type of experience and the diversity of those appointed to the bench, and he has paid attention,” Thompson said, adding that many judges with strong civil backgrounds are expected to retire in the coming years.
Lamas and Chou are of Hispanic heritage.
The Fourth Judicial District, which covers Hennepin County, is the busiest in the state. The newcomers will fill seats vacated by the retirements of Judges John Holahan, William Howard, Marilyn Kaman, Richard Scherer and Lloyd Zimmerman.