Gov. Mark Dayton's commitment to quality and diversity in the judicial branch of government was on ample display Friday as he made his latest additions to the state's two appellate courts. New to the Supreme Court will be Margaret Chutich, a former assistant dean at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School, former deputy attorney general and, since 2012, a member of the Court of Appeals. Taking her Court of Appeals seat will be Hennepin County District Judge Diane Bratvold.
Chutich, who will take the seat left vacant by the appointment of Justice Wilhelmina Wright to the U.S. District Court, is the first openly lesbian associate justice on the seven-member Minnesota Supreme Court. She also may be the only appellate court judge in state history to have won a Big Ten singles tennis title.
Her appointment keeps the gender balance on that court at three women, four men. Minnesota was the first state in the nation to have a 4-3 female court majority, from 1991 to 1994. It's a distinction only a handful of states have had since.
Bratvold represents diversity of a different sort. In 2010, she was an attorney on the election recount legal team representing Dayton's Republican opponent, Tom Emmer, today the Sixth District congressman.
In today's highly partisan political environment, that much association with the opposite party, let alone a rival candidate, might be expected to be a disqualification for judicial appointment. Not so with DFLer Dayton. He appointed Bratvold to the district bench in 2014 and spoke highly of her professional record as he introduced her appointment Friday.
Dayton also observed that the pool of legal talent is deep and wide enough in Minnesota for people to have confidence that judicial quality has not been sacrificed for diversity's sake. In fact, since the late Gov. Rudy Perpich — Dayton's mentor — began appointing women to the state's appellate courts, it never has been.