Gov. Mark Dayton will chose among three finalists — two Appeals Court judges and a former U.S. attorney and elections lawyer — to replace Justice Paul Anderson on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The finalists are Appeals Court Judge Edward Cleary; Appeals Court Judge Natalie Hudson, and litigator and former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug. The selection will be the DFL governor’s second for the Supreme Court. Last year, the governor appointed Wilhelmina Wright, then an Appeals Court judge, to the court.

At that time, Lillehaug was also among the finalists. He is a shareholder at Fredrikson & Byron and has long been involved in Minnesota’s DFL politics. Lillehaug, appointed by President Bill Clinton as U.S. attorney for Minnesota, represented Dayton during his 2010 election recount and U.S. Sen. Al Franken in his 2008-2009 recount in the race against U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman. Lillehaug also ran for U.S. Senate in 2000, the year Dayton was elected to his one term in the Senate.

Cleary also has recount experience. He was on the state’s canvassing board during the Franken-Coleman recount, joining a panel that helped to decide how to count disputed ballots. Cleary was first appointed to a district court by Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura in 2002 and appointed to the Appeals Court by Dayton. In the 1990s,  Cleary argued a cross-burning case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds.

Hudson, a former St. Paul city attorney and assistant dean of the Hamline University School of Law, was also first appointed to the bench by Ventura. Before her 2002 appointment to the Appeals Court, Hudson was an assistant Minnesota attorney general.


Anderson will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in May, leaving the open spot for Dayton to fill. Anderson has served on the court since 1994. Replacing him is expected to be Dayton’s last appointment to the court during this term.

Supreme Court picks do not require legislative approval, but once appointed, justices must be elected by voters to a six-year term.


Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @RachelSB