A new judicial selection committee will soon begin the task of seeking candidates for two vacancies on Minnesota’s federal district court, already one of the nation’s busiest benches.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken announced the committee Wednesday, noting that two of Minnesota’s federal judges recently have or soon will assume senior status, a form of partial retirement.

Judge Ann Montgomery became a senior judge in May after 20 years on the bench. Judge Donovan Frank will assume senior status on Oct. 31 after 18 years.

The status changes will leave Minnesota with just five full-time judges and seven senior judges, who carry reduced workloads and typically handle roughly 15 percent of federal court workloads each year.

It will be the district’s second straight year with at least one vacancy. The U.S. Senate confirmed Wilhelmina Wright, the state’s first black female federal judge, in January, after more than six months with a vacancy on the Minnesota bench.

Franken and Klobuchar tapped former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger and attorney Ann Huntrods to co-chair the team. “I am confident that through the diligent counsel of the committee, we will find two Minnesotans with the experience to carry on the work that Judge Montgomery and Judge Frank have done for many years,” said Klobuchar, an attorney and former prosecutor.

The committee will accept letters of interest and resumes from Nov. 7 to 21.

Minnesota’s district court had one of the busiest caseloads in the country last year, with judges presiding over an average of 669 cases apiece to rank 16th out of the country’s 94 districts over the 12-month period ending June 30.


Twitter: @smontemayor