Chief Judge Edward Cleary said Tuesday that he will retire from the Minnesota Court of Appeals next year, ending the second-longest tenure of a chief judge in the court’s history.
Cleary, 66, who has served as chief judge since 2013 after being appointed by former Gov. Mark Dayton, will step down April 30, 2020, setting up Gov. Tim Walz’s third appointment to the court after last week’s picks of Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal and Ramsey County Judge Jeffrey Bryan.
Cleary’s retirement announcement came several weeks before the end of his term as chief judge on Oct. 31. But Walz quickly reappointed Cleary as chief judge after the announcement, which means that when Cleary steps down from the bench next spring the governor will be able to name a new chief judge to serve out the remainder of a term that now expires on Oct. 31, 2022.
“His tenure on the Minnesota Court of Appeals has been a remarkable example of leadership in our courts,” Walz said in a statement. “I am grateful that Chief Judge Cleary has agreed to remain in his role until his retirement next spring.”
Cleary, a St. Paul native, on Tuesday said retirement is likely to involve travel alongside his wife, but he also signaled a potential return to writing and teaching. Cleary spent more than a decade as an adjunct professor at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota Law School, from 2000 to 2011.
Cleary wrote a book on his experience in 1991 when, while a Ramsey County public defender, he successfully argued a cross-burning case in St. Paul before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of Cleary’s client, a teenager who was charged under a newly enacted St. Paul hate speech code after burning a cross on a neighboring black family’s lawn.
The court agreed with Cleary’s argument that the city had more serious criminal charges available to charge the teen and that the hate-speech code violated First Amendment protections for free speech.
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed Cleary to the Second Judicial District in 2002 after a five-year term directing the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility board.
As a district judge, Cleary served on the canvassing board that determined the 2008 U.S. Senate election recount between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.
Cleary was Dayton’s first of 12 Court of Appeals appointees when he was selected in 2011 and was twice appointed chief judge.