Natalie E. Hudson took the state's judicial oath Friday, pledging to ensure all Minnesotans have access to the courts and becoming the second black woman to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

"How we treat those on the margins of society, those with no lobbying group, says volumes about our character and values as a judicial system," Hudson, 58, said during the swearing-in ceremony at St. Paul's Landmark Center.

The ceremony marked a milestone in Hudson's career, which has spanned academia and both the private and public sector — as a prosecutor and judge. She has also served as a dean at the Hamline Law School.

Over her 13 years on the appellate court career, she has authored more than 1,000 legal opinions, earning a reputation for her moderate jurisprudence and plainly stated legal opinions. Others who spoke during the hourlong ceremony described her as "extremely fair" and a "very careful listener."

"She brings a deep commitment to ensuring equal access to justice and supporting our constitutional obligations to provide justice freely, and promptly and without delay," Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea said. "Most of all, she brings her wisdom, her thoughtfulness, her kind and generous spirit and her passion for making our justice system work better for all the people we serve."

Hudson was appointed to the state's appellate court by former Gov. Jesse Ventura in 2002. Hudson succeeds Associate Justice Alan Page, who retired in August after more than two decades on the state's highest court.

Michael Unger, president of the Minnesota Bar Association, recalled when he and Hudson were adversaries. "Even while doing battle with her in litigation, I could tell she was a person with a clear sense of justice, and one who chose to join the legal profession for all the right reasons."

Gov. Mark Dayton, who attended the event, has now appointed three of seven members on the state Supreme Court.

Hudson is the second black woman to be appointed to the court, after Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright, whom Dayton appointed in 2012.

Wright is currently waiting to be confirmed to serve on the U.S. District Court for Minnesota, leaving Dayton potentially a fourth vacancy to fill.

As a judge on the state's appellate court, Hudson has been involved in some high-profile decisions.

She and two other appellate court judges ruled in 2006 that the heirs of the co-pilot on the flight that killed U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone could not sue the company that operated the aircraft. Hudson was also part of a three-judge panel in 2008 that ruled against former Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who sought to withdraw his guilty plea in 2007.

Craig had pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge after he was arrested for allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover officer in a bathroom stall at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Hudson's experience includes stints as an assistant attorney general in the state's Criminal Appeals and Health Licensing Divisions. She has spent time in private practice and worked as an attorney for the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services after graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School.

She is a member of the American Bar Association's Judicial Division and serves on the Minnesota Women Lawyers Advisory Board.

Ricardo Lopez • 651-925-5044