To U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken, Chuck Grassley, Dianne Feinstein, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer:
We write to urge that the Senate Judiciary Committee and the U.S. Senate act expeditiously to confirm the nomination of Minnesota Associate Supreme Court Justice David R. Stras to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Justice Stras has all the attributes and qualifications necessary to make an excellent circuit court judge. We have firsthand knowledge that this is true given that we served with him as justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Stras’ résumé sets out the most obvious of his outstanding qualifications that led to his nomination for a seat on the circuit court. He has an excellent academic record, both as a student and professor; experience as a judicial law clerk at the highest levels; experience with a firm engaged in the private practice of law, and excellent research and writing skills as demonstrated by his frequent lectures, scholarly articles and judicial opinions.
That said, we write to provide some less obvious, but important and relevant, information that will further support his nomination. As his colleagues on the court, we have gained firsthand insights into his abilities and qualifications. He is a hard worker and was always prepared for the cases that came before us. He was a valued voice during court conferences. While he looks at issues from a definite and well-defined perspective, he evaluates legal issues with objectivity and an open mind, traits that are not universal. We found him to be independent and impartial in his approach to the law.
This independence and his objectivity frequently led to interesting discussions among the justices on the origins and the meaning of the law and how it should be developed. In addition to advocating for his own point of view, Stras was willing to open himself up to self-reflection and on occasion to self-doubt in order to get the correct result. He is capable of being decisive when he believes in a particular outcome, and he has the courage and tenacity to stand by his views when appropriate.
Stras was collegial with his fellow justices, and was an excellent mentor and teacher to staff members and his law clerks. With his questions from the bench and his written opinions, he has earned the respect of attorneys who represent opposing litigants, plaintiffs and defendants, prosecuting attorneys and defense counsel alike.
He approaches issues and the law with his own background, tendencies and perspectives, yet he retains the ability to approach issues thoughtfully and analytically. He appreciates the importance of giving those who appear before him a fair hearing.
There is another characteristic of Justice Stras worth mentioning. This attribute is often underappreciated or even ignored. It is his willingness and ability to look at the whole case in order to spot and correct the analysis of secondary issues in an opinion. These secondary issues are subordinate to the main dispute, but if not properly analyzed and explained can create future problems for litigants and our court. Stras reads circulating opinions from the perspective that all parts of the opinion must be done well.
In sum, we former colleagues of Justice Stras on the Minnesota Supreme Court and not currently serving in the judiciary agree that he will make an excellent Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals judge. He will serve the Eighth Circuit and our country well.
Alan C. Page, Helen M. Meyer and Paul H. Anderson are retired justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court.