By Nate Sommer
ST. PAUL (Nov. 4, 2015) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed more female and minority judges to Minnesota’s courtrooms, but says the state can still do better and wants a more diverse candidate pool to help his efforts.
The governor’s office said almost 90 percent of Minnesota’s judges are white, compared to 85 percent of Minnesota’s population. Sixty percent of Minnesota’s judges are male, while men make up 49.7 percent of the state.
Dayton’s office said both of those figures have gone down since Dayton took office in 2011 with a goal of appointing more women and minorities to judgeships. Last week, he appointed attorney Stephen L. Smith, who is African-American, to a courtship in Ramsey County’s Second Judicial District.
The same day Dayton appointed Smith, the governor, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and legal groups hosted a Judiciary Recruitment Summit aimed at getting more female and minority attorneys to apply for judgeships.
“Diversity on the bench can help enhance the public’s trust and confidence in their court system,” Gildea said in a statement. “It is important that we continue to seek ways to encourage qualified and talented attorneys from all backgrounds to explore careers in the judiciary or other public service.”
Since taking office, the governor’s office said the share of non-white judges in Minnesota has gone from 6.2 percent to 10.2 percent. Female judges have risen from 31 percent in 2011 to 40 percent today, as 46 of Dayton’s 96 judicial appointments have been female candidates.
The governor is also responsible for appointing the first Hispanic appellate court judge in state history, and Dayton’s 2012 appointment of Wilhelmina Wright to the Minnesota Supreme Court made Wright the first African American woman to hold such a position in Minnesota.
The 78 white candidates Dayton has appointed still account for more than 80 percent of his appointments as governor.
“Our courts should reflect the rich diversity of the Minnesotans they serve,” Dayton said. “I encourage all qualified Minnesotans, who are interested in serving our state, to apply for open judgeships in Minnesota’s courts.”
Nate Sommer is an intern studying journalism and political science at the University of Minnesota.
This article was originally printed in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press and was disseminated by the Office of Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith.