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‘A trailblazer’: Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chutich announces retirement

  • Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chutich, the first openly gay justice on the state’s highest court, announced her retirement.
  • Her resignation gives Democratic Gov. Tim Walz two openings on the high court that he needs to fill.
  • Chutich was appointed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 2012 and to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2016, later elected in 2018.

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chutich, the first openly gay justice on the state’s highest court, announced her retirement Tuesday.

Her resignation gives Democratic Gov. Tim Walz two openings on the high court that he now needs to fill, and when he does, he will have appointed four of the seven justices.

Chutich was appointed by former Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 2012 and to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2016, then elected in 2018.

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“Representation is important so that when students see someone like them having success, they will have confidence they can set high goals as well,” Chutich said in a statement Tuesday.

Judge Margaret Chutich speaks after being appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton during a news conference on Jan. 22, 2016, at the Veterans Services Building in St. Paul, Minn. Chutich announced her retirement on Tuesday. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

“Having someone like me on the bench also tells LGBTQ+ lawyers they belong in the courtroom and helps those in the community know that someone on the bench has life experiences that may enrich the understanding of the court, especially about the facts involved in a particular case. All manner of diversity in decision makers is key to creating a fair system of justice,” she added.

She is expected to retire at the end of the court’s 2023-24 term on July 31.

The news comes just days after Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Barry Anderson also announced his retirement. Anderson was appointed by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2004. He is the only Republican-appointed justice on the court and is expected to retire on May 10.

Still, Minnesota’s Supreme Court is known for being nonpartisan — especially compared with neighboring Wisconsin’s divided state Supreme Court and an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

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At a news conference Tuesday, Walz called Chutich and Anderson “two giants,” appointed by governors from different parties, who earned the trust of Minnesotans by following the law regardless of political ideologies.

“I think the one thing I would assure Minnesotans is, the continuity and the stability of the Minnesota Supreme Court is probably as strong as any institution in this country. I take a real sense of responsibility for making sure it stays that way.”

In a separate statement Tuesday, Walz thanked Chutich for her service to the court.

“She has been a brilliant jurist who has advanced the rule of law for all Minnesotans,” he said in the statement. “She is also a trailblazer as Minnesota’s first openly gay justice. With grace and humility, she has moved our state forward and redefined the image of a justice.”

Walz said he did not have a timeframe for naming the new justices, but it will probably be sometime this spring.

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