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Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea, Justice David R. Stras Sworn In During Public Ceremony

Posted: Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lorie Skjerven Gildea was sworn-in as Minnesota's 22nd Chief Justice, and David R. Stras as the 89th Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, at a public event Monday, July 12, 2010, at the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.

Chief Justice Gildea previously served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court since 2006.  Associate Justice Alan Page administered the oath of office.  Former Chief Justice Russell A. Anderson spoke about Chief Justice Gildea's small-town roots and strong work ethic. 

Prior to joining the Supreme Court, Justice Stras was a member of the faculty of the University of Minnesota Law School.  Dean David Wippman, University of Minnesota Law School, spoke about Justice Stras' keen intellect and exemplary teaching skills.  Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court of the United States administered the oath and offered a few personal comments.  Justice Stras worked as a clerk for Justice Thomas in 2003.   


Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea
Investiture Ceremony
July 12, 2010
OPTIMISM, OPPORTUNITY & OBLIGATION

Thank you.  Justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Chief Justice Anderson, Chief Judge Gearin, Justice Thomas, Governor, members of the state and federal appellate and district courts, representatives from the state and federal legislative branches and from the executive branch, Dean Wippman and distinguished leaders from the University, President Votel and bar leaders, family, friends, thank you all for being here today. 

Governor Pawlenty, thank you for your service to our state, for your kind words and for giving me the honor to serve the people of Minnesota as their chief justice.

I also want to thank Senator Klobuchar for her service to our state and for her supportive words.  I will always be grateful for the opportunities the Senator provided to me when she hired me to work on her team in the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.  The press of the business of the Senate kept the Senator from being with us, but we are so happy that her husband John Bessler is with us today.  Thank you, John.

Chief Justice Anderson, thank you for your gracious comments today.  Russ Anderson is my mentor and he is my friend.  Tim Pawlenty appointed me to the bench, but Russ Anderson taught me to be a judge.  And so it means so much to me that you are with me today on this most important of days. 

To my family, friends, teachers, and mentors, please know that everything good I have done and I will do has been shaped by the good that you have done for me.

Many of my family members are with me today - both those related to me by blood and those related to me by bond.  I invite you all to take the opportunity to meet them - they are all pretty impressive individuals.

My good friend and mentor, Jay Hulme from Arent Fox, is with us today from Washington, D.C.  Thank you, Jay, for always being there for me.

I am also grateful to my friends from Central Lutheran Church who are here today.  The time we spend together on Monday mornings preparing the meal for those in need nourishes my soul, and it touches my heart that you are here today.

I want to thank President Terry Votel and the Minnesota State Bar Association for standing with us as we fight for our justice system in Minnesota.  Thank you, President Votel, for your kind words today and thanks to the Bar Association for generously sponsoring the reception today.  

I also want to recognize and thank my immediate predecessor, Eric Magnuson.  You have been a valued colleague, an outstanding judicial leader, and a strong advocate for the entire justice system.   Please join me in thanking former Chief Justice Magnuson for his leadership and service. 

To my colleagues on the Supreme Court, for whom I have such deep respect and affection, thank you for your dedicated service to our state.  It has been -- and will continue to be - a great privilege to serve with you.  And to our newest colleague, Justice Stras, warmest welcome.

Thank you, Chief Judge Gearin, for presiding today.  I also want to thank all of the women who came to the judiciary before me - including my friend and colleague, Justice Helen Meyer ­­- for helping me find my voice.  And I want to especially acknowledge Justice Rosalie Wahl and Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz for making it easier for my voice to be heard.           

Finally, as I think most of you know, the University of Minnesota has played a very important role in my life.  I am a proud product of the University of Minnesota Morris, and am so happy that a fellow UMMer was here today to sing our National Anthem.  Thank you, Gretchen; great job!

I also had the great good fortune to work in the General Counsel's office at the University for over a decade.  General Counsel Rotenberg, I know that I would not be standing here today if you had not given me the chance to come home to MN to work with you on behalf of our great University.  I will always treasure the many wonderful experiences, life lessons, and friends I gained during my tenure in your office.      

And now to the task at hand.  As I stand before you today, I do so with a strong sense of optimism, opportunity, and obligation.

I am optimistic because this is Minnesota, a place where our enduring belief in community binds and sustains us.  I grew up in a small town, where people are tightly knit together by their connections - to family, to friends, to neighbors, and to history.  Nothing teaches you to work together like growing up in a small town, because when you grow up in a very small place, you learn that everybody works or nothing does. 

But I have found that this shared experience, communal work ethic, and pride in making our corner of the world a little better for each other is not just a small town value; it can be felt throughout Minnesota - and it is unique to Minnesota.  I have lived in other places, and I do not subscribe to the notion that we can not talk about the exceptionalism of our state.  Minnesota is exceptional.  

So is our judiciary.  My optimism is grounded in the knowledge that Minnesota's Judicial Branch is home to judges and staff of the highest caliber.  I am continually inspired by our judges, some of the most dedicated public servants in the state, who come to work each day focused squarely and only on doing their very best for the Minnesotans who come before them. 

And how can you not be optimistic when you meet and see firsthand the work of our fantastic court staff?  These are the people who work tirelessly every day to keep the engine of justice running smoothly.  Even in the face of increasing caseloads, funding challenges, and constant administrative transformation, our judges and staff at every level have responded by redoubling their commitment to our mission - to provide justice that is fair, accessible, and timely.

When you look to our people, to the people of MN and to the people of the MN Judicial Branch, you can see why I am optimistic.

But, while I am optimistic, I am not naive, and this is where we come to the opportunity.  It is no secret that the financial crisis impacting state government and our economy is considerable.  On other fronts, there are some who are working very hard to turn judges into politicians and judicial campaigns into partisan, big money battles. 

It is an understatement to say that in 2010, the judiciary faces significant challenges.  Yet I believe that Einstein was right: "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."  Embedded within our substantial challenges are new opportunities for education, innovation, transformation, and leadership.  I am confident that we in the MN Judicial Branch will not miss these opportunities.  We will do what Minnesotans always do: we will turn these times of impressive challenge into times of great opportunity. 

My optimism and belief in the opportunities that lie ahead are matched with a profound sense of obligation.  As Chief Justice, I have a solemn responsibility to be a good steward of our Judicial Branch, an institution promised in our Constitution. 

The judiciary is where the people come when the things that are most important to them - their family, their freedom, their property - the things they treasure most, they come to us when those treasures are threatened.  They come to us, and they come looking for justice.

This is as it must be, because the judiciary is at the heart of what our founders meant when they spoke MN into existence with our Constitution and promised that our state "Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people.1"

The reason the courts are one of the first promises made in our Constitution is that we are essential to preserving our democracy, securing the rule of law, and ensuring the public safety.

In the days ahead, I ask you to please help me communicate the lesson and the promise of our Constitution, especially the message that the judiciary must be adequately funded, so that we can fulfill that constitutional commitment.  I look forward to discussing this constitutional message with my five million bosses across MN, the people we serve, and to enlisting the people's help in making sure that the other two branches of our government do their jobs so that we in the judiciary are able to do ours. 

In addition, we must continue the conversation that Governor Al Quie and others have started with Minnesotans about why it is wrong-headed to insert political parties into our judicial selection process.  We do not want judges deciding cases based on campaign contributions or party platforms.  We want judges deciding cases in a fair and impartial manner, based on the facts in each case and the law that applies to those facts.  

I promise to all of you that I will do my best every day to meet my obligation to protect our justice system.  In meeting this obligation, I will work closely with my colleagues on the bench and in the bar.  That sense of community and partnership I spoke of earlier is something I feel often in the judicial family, and I will work to continue the tradition of forging successful coalitions across the justice system. 

But make no mistake, our united voices and concerted action are needed now more than ever to preserve and protect the vital institution that is our Minnesota judiciary.  We must all strive to meet our obligations because as Francis Bacon said, "if we do not maintain Justice, Justice will not maintain us." 

And so it is with a sense of optimism, a willingness to see the opportunity, and a deep respect for obligation, I come before you today.  With heart and hand, we begin our journey together.   We have much to do; Let's get started.

Thank you very much.


 1.          Minn. Const. art. I, § I.