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Former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Esther Tomljanovich to Receive the 2011 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award

Posted: Friday, July 29, 2011

The American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Women in the Profession will honor former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Esther Tomljanovich and four others with the 2011 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award.  The award ceremony will take place Aug. 7 in Toronto, Canada, during the ABA Annual Meeting.

“The Margaret Brent Awards recognize the remarkable achievements and accomplishments of distinguished women lawyers from around the country,” said Roberta D. Liebenberg, chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.  “Our honorees have not only achieved great professional success, they have also blazed the trail for other women lawyers and served as inspirational role models.”  The award is named for Margaret Brent, the first woman lawyer in America.

Justice Tomljanovich broke many barriers when she entered Saint Paul College of Law (now William Mitchell College of Law) and graduated in 1955 as the only woman in her class.  She has devoted most of her professional life to serving the people of Minnesota.  She served as assistant Revisor of Statutes from 1957 to 1966 and 1974 to 1977, and as a consultant to the Minnesota County Attorneys Association from 1970 to 1973.  Governor Elmer L. Anderson appointed her to serve on the study commission which revised Minnesota’s Constitution, and at the behest of Governor Karl Rolvaag, she served as a member of the Commission on the Status of Women.

From 1983 to 1990, Justice Tomljanovich served first as a member and then as chair of the governor’s Judicial Selection Commission.  Later she served as chair of the Minnesota Supreme Court Gender Fairness Implementation Committee which was charged with putting into action recommendations for ensuring that the state court system is unbiased in its treatment of women.

Justice Tomljanovich was appointed to the bench by Governor Rudy Perpich in 1977 to serve in the Tenth Judicial District.  She was elected assistant chief judge of the Tenth District by her judicial colleagues in 1989.  Governor Perpich appointed her in 1990 to serve as the third female associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.  After the appointment of another female justice the following year, she became part of the first state supreme court to ever have a female majority.  She retired from the bench in 1998.