Glass ceiling shattered in Tenth Judicial District

As a result of several retirements over the past two years in the Tenth Judicial District, the majority (25 of 45 or 56%) of judges are now women. This is a long overdue development in gender diversity and substantially exceeds the national average of 32%. For Minnesota, this should not be surprising as four of the seven Supreme Court Justices are women and 11 of the 19 Court of Appeals judges are women.

What a change in the Tenth Judicial District since I became an attorney in 1978. At that time there were 15 district court judges (not including county court judges) and only one was a woman: Esther Tomljanovich, appointed in 1977 (only the second woman appointed to the Minnesota district court). In the years 1978 – 2000, there were 40 judges appointed of which only seven were women (18%) and one (Susan Miles, in 1996) was elected. From 2001 to October 2019, there have been 49 judges appointed (also two men elected) of which 26 (53%) are women.

Retired District Court Judge Sharon Hall provided me these comments:

“I was appointed to a judgeship in 1993 making me only the fourth female judge to ever serve in the Tenth Judicial District. Now, 26 years later, this same district of 45 judges has more women judges than men. There are now more women attending law school, more women practicing law and more women appearing in court. The bench should reflect the communities it serves and, finally, it does!”

During Governor Dayton’s eight-year tenure, 175 judicial vacancies were filed, including several Minnesota firsts: on the Supreme Court, the first African-American woman, the first Native American, and the first openly-gay justice; on the Court of Appeals the first Latino judge; and the first Hmong district court judge.

The glass ceiling in the Tenth Judicial District has clearly been shattered.

Submitted by Wright County District Court Judge Steve Halsey.  Judge Halsey is co-host with Judge Elizabeth Strand of “The District Court Show.” Excerpts may be viewed at WWW.QCTV.org.

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