Former Supreme Court Justice Christopher Dietzen has been replaced as chair of Minnesota’s Sentencing Guidelines Commission by that group’s former executive director.
Kelly Lyn Mitchell was named new chair by Gov. Tim Walz on April 18. Walz also named the rest of his slate of commission appointees that same day.
Mitchell served as the commission’s executive director from 2014 to 2017. Before that she was a staff attorney and manager for the Minnesota Judicial Branch. She currently works as executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. Her commission appointment became effective Tuesday.
The move likely signals a change of direction for the group. Under Dietzen, the ideologically diverse panel focused on incremental change framed around consensus. As a frequent testifier before the commission, Mitchell has advocated for more far-reaching progressive reforms.
Dietzen reportedly had hoped to retain his post as chair. He accepted the role in 2015 after being tapped by Gov. Mark Dayton. That was after state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea named him to the commission as one of her three judicial appointees. Dietzen’s current term expires in 2021.
Gildea’s other two appointees — Scott County District Court Judge Caroline Lennon and state Court of Appeals Judge Heidi Schellhas — also remain members. Lennon’s term expires in 2020; Schellhas’ expires on Oct. 15.
Mitchell replaces retired Hennepin County District Court Judge Mark Wernick, who previously announced his plans to leave the group. The rest of the governor’s Sentencing Guidelines Commission appointments include: