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Justice Paul Thissen
Justice Paul Thissen

Bar Buzz: Thissen files candidacy for state Supreme Court

We wouldn’t know if he hadn’t told us—but he did.

So we can definitively report that Justice Paul Thissen is running for election to the state Supreme Court seat that Gov. Mark Dayton appointed him to two years ago.

“I am excited to launch my campaign, even in these trying circumstances,” Thissen said in a May 19 press release after filing his affidavit of candidacy. “My first years as a justice have confirmed how deeply our courts touch the lives of Minnesotans in the most fundamental ways.”

Thissen filed by mail, which is why you won’t immediately see his name pop up as a candidate on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s web site. In fact, no one appears as there a candidate for Seat 4 on the high court.

But that’s not so strange. The filing period remains open until 5 p.m. on June 2.

One name we’re watching as a challenger to Thissen is perennial candidate Michelle MacDonald, who has made it pretty clear that she plans to run again.

Thissen, a former Minnesota House speaker, served 15 years as a state lawmaker and 25 years as a lawyer. For a time, he was a public defender who handled appeals in the Minnesota Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2018. The 2020 election will be his first campaign for the seat.

For it, Thissen is loaded for bear, at least in terms of supporters.

He counts former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, ex-U.S. Sen. David Durenburger, former Minnesota Supreme Court chief justices Kathleen Blatz and Russell Anderson, and former associate justices Alan Page, Esther Tomljanovich, Helen Meyer, James Gilbert and Paul Anderson among his honorary campaign co-chairs. Luverne City Attorney Benjamin Vander Kooi rounds out the list.

“Our campaign plans to continue to reach out to every corner of Minnesota,” Thissen said.

Thissen replaced Justice David Stras on the Supreme Court when Stras was sent by President Donald Trump to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. At the time, Thissen was Dayton’s sixth Supreme Court choice.

Justice Wilhelmina Wright left in 2016 to become a U.S. District Court Judge. Associate Justice David Lillehaug, a 2013 Dayton selection, will retire soon to be replaced by Gov. Tim Walz’s first Supreme Court appointment, Nobles County District Court judge Gordon Moore.

About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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