It’s not as if Erin Sindberg Porter was searching for a way to fill unexpected free time when professional colleagues recommended she apply for a position on the state Commission on Judicial Selection midway through 2020. Her work as a partner at Jones Day practicing complex commercial litigation and state and federal enforcement investigations kept her plenty busy, as did pro bono work with the Children’s Law Center where she represented youth in foster care.
However, someone tapped Sindberg Porter on the shoulder and she responded. Now, as chair of the Commission on Judicial Selection, she’s doing likewise, striving to fulfill the commission’s mission of soliciting and recommending candidates to the governor for vacancies in the district courts and the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals.
“Sometimes qualified candidates just need you to tap them on the shoulder because they haven’t thought of it,” Sindberg Porter says. “I don’t know if I would have done it if someone hadn’t said to me, ‘This is something you can do well.’ Now that I’ve been appointed, I feel a special obligation to be tapping others and to help facilitate the tapping.”
“Erin has quickly learned how to manage a 49-member commission and align its goals with those of the governor: to select a group of exceptional and diverse judges who will lead Minnesota through the many difficult issues that we confront in our judicial system,” stated three members of Gov. Walz’s staff in a letter nominating Sindberg Porter for an Attorney of the Year award.
Sindberg Porter was appointed to chair the commission in October 2020. During Sindberg Porter’s tenure, Gov. Walz has appointed the first Black judges in both the Sixth and Seventh Judicial Districts (Judges Shawn Pearson and Johnathan Judd), the first Asian Pacific Islander judge in the Sixth Judicial District (Judge Bhupesh Pattni), and the first Native American judge to the Minnesota Court of Appeals (Judge Sarah Wheelock).
“What’s really exciting to me is that these are just the firsts,” Sindberg Porter says. “There are going to be more firsts, and there will be seconds and thirds and fourths. That second part is a very motivating thought — that we get past the firsts and get to the seconds, the thirds and the fourths. The more diverse the bench is, in every sense of diversity, the better for the quality of decision-making and public confidence in our courts.”
Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2021 here.
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