President Donald Trump on Monday nominated a Hennepin County judge and a Minneapolis private attorney to fill two Minnesota federal court vacancies that have been open since 2016.
The White House announced the nominations of Hennepin County District Judge Nancy Brasel and Eric Tostrud as part of Trump’s “eleventh wave” of federal court nominations.
The Star Tribune first reported in December that Brasel and Tostrud were expected to be nominated for openings left when Judges Ann Montgomery and Donovan Frank assumed senior status in 2016. The selection process saw two committees take applications — first under the supervision of Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken before Trump’s election and a second by GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen early last year.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Brasel to the Fourth Judicial District in 2011 after she spent three years as an assistant federal prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota. Brasel was also a partner at the Minneapolis law firm Greene Espel, focusing on business and employment litigation, and previously clerked for Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Donald Lay.
Brasel was managing editor of the Minnesota Law Review and earned her law degree from the University of Minnesota. She also attended the University of Texas at Austin and Trinity University.
Tostrud has been a private attorney at the Lockridge Grindal Nauen law firm in Minneapolis for 26 years and is a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, where he teaches on federal jurisdiction and federal court procedure. In private practice, Tostrud has maintained a complex commercial litigation practice that has focused on federal cases involving insurance coverage, health care litigation and federal pension law. He has a law degree from the William Mitchell College of Law and also attended St. Olaf College. Tostrud clerked for Circuit Judge George MacKinnon of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., and also for Minnesota U.S. District Judge Edward Devitt.
Klobuchar said she was pleased with Trump’s nomination and added that she knew Brasel well and spoke with both nominees.
“They are both well-respected in the legal community and over their long legal careers they have proved that they are well-qualified,” Klobuchar said in a statement Monday. “As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I look forward to working with both of them throughout the confirmation process.”
Paulsen described both judges as “sound, reasoned, and experienced legal minds.” Tostrud also served as campaign finance chairman for Paulsen, a classmate at St. Olaf College, and has donated nearly $39,000 to Paulsen and his political-action committees in the past decade and $10,000 to the Third Congressional District Republican Party last year. Brasel, meanwhile, donated $1,400 to Klobuchar between 2005 and 2006 while in private practice.
“Eric Tostrud’s temperament, intelligence and firm grasp and expertise on a wide range of complex issues will make him an exceptional judge,” Paulsen said. “Judge Nancy Brasel’s experience as a federal prosecutor and Hennepin County District Court judge will serve her well in her new role.”
Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim of the District of Minnesota said he was “very pleased to see that the President has nominated two outstanding candidates” for the bench. “The Court is hopeful that they can be confirmed soon,” he said in a statement.
Trump has yet to announce nominations for the U.S. attorney’s office and for U.S. marshal in Minnesota. The Star Tribune reported last week that Dakota County Judge Erica MacDonald is likely to be nominated to be U.S. attorney, an office that has been led on an interim basis since Andrew Luger was asked by the Trump administration to resign last March. Earlier this month, former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras joined the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, becoming the first Minnesota federal judge confirmed under Trump.
Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755 Twitter: @smontemayor