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Gov. Tim Walz's office announced Monday six finalists, five of them women, for two Minnesota Supreme Court openings because of retirements.

The governor is expected to interview all six later this month and name two to the state's highest court. No confirmation by the Senate is necessary and the appointments will mean Walz has selected four of the state's seven justices, a majority.

The finalists are: Lisa Beane, senior associate general counsel at the University of Minnesota; Elizabeth Bentley, founder and director of the Civil Rights Appellate Clinic; Court of Appeals Judges Keala Ede and Theodora Gaïtas; Stearns County Judge Sarah Hennesy and Liz Kramer, solicitor general in Attorney General Keith Ellison's office.

The two selected by Walz will replace Justices G. Barry Anderson and Margaret Chutich, both of whom served on the Court of Appeals before they were appointed to the high court.

If Walz chooses two women, they will be a majority on the bench. The Minnesota court was the first in the nation to have a majority of women serving in 1991. More recently, a female majority was in place until last fall when Walz appointed Justice Karl Procaccini.

The governor's office provided brief biographies of the six candidates who were screened by the Commission on Judicial Selection.

  • Beane was an associate at the Jones Day and Robins Kaplan law firms in Minneapolis and a clerk to Judge Wilhelmina Wright on the federal bench and state court. Beane is active in the Minnesota Lavender Bar Association and the Minnesota Women Lawyers Foundation.
  • Bentley is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Law School. She was special counsel to Sen. Amy Klobuchar during the confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and practiced appellate law at Jones Day. She also clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She's on the diversity, equity, and inclusion committee of the Appellate Practice Section Council of the Minnesota State Bar Association.
  • Ede's rise has been swift. Walz appointed him to the Hennepin County District Court bench in March 2022 and elevated him to the Court of Appeals last September. Ede had been an assistant federal defender in the Minneapolis office and an assistant attorney general. He clerked for Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Steven Levinson. He serves on the Minnesota American Indian Bar Association's Scholarship Committee.
  • Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Gaïtas to the Hennepin County bench in 2018. Walz put her on the Court of Appeals in August 2020. Gaïtas is co-chair of the Tribal Court State Court Forum, a committee that promotes collaboration between tribal courts and state courts in Minnesota, and co-chair of the Court of Appeals' Equal Justice Committee and law clerk recruiting committee.
  • St. Cloud-based Hennesy is the chief judge of the Seventh Judicial District. She was appointed in 2012 by Dayton after practicing appellate law, trial litigation and public defense in Iowa. She also was a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, and a staff lawyer at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in St. Cloud. Hennesy volunteers as a judge and coach for mock trial teams.
  • As solicitor general, Kramer defends Minnesota in state and federal courts. Before joining Ellison's office, she was a partner at Stinson LLP where she practices complex commercial litigation. She clerked for former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Helen Meyer. Kramer's on the boards of the Minnesota State Fair Foundation and Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society. She also helped found the Appeals Self-Help Clinic for self-represented parties in appeals.

The retirement of Anderson on May 10 will mean all the state's justices were appointed by Walz or Dayton, two DFLers.

Anderson, 69, was an appointee of Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Chutich, 65 and an appointee of Dayton, is stepping down this summer.

Walz's first appointee to the court was Justice Gordon Moore, a Nobles County judge elevated in 2020.

The governor's second appointee was Procaccini, his former general counsel, last August. At that time, Walz also elevated to chief Justice Natalie Hudson, who replaced departing chief Lorie Gildea.

It's impossible to say how Walz will make his decision, but governors often seek to add a range of experiences and backgrounds to the court. Moore, for example, came from greater Minnesota in contrast to many on the court who live in the Twin Cities.

The appointment of Procaccini, the first Muslim to sit on the court, was unusual in that Walz said he was the only person he interviewed for the opening created by Hudson's elevation. Procaccini was well-known to Walz as his trusted adviser during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Justice Anderson's retirement date. He will retire May 10. It also incorrectly stated the last time a female majority controlled the court. It was in 2023.