The Hennepin County district judge overseeing the Minneapolis police ballot question dispute was just 35 when Gov. Tim Pawlenty, for whom her husband was a top trusted aide, appointed her to the bench in 2010.
Judge Jamie Anderson's husband, Paul, was the GOP governor's deputy chief of staff when she was appointed only a decade after receiving her law degree in 2000 from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland.
Now Anderson is handling one of the most significant cases in the state, with implications for public safety not just in Minnesota but across the United States — the highest-profile case of her judicial career.
The judge is in charge of resolving a host of legal issues about the ballot question that may determine the future of policing in Minneapolis. In the next few days, she will shape the wording of what, if anything, appears on the city's November ballot regarding the staffing of the Police Department. The next hearing is set for Monday morning.
When she was put on the bench by Pawlenty, Anderson was a somewhat atypical appointee because of her age, her limited courtroom experience and her close personal ties to the governor.
In selecting her, Pawlenty bypassed the usual judicial selection process, and the news release about her appointment made no mention of her political connection to him.
But once on the bench, Anderson quickly established herself as a collaborative and industrious judge who asked good questions, looked for greater understanding and volunteered whenever there was work to be done.
"When she got here, people didn't really know her, but man, she built a good reputation for herself," Chief District Judge Toddrick Barnette said Friday. "She's respectful to people, but she doesn't take any nonsense. You've got to be prepared when you're in front of her."
Barnette, who has known Anderson since her appointment, said she comes to cases with an open mind. She pays attention to lawyers' arguments in court and follows up on all the readings before reaching and issuing a decision.
"She's going to be very thoughtful in her decisionmaking," Barnette said of her approach to the Minneapolis case. "She's going to do her research."
Citing the pending case, Anderson declined to comment Friday for this story. But others who have worked with her uniformly echoed Barnette's favorable assessment.
"To the extent she got labeled when she was appointed, I don't think that reflects who she is," said former judge Kevin Burke, who retired a year ago after 36 years on the Hennepin bench, and whose wife, Susan, is one of Anderson's colleagues on the same bench. He called Anderson a thoughtful and caring colleague.
"She's just a nice person," he said. "She doesn't have airs about herself."
Retired Hennepin County Judge Gary Larson, who got to know Anderson early in her tenure, said she was "eager and hardworking" and "extremely well-liked" by her colleagues.
After her appointment, Anderson won election to the nonpartisan bench in 2012 and was re-elected in 2018.
In addition to two multiyear stints in the criminal division, Anderson was the presiding judge for the probate-mental health division from 2013 to 2016. She's been working in the court's civil division since 2019, and her current term expires in 2025.
When he was Hennepin courts administrator, Mark Thompson helped choose Anderson for the probate assignment because of her work in the area for five years at the Plymouth-based law firm Howse and Thompson (no relation). He credited her with helping to overhaul and update the case management system of the probate division.
"She was able to go into probate-mental health and really make a difference," Thompson said. "She has always been a solid judge in my mind."
In 2018, Anderson was chosen by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea to serve as one of 25 members of the state Judicial Council, which sets direction for the courts on a sweeping range of issues from staffing to technology and policy with the aim of making justice accessible.
Paul Anderson served a single four-year term as a Republican state senator from Plymouth and left office this year after choosing not to seek re-election. He now runs the Anderson Group, described in an online profile as a public affairs and consulting firm specializing in strategic communications and government relations.
Jamie Anderson, a graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, grew up in Plymouth, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747