Minneapolis attorney Jerry Blackwell cleared a key step toward becoming Minnesota's next federal judge when his nomination by President Joe Biden advanced out of the Senate's Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Blackwell's nomination passed via a bipartisan 13-8 vote and will next go to the full U.S. Senate for a vote as early as this month.
"I would say of all the judges I have ever put forward I feel more strongly about this one than I ever had," said committee member U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., just before the vote.
She later added: "He will make us proud."
Blackwell gained national attention for his role in helping state prosecutors try and convict former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Klobuchar on Thursday described the case as "the highest profile criminal trial of the decade."
Blackwell has 35 years of trial experience and meanwhile founded the Blackwell Burke P.A. firm in Minneapolis. He also has a deep well of experience litigating civil cases for several major companies such as 3M and General Mills in federal and state courts across 47 states and abroad. In 2020, Blackwell helped secure Minnesota's first posthumous pardon in the case of Max Mason, a Black man wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman in 1920.
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor who tracks judicial selection, said that while Blackwell's nomination will go to the Senate floor on Thursday, the Democratic majority has so far prioritized votes on appellate nominees since returning from its August recess. Tobias said that Blackwell's vote may come later this month or in early October.
Blackwell would become the second Minnesota federal judge appointed by Biden. The Senate confirmed Biden's first nominee, Kate Menendez, last year. Biden nominated Blackwell to fill an opening created after Judge Susan Richard Nelson assumed senior judge status.