Minnesota came into focus last week as part of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Specifically, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras was part of a short list of potential U.S. Supreme Court appointees that Mr. Trump might pick if he were to be elected. (Like the late Justice Rosalie Wahl, Stras has his beginnings in Kansas.) A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Law, Justice Stras clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Before then he held other clerkships and also practiced white collar criminal and appellate law in the firm of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. He became an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004, which he held until his appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court by Governor Tim Pawlenty on July 1, 2010. He was a popular professor at the “U”, as is reflected in the University of Minnesota Law Review’s tribute to Justice Stras.
In its recent article, the Minnesota Lawyer pointed out that Mr. Trump may be employing political strategy with his short list. (In fairness, what isn’t political when you are running for president?) All the names on his list are not only conservative thinkers in the judicial realm, but also hail from the Midwest. Mr. Trump’s election game will likely depend on appealing to Midwestern states. (“Conservative” can be a rather circumstantial concept where justices are concerned. Stras dissented with Justice Alan Page in the headliner DWI case of State v. Bernard, now awaiting its final fate at the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.) Stras was previously named in this blog as the author of this fascinating historical article on Minnesota’s first U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Pierce Butler. Stras may not have a long judicial record to his name, but check out some of these other articles to learn more about his analytical approach:
- Judges’ Perspectives on Law Clerk Hiring, Utilization, and Influence , 98 MARQ. L
. REV. 441, 453 (2014).
- The Incentives Approach to Judicial Retirement, 90 Minn. L. Rev. 1417 (2006).
- Navigating the New Politics of Judicial Appointments 102 NW. U. L. Rev. 1869
- Retaining Life Tenure: The Case for a “Golden Parachute” 83 Wash. U. L.Q. 1397
Of course, being on a presidential candidate’s short list of possible appointees is not a sure route to the nation’s highest bench. Not even being an official appointee of a sitting president to an actual vacancy is a sure thing, as Merrick Garland can attest.