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UMM graduate named state's Chief Justice

Lorie Skjerven Gildea, a 1983 University of Minnesota, Morris graduate, was the speaker at UMM's 2007 Commencement. Gildea was named Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday. She succeed Eric Magnuson, who is retiring. Sun Tribune file photo.

y Andrew Tellijohn

State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty today appointed Lorie Gildea to be Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice.

Gildea, who grew up in western Minnesota's Plummer and received her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Minnesota, Morris, has served on the state's high court since January 2006.

She replaces Eric Magnuson, who announced in March that he would leave the court at the end of June.

Gildea was one of three current justices in the running to run the court. All took Pawlenty's side in last week's ruling in which four justices, including Magnuson, declared the governor's budget cuts last summer illegal.

Prior to joining the Supreme Court, Gildea served as a judge in Hennepin County District Court and as an Assistant Hennepin County Attorney.

During her career as a judge and justice, Pawlenty said, Gildea has "exhibited not only a keen legal ability ... but a common sense commitment to fairly and appropriately interpreting the law,"

Gildea acknowledged challenges facing the state and promised to work hard to move Minnesota forward.

"I promise to do my best and to work with all of the members of the judicial family as we make this pivot from challenge to opportunity," she said.

Appointing Gildea opened another position on the court. Pawlenty appointed David Stras to fill that position.

Stras has been on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Law School since 2004 and is currently of counsel at Faegre & Benson.

"I remain mindful that the role of a judge is limited one and that judges can't solve every problem," he said. "I will give my all to the people of Minnesota."

Pawlenty thanked Magnuson, who helped oversee a U.S. Senate recount board and frequently argued against massive judiciary budget cuts.

"Your time on the court was too short, but it was impactful and meaningful," Pawlenty said.

Tellijohn reports for Forum Communications Co.