Trump picks Minnesota justice for federal court

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ST. PAUL — President Donald Trump nominated a Minnesota Supreme Court justice to a St. Louis-based federal appeals court.

The White House announced that David Stras received the Trump nod Monday, May 8, for the appeals court in the Eighth Circuit, which hears cases for Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas.

Before Trump was elected, Stras was reported to be on the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Instead, he is one of several apparently headed to the appeals court.

Stras was a clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as two appeals court judges. He also was a University of Minnesota Law School professor from 2004 to 2010 before then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, picked him for the state Supreme Court.

When Pawlenty named him to be a justice, much of the talk was about Stras being a conservative.
Before he took office on the court, he wrote a legal brief on behalf of Pawlenty, a fact that Democrats use to criticize him.
"Stras wrote friend of court brief supporting @TimPawlenty unconstitutional use of power and was rewarded with court appointment," tweeted former state Rep. Ryan Winkler, a potential attorney general candidate, on Monday.

While Stras is considered a conservative, he did join Justice Alan Page, a left-leaning justice who recently retired, on several cases. Often, justices who come from a particular political background do not follow expectations once they are on the bench.

The 42-year-old Kansas native, the first Jewish man on the Minnesota Supreme Court, and his wife, Heather, have two children.

"I congratulate Justice Stras, and thank him for his service to the people of Minnesota on Minnesota's highest court," Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who as a Judiciary Committee member will have a vote in confirming Stras, both complemented and questioned the jurist.

"Justice David Stras is a committed public servant whose tenure as a professor at the University of Minnesota underscores how much he cares about the law," said Franken, D-Minn.

However, the senator said, he fears Stras "is the product of a process that relied heavily on guidance from far-right Washington, D.C.-based special interest groups rather than through a committee made up of a cross-section of Minnesota's legal community."

Franken said he will take "a close look at his record and his writings" before deciding on whether he should be confirmed.

If confirmed by the Senate, Stas would replace Diana Murphy, who resigned as an appeals court judge late last year. Murphy, a Faribault native, is a former Minnesota District Court judge and served on the federal court since 1994.

The New York Times, which first reported Stras was a Trump pick, said that the Monday announcement of 10 nominees was the first of many to fill 120 federal court openings.